Updated: Dec 20, 2022
The holiday season is approaching. But there’s always that one last corporate obstacle before we can jingle those bells and pop the champagne. For many companies, the year-end also marks the time for performance appraisals. And let’s face it, it can be downright nerve-wracking (1).
But, what if we reframed the way we approach these sessions? By learning how to tame those nerves, we can better digest feedback and identify areas for professional growth. So, let’s explore how we can leverage, rather than dread, our annual performance reviews.
How to stay calm, cool, and collected
You open your work email, and there comes an invite from your manager for an appraisal meeting. If feelings of anxiety and worry begin to loom over you, here are a few tips to manage them.
1. Normalize the nerves
Firstly, know that feeling anxious is totally normal! We’re technically being put under the spotlight by our higher-ups. More so when there’s an evident imbalance of power and a lack of information.
That said, it’s only natural to feel that sinking feeling in your stomach. So, take a few breathers and cut yourself some slack 😮💨
2. Get (halfway) out of the unknown
Performance reviews are much less daunting when we know what to expect. You can always clarify the format and agenda with your manager through a quick email. And ask if there’s anything you can prepare prior to the session.
Doing this takes away the fear of the unknown. It also helps you narrow your focus on what you can control such as preparing your questions and self-appraisals.
3. Reframe the review
Performance reviews can be more than just a session where your boss grills you. It’s usually also an opportunity for both of you to reflect on milestones you’ve achieved in the past year. Plus, both good and constructive feedback can be a helpful compass for professional development.
4. Reframe your worth
Remember, these performance reviews are not a benchmark for your entire self-worth. You are more than your professional identity.
Not only that, but the results of your appraisal are likely also influenced by many factors beyond your control. This includes organizational politics, shifting business goals, and the biases your higher-ups may have.
5. Lead the conversation
Rather than passively receiving comments, make it a two-way conversation by proactively asking questions. You may also speak to your manager about your goals and how they align with your current role, strengths, and past achievements.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable about your weaknesses and professional struggles too. Your managers are likely more than happy to tackle them with you.
HR and managers should help too!
A successful performance review should be engaging and encouraging. And employers play a big role in making sure people walk out with a good sense of where they stand. Here’s what HR and managers can do:
Set expectations at the start
Before the session, provide an overview through email of how the session will be conducted. Outline what to expect as well as how they can prepare for the review.
Speak from a place of care
If an employee is behind in certain areas, offer guidance instead of threat. Deliver your feedback in an approachable manner and be open to their opinions. You can also highlight how the employee has contributed to the company, and vice versa.
Specify how they can improve
Create personalized development plans and specify the skills they need to advance professionally. Don’t forget to offer tailored solutions and training to help them feel supported.
Appraisals should be a two-way street. Employees should be allowed a chance to reflect and provide feedback on how management can improve too. When we give them the space to do so, it gives them a sense of agency over their work. It also demonstrates that managers are receptive and care about the greater good of the team.
We get it. Appraisal season is no one’s favorite time of the year. But it is still essential to both an employee's and an employer’s growth. Ultimately, the key to productive and successful reviews is to make them a safe space for discussion. So, let’s work towards end-of-year appraisals that foster confidence and enhance clarity for a stronger new year 💪
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