Making The Most Of Progress Reviews.
Whether you’re still on probation or already a seasoned member of your department, work evaluations are part and parcel of employed life. The dreaded annual progress review is a biggie, but less formal meetings also deserve some thought to ensure that you – as well as your boss – get something out of them.
Understand the structure of the review
This will vary from place to place, so it’s important to know if the evaluation is an informal chat or a major undertaking. Your employment paperwork or company intranet is a good place to look, but HR or even your line manager should be willing to give you a heads up about what to expect.
If there’s an official review form to fill in, familiarise yourself with it so you know what’s coming. This way, you’ll have fewer nasty surprises.
Big deal or not, it’s best to treat all evaluations as important. Not only will it reflect well on you, but you can also use the feedback to inform the rest of your work.
Personal preparation is key
You can avoid much unpleasantness by giving yourself an evaluation before meeting with your line manager. Think about what you’ve achieved since the last review, making note of the things you’ve learnt or done particularly well.
Be honest with yourself about the areas you may need to work on. If you’ve noticed them, your boss will have too, and it shows good self-awareness to be willing to acknowledge weaknesses. Going in with a realistic view of your performance will take the sting out of criticisms and give you positive experiences to refer back to.
You might also want to think about possible targets for yourself going forward; not only does it put some of the power back in your own hands but it shows a dedication to the company for the foreseeable future. The SMART method is a great way to structure these ideas.
Turn negatives into positives
There will always be something that you can improve upon in your work, and that’s no bad thing. Without challenge, your days in the office would be pretty dull after all.
Most importantly, avoid getting defensive when these issues come up. If you think the criticism is unfair, put forward clear evidence to back yourself up but don’t get argumentative. Be willing to defer to the greater experience of your boss. Better to lose the battle and win the war.
The best response to criticism is to show willingness to improve. Ask about possible training you can do to fix any shortcomings, or think about someone skilled in that area who you could shadow or be mentored by.
Try to find a tangible way to demonstrate improvement: it’ll give you a satisfying goal to aim for and make it easier for your boss to see your good work.
View development as a year-round project
It’s so, so tempting to file your review in a drawer and only think about it again a day before your next evaluation, but that’s missing a trick. Try to refer to it at least once a month to ensure that you’re working towards your targets and not building up any problems for yourself.
Importantly, if there is a target or deadline that you’re not going to make, bring it up with your line manager ASAP, with an explanation of why you’re behind with it and a new suggested deadline. Most of the time, a manager will understand that work targets need some flexibility and they will certainly think it more professional of you to be upfront about the issue.
It might seem like an additional chore but keeping a work diary can be a great way to monitor performance and achievement. You don’t have to write down every little thing; just keep note of what you’ve worked on and training you’ve received, so that you’ve got a proper record of your work. It’ll come in very handy for the next evaluation.
The big question…
Is a review a good time to ask for a raise?
Honestly? Probably not.
Particularly at big companies, the pay structure will often be outside your line manager’s control. Salary budgeting also tends to be looked at on a company-wide level rather than an individual one. Now more than ever, a raise is only likely to come when you receive a promotion or take on a different job role, so making a potentially unrealistic request could be a bad look.
That said, there’s no harm in starting the conversation. When discussing your future plans, you can talk about eventually wanting to have more responsibility and the higher pay that comes with it. This allows you to have a chat about your future job progression without having to ask outright. It might even have an immediate payoff if your boss is in a position to offer more and you have proven your worth.
And if you don’t like the answer you get? It might be time to reassess your place at the company anyway.
These evaluations will never be anyone’s favourite part of going to work but a bit of honesty and preparation can turn them into a positive experience for everyone involved.