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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Coppola


Somehow, another year has just passed, and that dreaded end-of-year performance review has arrived. Here are some suggestions to prepare before the big day to ensure you leave your review feeling confident about the year behind you and ahead of you.

For your performance review:

1. Assess your performance.

2. Figure out what you want from the review.

3. Discuss your successes and failures.

4. Use data and history to back up your discussion.

Prepare Your Story.

It’s impossible to discuss everything that happened within a year sufficiently. So instead, focus on summarizing your year in the form of a story. Building a narrative is more compelling because:

• Stories are naturally engaging and foster empathy between you and your boss.

• Stories are more capable of maintaining our attention.

• Stories are easier to remember than a jumble of stats, data and blocky chunks of writing.

Using this holistic approach to storytelling also allows you to avoid bias, which is especially important if your year started strong but ended on a sour note.

Build a compelling narrative.

  • Research. Before your review, identify what it is you want. Then do a mental run-through of the major work events of the past year – The wins and the misses – to build a narrative. Then, figure out the best data to emphasize your successes.

  • Outline. Make the connection between what you want and why you should get it. If it’s a new role, figure out how your strengths make you well-suited for it and address how you’d overcome any shortcomings standing in your way. Highlight accomplishments that double as examples of how you’d be successful in the future.

Finally, highlight the above during your review and ask for exactly what you want.

How to talk about your mistakes or failures in a performance review

You won’t be the only one talking during your performance review. Your boss will likely have some positive things to say but also identify “opportunities.” Don’t let yourself get caught off-guard. Go into your meeting aware and prepared for the constructive criticism coming your way:

Have an honest conversation with yourself. Seriously, you should know what the ups and downs were in your year, what you bring to the table as an employee, and where you could use some improvement.

Step into your boss’s shoes. After you’ve looked at yourself as a worker, take a look at what your manager might say. Knowing what’s coming will take some of the stings out.

Stay positive during the negatives. The last thing you want to do is get defensive about the feedback your manager may give you.

• Prepare a response, not a rebuttal. You will only create a negative experience if you give your boss excuses for any failures or try to invalidate their observations. Instead, respond during the meeting with actionable steps you can take or create a game plan for success.

Support your story with stats so it doesn’t sound like a fairy-tale.

Performance reviews may be scary, but they don’t have to be daunting. Your manager struggles with performance reviews just as much as you do, so you’re in this together. Just behave as you would during any other important meeting with a superior.

Ask questions, take notes, and repeat critical points to your manager for clarity. You want your manager to leave the meeting feeling like you’re an engaged employee ready to implement their directives for the year. After your performance review, create a plan to implement your boss’s feedback and identify how any changes will affect you and your work for the upcoming year.

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