The Dos And Don’ts Of The Dreaded Performance Review


Evaluation is a fact of life. And yet, no matter how many tests aced or how many smiley face stickers received, the process of having performance assessed is rarely a pleasant one.

While it’s natural to feel a certain sense of dread at an impending critique of work that contains your blood, sweat and tears, it is important to recognize that the workplace performance review is an opportunity, not a form of torture.

“Performance reviews don’t have to induce sweaty palms and anxiety–be prepared and they can actually be a career-building tool.”

Don’t dismiss an appraisal as an inconvenient paperwork exercise—use this chance for meaningful dialogue with your manager to advance your career.

DO prepare

If you’re heading into your first performance review and you’re unsure of what to expect, ask your co-workers for advice. There may be standard forms you can fill out before you sit down with your manager to give you an idea of where to focus your prep work.

Keep track of completed tasks and projects as you go, but if you haven’t been keeping a record of your past work, take some time to review your completed projects, successes and challenges. Just like when you write your resumé, be as specific as possible in your examples.

DO brag (a little)

Detail your successes and emphasize the value that you bring to the team. Again, be as specific as possible and try to quantify your accomplishments. Relating your achievements to date with goals that you set when you first started is an excellent way to do this.

Be sure to mention times that you went above and beyond your job description. It is likely that your boss will have a good idea about whether you’ve met your own deadlines, but have you sought out extra work, helped others on the team or put in any overtime?

DO reflect—DON’T make excuses

You may or may not have to do a formal self-evaluation, but either way make sure to show your manager that you have thought about the challenges you have faced.

Listen to the feedback you receive from your manager and avoid making excuses for any problems identified. Instead, discuss what you have learned from your struggles and mistakes and demonstrate that you want to improve. Take this advice with you as you return to work.

DO ask questions—DON’T ask for a raise

Just like in a job interview, it is important to show interest and knowledge about the larger priorities of the organization. Ask questions relating to the future direction of the company or seek out any clarification you may need on your own responsibilities.

Express your thoughts on your own future goals, but keep it in terms of your professional development, not your paycheque

DO have feedback prepared

Finally, be prepared to offer feedback to your manager on their performance, the effectiveness of work processes, and the company environment. Not all managers will actively solicit this kind of feedback, but if they do you can demonstrate your professionalism by having something constructive to offer.

Performance reviews don’t have to induce sweaty palms and anxiety–be prepared and they can actually be a career-building tool.

About the author

Carley Centen is an aspiring writer/editor passionate about storytelling and obsessed with obsolete words and impractical typewriters. She holds an honours B.A. in International Development Studies from Trent University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Socio-Legal Studies at York, which she hopes will help to prepare her for a career in non-profit communications or consulting. Carley is currently (and sporadically) developing her writing at her personal blog, C. Centen (Run).