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Get the Best Out of Your Performance Review

Invest in preparation, make it a dialogue, and go away with the next steps.

Image by Bruce Mars on Unsplash

Finally, the year is slowly rushing to its end. Yet before you exchange your office chair for a comfortable sofa, there is one question to be answered — how was your year at work? Or rather, did you achieve your goals and targets?

our answer will be most likely — yes. If you have twenty more minutes, you sweat down a few achievements or a list of activities. Okay, sent! You are relieved this administrative formality is over.

As a manager, I usually spend much more time on performance evaluation than my team members themselves. You can argue that this is my job. Besides, no one pays attention to performance reviews. So, why should one care? Because it is time to realize and review where you are in your career and your life.

Todd Dewett Ph.D. says: “Choose to see the review process as an event you control, not something that simply happens to you.”

So, being in control means that you see performance review as an investment.

In practice, you need to prepare yourself both physically and mentally. The first step is to check in which format you need to deliver the self-evaluation. Be aligned with the company guidelines and your manager’s expectations. Then, take some time and think about the structure of what you want to say.

It should be realistic but also aspirational. After all, it is a baseline for the future. It is a good idea to search in your memory for milestones, achievements, stress. Check also your notes, calendar, email conversations, Teams, or any other material you may have. You soon identify the moments that moved you from point A to point B, teamwork, your significant contributions, or pitfalls. This exercise eventually leads you to undercover your next career steps. These get you closer to your life goals.

Here are my tips on how to cook your self-evaluation:

  1. Reserve enough time to write your first draft.

  2. Keep a clean structure — from general evaluation to specific milestones or the other way around.

  3. Use simple language.

  4. Be fair.

  5. Less is sometimes more. It is a performance review, not a novel.

  6. Provide an example when appropriate.

  7. Focus on relevant information related to yourself.

  8. Point out your desired future direction.

  9. Read it back with foreign eyes. Your review should be understandable even for a person who does not know you.

Happy? Congratulations, you finish your first draft. However! Give it a second in a few days. You want to check that it is easy to read and your grammar is spotless.


Before your actual meeting with your manager, you still have some work to do. After all, you want to be in control.

Firstly, go back to your self-evaluation. Read what you wrote and create an elevator pitch that will swing you over the opening question: “So, how would you evaluate your performance?”, “How do you feel you have been doing?” or similar.

Then, prepare for possible scenarios. Every conversation can be easy or difficult. People can agree or disagree with each other. Try to manage your expectations and prepare for potential disagreement. So, when you sit in a meeting, you can listen and interact without being hijacked by your feelings.

Lastly, make a few notes you want to discuss and collate additional materials that can be useful for the review (e.g. print important email conversations, role description, or promotion criteria).

The meeting is happening in 3, 2, 1… Please be on time. You might be nervous but trust me that your manager might be nervous too.

Your boss asks you to fire up with a summary of your performance. You immediately start pitching for yourself. However, it is important to also listen to what your manager says. Therefore, make sure you invite him/her into the conversation. You ask for an opinion and let him/her elaborate. While your manager is talking, keep in touch. Don’t play with your phone, zoom out of the window, or even do house chores if the meeting is online on Teams. Respect and listen. If anything at any point is not clear to you, ask. The performance review is done for you, not for your manager. It is a summary of where you have been and what next steps you need to take to move where you want to be.

In the end, you should express your desires. You fish for a new challenge, you are on a hunt for a promotion, or you would like to have flexible working hours. Be open about what you want. What would make you happy and motivated? Don’t let him/her guess your wishes. It is always a better strategy to transparently ask what you need to do to achieve them. Your manager might be able to answer straightway or maybe prefer investigating possibilities first, and that is fine.

The performance review is one of many milestones in your career journey. So, did you take notes during the meeting? Well done, you can read them after and use them for setting the next objectives and follow-ups.


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