Performance Reviews: How To Make The Best Of Them

November 28, 2014


It’s that time of year again – the annual performance review. While there have been plenty of arguments on eliminating or radically changing the ritual, performance evaluations are still a reality for most of us. So, may as well make it as constructive and useful as we possibly can. Today’s post is focused on how to make the best of your self-evaluation, for yourself and for your manager.

Be Thorough

No matter how your performance review is done, make sure you complete your self-evaluation as thoroughly as you possibly can. This is the time to reflect on your year and learn from your successes and failures. Document your concrete results and achievements. If you have developed new skills or worked on feedback from the previous year, describe what you learned. Some evaluations ask you to assess soft skills or how you demonstrated specific values throughout the year. Even on such “squishy” topics, write concrete examples where you have demonstrated those skills and values.

Highlight Your Achievements and Skills

Many people struggle with how much they should sell themselves and their achievements. If that sounds like view, then view it as highlighting your skills and achievements, rather than selling. Stay factual, but don’t under estimate or under state what you have accomplished. Sometimes even small victories can be significant.

Keep Your Ego In Check

While there is nothing wrong with selling yourself a bit, don’t oversell. Even if you had the best year ever, no one is perfect. Stay humble. Is there something you could have done better? A lesson you learned along the way? Something that you know that you need to work on or pay attention to? The more balanced of a self-evaluation you write, the more your achievements stand out. Nothing sets off a manager’s BS radar like an over-the-top, impossibly awesome self-evaluation.

Think About The Conversation You Want To Have

At most companies, the evaluation ritual occurs at either the end of the year or the beginning of the year. As a result, managers are often scrambling to get evaluations done at the same time as other important work for the business… and HR holds strict deadlines. When it comes time for the conversation about your review, most managers will take their cue from what you have written. So, think about the conversation you want to have with your manager. What do you want to be recognized for? What feedback do you want? If there is training you want that needs your manager’s support, it’s a good time to bring that up.

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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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2 Comments on “Performance Reviews: How To Make The Best Of Them”

  1. steve Says:

    Completely agree with the statement, as mentioned too often with performance reviews, managers end up having to “scrambled to get evaluations” done at the end of the year. I pose the question why can’t managers be proactive vs procrastinators?

    I’ve noticed depending on the life span of projects, mid-year transfers and the timing of the end dates of a project, employees could have multiple managers throughout the year. Managers who haven’t had time to do evaluate employees per project are then in a bind at the end of the year especially because the freshness of the project and what’s been done has passed. A new way could be having performance reviews at the end of each project thereby providing employees with more upfront and meaningful reviews and help managers evaluate at year end.


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