You know you have a performance review coming up. Like any employee, you're eager, hopeful, a little apprehensive, and wondering if there's a promotion or raise in your immediate future. 

But how ready are you for the review meeting itself? What you do during that brief conversation with your manager can have huge consequences for your future career, according to Steve Hunt, senior vice president, customer value at SAP, and Gabby Burlacu, Ph.D., manager of value realization research at SAP and an adjunct professor at Portland State University School of Business.

The way you react to the feedback you receive can actually derail your career. Or, it can leave your boss feeling impressed with you and looking to hand you more responsibility. It can even salvage a bad situation if your review isn't a glowing one. Here's how to use your review meeting to your greatest advantage:

1. Just because you're sure you're doing a great job, don't assume your boss will think so too.

Don't make the mistake of walking into the review feeling sure you know what you're about to hear. It's always a challenge to see yourself as others see you. Most people believe their performance is "above average"--which obviously can't be true. Part of the problem is what Hunt and Burlacu call "fundamental attribution error." "We tend to attribute our own success to our personal actions and we tend to attribute our failures to challenges we faced in the environment," Hunt explains. "Conversely, we tend to attribute other people's success to being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and blame their failures on personal shortcomings."

That's why it's so common for people to be unpleasantly surprised by their reviews. "We have a unique and very limited perspective when it comes to measuring our performance," Hunt says. 

2. Just because something's worked in the past, don't assume it always will.

In this fast-moving world, you always have to be ready to adapt to new situations not only be learning new skills, but sometimes by changing the very approaches that were essential to your past success. 

"There is such a thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to employee personalities," says Burlacu. "Research on the dark side of commonly positive personality traits suggests that being too conscientious, too agreeable, or too innovative can eventually derail an employee's career--although these are the exact traits that are commonly associated with high performance."

So don't depend on whatever you've done in the past to see you through the future, and during your review, stay alert for signs that you may need to adjust your approach, especially as you step into new roles. "Performing well at work is not just about having the right traits and mindset, but also about maintain self-awareness and self-management to avoid the negative aspects of these usually positive characteristsics."

3. Treat every review as an opportunity to learn.

Getting a performance review is never fun, especially if your boss's assessment of your work is less glowing that you expected. "There are two general mindsets we may adopt when we get feedback on our performance," says Hunt. "One is to focus on the feedback from a perspective of winning and losing." That's the wrong approach, she says.

"It 's very focused on the past, says  Burlacu. "Just because you won or lost in the past does not mean you'll get that same outcome in the future." she adds. So don't waste your mental energy on keeping score or comparing your review to that of your colleagues.

"It is far better to focus on using the feedback to learn how to improve," she says. "This starts with assuming that you can and will change. People who view themselves as capable of developing and improving get far more out of performance feedback than people who just focus on whether the feedback tells them what they want to hear." A learning mindset also makes the review process more pleasant in the short run, and more beneficial to your career in the long run, she adds.

4. Work with your manager to set specific, measurable goals that you can track.

Ideally, you already have a specific set of goals established for your job, along with a way that both you and your boss will measure your progress toward those goals. If so, then your review will partly be a matter of simply reviewing your progress and accomplishments and setting updated or expanded goals for the coming period. "Research has long established that having clear, measurable, challenging goals at work will increase your likelihood of being successful in your job," Hunt notes.

If you don't already have agreed-on goals in place, or it's been a while since you set tem, then it's time to establish some now, along with exactly how your progress will be measured and when, Hunt says. It will make you better at what you do, and likely contribute to future success. And then he says, "The performance review won't contain any major surprises."

Published on: Nov 23, 2015
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