Performance appraisals are usually a time of stress on everyone’s part. There are four parts to that meeting with your boss you need to prepare. Take a brief look at each of these:
1. Differences in expectations: Nothing will kill a meaningful performance review than a significant difference in expectations. When a boss and subordinate have a wide gap in what each thought the key performance indicators and measurements were over the past year or so, it usually spells not only disappoints but also a feeling of betrayal. Each thinks the other let them down. The subordinate thinks the boss should have been clearer and the boss thinks the subordinate didn’t listen. What to do? Make sure objectives are crystal clear along with the strategies, time-line and measurement of results. If not, you’re going to fall short.
2. Differences in results: When you think you did a great job and your boss sees it as mediocre or worse, you have both a communication problem and a measurement issue. Results expectations should be mutually defined and agreed to before the fact, not after. When the feedback is very different between you and your boss, you both have been working under different assumptions. What to do? If the clarity of results is happening during a performance review, it’s too late! It has to happen when you and the boss are laying out the objectives for the next performance time frame. Rather than assigning fault (as you will always lose), discuss what went wrong and how to fix it for next time, with more frequent reviews of progress and any changes in the work plan that may affect you.
3. Insights into the future: No matter what the outcome of your current performance review, listen very carefully to the hints that tell you what the future holds. You might want to ask key questions like: Do you see me as a top performer? What do I need to do to attain that level? Some bosses aren’t too good about sharing information, objectives or managing communications. What to do? Develop a set of objectives, strategies, time-lines and result measurements on our own and share them with your boss. Get a “buy-in” or modification. At least you’ll have some direction. Seek another job or boss if you can’t get better direction.
4. Influencers to your appraisal: Ask your internal “clients” to send their appraisal of your contribution to their results to your boss. If everyone rates you high, it’s difficult for the boss to make a less favorable rating. Keep a record of all of your achievements. The boss usually forgets all that you’ve done. Create a summary document and send it to your boss a week before the review. Make sure you include measureable results in productivity or reduction in cost if you can. What to do? State your accomplishments honestly but not boastfully. Women tend to credit the team more than their individual contributions. Men tend to overplay their contributions. Create a balance. Make sure you’re seen as a team player with your unique contributions to the ultimate outcome.