Shot of two businessmen having a meeting in an office

The performance review conversation is an opportunity for an employee to ask, “How did I do?”  Performance reviews are summative two-way conversations which focus on an individual’s performance.  Performance reviews focus on areas of excellence, goals and development needs.  During the performance review conversation there should be no surprises because managers and staff members have had regular conversations regarding performance throughout the year.

Often times the performance review causes worry and anxiety for both managers and employees. It can – wrongly – be seen as a punitive process, rather than supportive. The performance review is simply a culmination of conversations and feedback offered throughout the year. There should be no surprises for either the employee or the supervisor during the review.

Here are some tips to help you get – and offer – the most out of a review:

Prepare Yourself for the Conversation

  • Quietly reflect on the past year – What was accomplished? What might be an area of development or growth for next year? What do you need from one another?
  • Approach the conversation with positive thoughts and curiosity.
  • Review the university values and expected behaviors.

The Review Conversation

  • Be candid and honest.
  • Be non-judgmental.
  • Focus on the future, not the past.
  • Provide an environment where the manager and the employee both are fully engaged in the conversation.
  • Be prepared to ask each other open-ended questions that will help you understand one another’s thinking and perspective.
  • Identify strengths and areas of growth and development.
  • Listen, reflect your understanding and ask clarifying questions if needed.
  • Share personal and professional goals.

After the Conversation

  • Reflect on the feedback received and determine how to apply it.
  • Continue to ask clarifying questions so you are both on the same page.
  • Commit to providing one another regular coaching and feedback.
  • Schedule time to have a planning conversation where goals and objectives are set for the next year.

Feedback is worth listening to with active, full attention. Hearing feedback can:

  • Help you become aware of how you are doing – what’s working and what isn’t.
  • Give you some ideas to help you be most effective.
  • Give you a “reality check” – you can compare how you think you are doing with what other people tell you.

Tips for effectively receiving feedback:

  • Relax tense muscles and watch your body language.
  • Listen to both reinforcing and developmental feedback with an open mind. Paraphrase to make sure you heard the message correctly. This also demonstrates you are sincere in wanting to hear the other person’s feedback. Even if you disagree, you can learn about the perception you’re creating and use the feedback to help you make a greater or more positive impact – even if just on one individual.
  • Ask for examples – direct the conversation by saying, “Tell me more” or “What have I specifically done to make you feel that way?”
  • Acknowledge – you don’t have to agree or disagree with the person at this time. It’s appropriate to recognize the other person’s input by saying, “You’ve given me something to think about.”
  • Be open rather than defensive. Approach feedback with an “I want to learn attitude.” Feedback represents the other person’s experience. It is neither right nor wrong. Avoid explaining your behavior. Don’t give causes, reasons, or excuses. Don’t take it personally. Try to see the feedback from the other person’s point of view.
  • Thank the person. Reinforce what was useful. Feedback, whether given effectively or poorly, is a concerted action someone has taken (with some risk) to help you reach your full potential.
  • Think objectively – evaluate the feedback. Ask yourself:
    • Is the feedback valid and important?
    • Is it consistent with what I have heard before?
    • Are the person’s standards and expectations valid?
    • Is the feedback really about me or is it about the other person?
  • Think about what you are going to do with the feedback – you don’t have to act upon it right away. Spend some time thinking about the feedback and then determine what action, if any, you need to take. If you ignore the feedback, be clear about the consequences.

Responding Effectively to Different Kinds of Feedback

How to respond to different feedback
If Feedback: Strategy:
Is flattering Accept the feedback graciously. Say “Thank you!”
Is too vague (“You’re doing a great job. Keep it up.”) Ask for feedback on a specific skill or project. (“What in particular do you think I’m doing well?”)
Is negative (“I just don’t think you’re cut out to be a manager.”) Don’t get defensive. “Unpack” the objection by asking questions to uncover the basis for the opinion. (“What specific skills do you think I lack?”)
Catches you off guard Say, “Oh that surprises me.”  Then ask clarifying questions or ask for time to think it over before discussing further.
Is something negative that you totally disagree with Express your concern and explore the issue. Don’t argue the point. After the discussion, think about how you might change the perception or ask yourself, “How can I learn from this?”
  • How can I get a handle on what I’ve accomplished this year? What I haven’t? How do I share this information with my manager in a way that will benefit me?
  • What are my needs for coaching, feedback and professional development? How can I communicate these to my manager in a way that they will hear it?
  • What can I do to collaboratively plan for my professional development with my manager?
  • What specific actions can I take to get more regular feedback from my manager over the next year?
  • What do I do well? (accomplishments and examples of successful performance)
  • What would I like to do better? (goals and examples of where your performance could have been better)
  • What would I like to learn? (goals)
  • What responsibilities would I like to take on? (goals)
  • What resources do I need to do my job better? (development)
  • Did I meet my goals and/or projects from last year? If no, why not?
  • Do I have feedback from customers that I can share with my manager?
  • What do I like best about my work?
  • What is most challenging for me?
  • What are my strengths and do I have the opportunity to use them most every day?
  • What can I do to improve my rating in this area next year?