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It’s Here Again! Or How To Prepare For A Performance Review

November 17, 2021, 5-min. read
How To Prepare For A Performance Review

As the end of the year approaches, it means it’s time for performance reviews in many companies. Theoretically, this is an excellent opportunity to evaluate the work done throughout the year, receive comprehensive feedback, and create goals and outlook for future periods with your higher-ups.


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Realistically, in many companies this represents an unpleasant formality for both participating sides, followed by a short-term drop in performance. This drop is usually caused by anger, feelings of injustice and of not being appreciated, and overall demotivation on the side of the employees.

There are a few possible reasons for this: incorrectly stated goals, which makes their evaluation difficult; the absence of continuous assessments, dialogue, and feedback, which leads to a widening difference between how things are perceived by the employee and the manager; or manager’s ineptitude when conducting the review.

Realistically, in many companies this represents an unpleasant formality for both participating sides, followed by a short-term drop in performance.

But one of the reasons could also be the lack of employee preparedness for the interview. The employee assumes that the manager will be leading the review and they arrive to it in a rather defensive mood, expecting the need to defend and delineate themselves anytime the feedback is negative. It’s very difficult for the manager to conduct an interview in such mood. If the employee is on alert and ready to defend him- or herself, it can set the overall mood of the dialogue and as a result, it will become more of a trench war. Of course in the eyes of the employee this means a failure on the side of the manager, and partially that is true.

On the other hand, it’s good to be aware that if we work at a certain company and want to experience long-term satisfaction in our job, we are not in a state of war. We can’t change our managers and it’s on us whether we are able to not only do our work but also evaluate it and sell it. So it shouldn’t be about passive defense but about active presentation of what we have accomplished. Even a well-intentioned manager who spends a lot of time with us can’t know about our every precise step and we probably wouldn’t want that anyway.

So what does this mean?

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It means that not only the manager but also every employee should prepare for the performance review. This way, the employee can influence not just the current evaluation but also future goals. Consequently, the chances that the employee will be satisfied and motivated at work and feel that they are working on meaningful things will increase significantly.

Don’t forget that self-evaluation is a key element of the review and it’s just as important as the manager’s evaluation. If there is a disagreement between their two views, it’s not a cause for conflict but actually a very useful moment: it’s key to understand where the difference in their views is coming from and use it as a factor in further work and when setting new goals. Practical experience shows that communication, discussion, willingness to understand, asking open-ended questions, and respect towards one another’s views are truly essential here. Except in truly exceptional cases, people do not want to do bad work on purpose and the manager’s understanding of this is the first step towards moving forward and further development. Without it, the employee will not accept the manager’s view and will only defend his or her own truth.

Whether we are in the role of a manager or the employee who is being evaluated, the following list may help us prepare:

Good preparation includes the following points:

  • Why is the personal review actually being conducted and what do we want it to achieve
  • What goals we have set
  • What was done in regard to fulfilling these goals
  • How did the employee approach this, what steps did he or she take
  • What did he or she learn in the process, or had to learn
  • Specific results and outputs – ideally numbers, materials, sources (summary, presentation, results of a project…)
  • Goals suggested for upcoming periods
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When proposing new goals, focus on defining them well; do not allow the definition to complicate future evaluations. If you need help, there are tools which can guide you through the process of defining goals. Lately, the tools built on OKR (Objective Key Results) have been very popular. This method helps you define so-called Objectives – long-term goals or a vision; and Key Results – partial, easily measured goals or results and the actions which lead to them. The goals should take into account performance, development, specific steps, milestones, and methods for continuous revision/control. 

Goals for new periods shouldn’t come only from the manager – see preparation points; they should be the result of mutual agreement. And if you schedule meetings about them throughout the year, regularly and continuously, you’ll avoid the risk of unpleasant surprises at the end of the year.

While preparing, you can also make good use of your experience from previous performance reviews. That means going through past evaluations and realizing what is truly important, where to focus more and therefore where to be better prepared.

You’ll see - being prepared definitely pays off!


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