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How to Prepare for Your Upcoming Performance Review

By Maurie Backman – Dec 4, 2019 at 5:06AM

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A little planning on your part could make for a smoother experience.

As the calendar year comes to a close, many workers will no doubt find themselves on the edge of their seats wondering if there's a raise in sight for 2020. And the conversation during which that very topic should come up is your annual performance review.

Though some companies are doing away with yearly reviews, in other firms, they're very much alive and well. And if you have a review on your calendar, you may be anxious going into it.

But fear not -- with a little preparation, you can survive your performance review, and perhaps even wow your boss with the professional maturity you display during it. Here's how to gear up for that potentially awkward, but important, discussion.

Smiling woman seated across from man in suit


1. Review your notes from last year's assessment

Though you can't bust out a crystal ball and anticipate exactly how your upcoming review will go down, you can access your notes from last year's go-round to get a good sense of what's likely to transpire. If you were dinged in certain areas of your performance and you admittedly haven't improved upon them, there's a very strong chance your boss will bring that up, so be ready.

On the other hand, if you still have a couple of weeks between now and your actual review, you can try to eke out some last-minute changes for the better. For example, if you were told your reports tend to be sloppy, and you make an effort to thoroughly proofread the next couple you submit, your boss may take notice, or may be a little kinder in his or her feedback.

2. Assess yourself

Chances are, your boss will, at some point during your review, ask you how you think you're doing. And frankly, that's never fun. If you go off on how brilliantly you've been performing, you'll sound conceited. If you bring up too many shortcomings, you'll risk giving your boss a reason not to give you a raise. Rather than get put on the spot, do some thinking in advance. Prepare to talk about a few key accomplishments from the past year, but also, own up to a few things you can do better at. Just as importantly, present your own plan for improving -- that's something your boss will certainly appreciate.

3. Train yourself to accept criticism

Even if you're a good employee with a solid reputation, there's a high likelihood you'll be criticized to some degree during your performance review. Ideally, that criticism will be constructive in nature, but that may not make it any easier to swallow. The problem, however, is that if you react poorly to that feedback, you'll look bad in front of your boss. The solution? Gear up for some criticism, and figure out how you'll respond to it professionally. It could help to imagine the worst-case scenario, because if you find a way to cope with it, things can only get better during that live discussion.

4. Research salary data for your role

It's common practice to talk money -- namely, upcoming raises, or a lack thereof -- during a performance review, and you can do yourself a big favor by digging up salary data for your position in advance of that conversation. That way, if your boss offers you a $1,500 raise when you're hoping for $3,000, you can present the data you uncovered showing you're statistically underpaid for your industry.

Performance reviews are often the opposite of fun. But yours doesn't have to be overwhelmingly stressful. Rather than dread that sit-down, do a thorough job of preparing for it. And who knows? It may go more smoothly than you expect it to.

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