You may have seen our post last week, which offered a different set of ‘top tips’ to leaders and managers about to hold appraisal meetings. Well, we’re going to flip that whole scenario on its head, and offer our thoughts on advice to those employees about to enter an appraisal scenario.
It could feel as if you have little control over what will be discussed, and the outcome of said appraisals, but the majority of managers – and the companies they work for – have your interests at heart, just as much as their own commitments and responsibilities. It involves a lot of cost, time and effort to replace a member of staff; employers are always keen to keep valued staff. An unhappy team member can affect the whole department and influence customers – it’s unlikely that any manager nowadays wouldn’t want to use an appraisal meeting to simply see how they can help, support and guide you.
Here are our thoughts, in no particular order, on how to make the most of your appraisal meeting:
You’ll have an idea that, during the review, your manager may ask how you think you’ve done over the last year. Rather than answer generically, and off the cuff, it’s a good idea to prepare evidence to this aim. Though your manager is likely to have statistical data, regarding your targets or sales achievements, their records may not be as accurate as yours, given the other claims on their time. There’s certainly no harm in taking your own information with you. Even if ‘evidence’ isn’t tangible or available, take a little time to consider your value to the team. You’ll know, if you’re honest with yourself, if you’ve had a good year, if you’ve excelled expectations, or have any stand-out moments to shout about. Do you have notes from last year’s appraisal to compare your progress? What about testimonials or thank you notes from grateful clients/customers? Make the time beforehand to gather these things together.
- What do you do?
How can you gauge your performance if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing? How many roles start out clearly defined, but then become compounded or muddled with another role further down the line? If you don’t have a copy of the specifications concerning your particular position, ask your HR department/person. Does it bear any resemblance to your day-to-day tasks and duties? If not, detail where and why.
It’s easy to build up your performance review as a huge event, but there’s no reason to do this. Your manager will have a good idea of your results, conduct and attitude throughout the year, so there should be no big surprises awaiting you. It’s just one person speaking to another – you’re not about to face a firing squad. The more relaxed you are, the more you’ll engage and share with your manager, and the better the discussion will be.
It’s easy, if you get onto the subject of colleagues or workload – or a hundred other topics – to go off on a tangent. Remember that the appraisal meeting is just a small window of time to talk and focus on you, your achievements and your future. If you really want to have a half-hour moan about Brenda not washing up her coffee mug, save it for another time…or just speak to Brenda yourself.
- Speak up
If your manager describes an aspect of your work or performance that you don’t agree with, it’s fine to speak up. It’s not that we’re encouraging conflict, but if you have justification to disagree, share this. They may be unaware of the context or circumstances surrounding a particular task or specific occasion; don’t feel your viewpoint will automatically be discarded. You may not change your manager’s mind, but you may give them more to think about. A good manager will take on board your points and work out how to help, support or train you to ensure the same situation doesn’t recur.
On the flipside of that last tip, it’s not mature nor helpful to disagree with everything your manager says for the sake of it. If you know that your performance or behaviour could have been/could be better, take responsibility for your actions. It could be the team, rather than yourself, that’s not reached expectations – but as part of that team, you will have contributed to that shortfall in some way, even if you, as an individual, outperformed. We’re not suggesting you accept the ‘blame’, but accept what more you could have done to encourage and motivate others to ensure everyone succeeded. Don’t worry, everyone will be held accountable; however, being seen to take responsibility for any setbacks, and employing subsequent positive/remedial action as a result, could really boost your prospects of future promotion!
An appraisal is your chance to clarify your goals. You may not have had the time or inclination to address your career throughout the rest of the year, especially during busy/peak periods; an appraisal gives you the opportunity to reflect on where you were a year ago, and where you hope to be a year from now – if not further ahead. Preferences and circumstances can change; just because you’ve followed a particular career path doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. How do you really feel about your future? It’s definitely a good idea to have a long think about this, before any development/training plans are put in place.
Few people, whatever their job role, will be able to sit in their appraisal meeting and confidently say, “I couldn’t have done any better”. There’s always room for improvement, even if you’ve had an absolute smash of a year. And who wants to stay still anyway? Aren’t we all constantly developing? List your strengths and weaknesses before your appraisal meeting, and consider that very question. What could you have done better? With greater support, more training or ongoing development, how much better could you be? In which areas could you really excel, with help?
- Make notes
We don’t imagine that actions or promises made in your appraisal will be willfully ignored – it’s just easy for time to pass once the appraisal is over and things get back to normal. Make notes of what’s discussed during the meeting and ask for copies of any action plan, then hold your manager (and you!) accountable, if they offered any training or support. No company should just go through the motions, for the reasons we’ve already mentioned.
- Open your mind
It’s instinct to react defensively if something negative is said about your conduct or performance during your appraisal. Firstly, anything negative or disciplinary is inappropriate in an appraisal – if your manager has issues with any aspect of your work, your appraisal is not the time to tell you; they should have taken you to one side in a timely manner, or hold a separate meeting to discuss their concerns. The point of an appraisal is to look at the bigger picture: where you are, where you aim to go, and how they can help you get there, whilst offering support and advice that relate to any concerns. It’s certainly not a time to ‘bash the employee’! That said, just discussing personal performance can be enough to make people squirm or object. So, go in to the meeting with an open mind and take on board constructive feedback that will help you, and the company, achieve all your goals. Attitude is just as much a part of your performance.
Coaching is an excellent avenue of support when trying to boost your career opportunities. Perhaps the team you work with needs outside help to improve? Contact us for an informal chat about your needs, on 01329 820580 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.