Preparing for Your Annual Performance Review (Without Resorting to Hard Drugs)

Do you enjoy getting an annual performance review? Do you think your busy boss enjoys it? The amount of work involved in doing an annual performance review is staggering for just one employee. Imagine having to do it for the whole department … because that’s what your boss has to do. A comedian once suggested that all performance reviews should be done in bars to make it easier on everyone to “prepare” for them … and get over them … all in the same place.


The good news is that the annual employee performance review as we’ve known them, could be on their way out. Reports show that roughly 6% of Fortune 500 companies have dropped their annual performance reviews in favor of something else. And, that number will probably jump exponentially in the next decade.


Businesses today are finding that setting up a continuous feedback program that is fast, flexible and—best of all—much easier to do, is gaining support. Instead of once a year, you and your boss meet several times a year, breaking up the annual review into smaller chunks. Undoubtedly, the growing influence of Millennials into the workforce is the cause of at least part of it. Millennials tend to want constant feedback and don’t like waiting a year for their performance review to find out if they’re doing something wrong.


Performance reviews have been a chore forever, but perhaps that is changing


My first review, back in the Stone Age, was frightening. I was 20 and still in college. My boss was a shade under 97 years old (I’m guessing), and spent the hour telling me why my generation was screwing up the workplace with our lazy attitude and desire for vacation time. Seriously … this was 1982, so any of you Millennials who think older generation disdain for the younger age group is something new, think again. In 15 years, you’ll be sitting at the dinner table at home with your significant other and griping about these baby-faced Gen-Z’ers.


Anyway, I still remember my Crypt Keeper boss telling me all the things I did wrong and not much else. I walked out and called my dad, who was a successful CEO, and told him about it. He laughed and told me about HIS first review which went worse than mine. The point is, they all suck and no one enjoys them, but HR requires something to be in your employee records in case you really do screw up. The key is for you to be so well-prepared for it, you can give your boss any information needed to show your importance to the company.

Steps to make your performance review process easier

If your company is holding fast to an annual employee evaluation system, there are things you can do to make the most of this event and get constructive, if not positive, feedback.


One of the best ways is to track your own performance, says Susan Steinbrecher in an article for Despite a good manager’s best efforts to be objective, busy people can overlook successes you consider to be some of your best work — often simply because it happened nine months before the review.


Steinbrecher suggests that you begin preparing for your performance review the day you start working for an organization. “Make notes in a journal or file to document all of your successes, results, positive feedback — and setbacks.” Keep copies of positive feedback. Track the details and outcomes of projects you work on (start dates and numbers). Now, there’s about 0.000001% of humanity that is THAT well organized, so if you haven’t already started (and you know you haven’t) start doing it today. When you have some free time, go backwards and track what you’ve done over the past few weeks or months. At least when it comes time for your review, you won’t have quite so much research to do.

Do a self-evaluation to prepare for your performance review

Additionally, some performance appraisals include a self-evaluation component. If yours does, spend adequate time completing it. If it doesn’t, consider doing one anyway, suggests Chrissy Scivicque in a careers blog for U.S. News & World Report.

Some sample questions she offers:

  • What challenges have you overcome? How did you do it?
  • What performance improvements have you made since your last review?
  • Where do you still have room for improvement? What are your plans for addressing these issues?
  • What have you accomplished in the past year?
  • How have you contributed to the organization’s bottom line?
  • How have you increased your value to the organization over the past year?
  • In what areas do you most excel? How can you continue to build on these strengths?
  • How can you better utilize your skills for the good of the team and the organization?


Finally, take responsibility for any follow-up after the evaluation. If there are action steps or suggested changes to your work process, take initiative in tracking these. Communicate with your boss to let him or her know how you’re progressing. Show your willingness to change or tackle new challenges. Believe me, your boss will appreciate any feedback you give that makes doing your performance review easier in the future.

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