Be Your Own Advocate: 4 Performance Review Strategies

Be your own advocate and own your next performance review.

The challenge with performance reviews

Most of us have heard the saying, “people join a company but leave a manager.” Why is that? According to Quantum Workplace, 24% of employees would consider leaving their jobs if they received inadequate feedback from their managers.

As a leadership and career coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of professionals at all levels ranging from individual contributors new in their roles to the C-suite level in negotiating deserved promotions or raises and asking for career development to help them grow into future positions. 

This is where self-advocacy comes in. Whether it’s a desired promotion, lateral move, or shining in the role you’re in today, you are the leader in advocating for yourself, especially when it comes to your performance review. Below are 4 strategies to help you get the most out of those conversations:

Strategy 1. Be Proactive

Do you happen to have a manager who may cancel at the last minute and ask to reschedule?  Or cancel but not reschedule? Take the initiative to make sure the conversation happens! Find a time that is most convenient for him/her. Check in with your manager ahead of time with a list of important topics you would like to cover. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to make sure that the meeting happens and that you get out of it what you are hoping for. Which brings me to my next point.

Strategy 2.  Be Prepared

I love the expression, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” To help you plan, I recommend keeping a file of specific accomplishments, related metrics, feedback received from clients, coworkers, or suppliers, and lessons learned throughout the year. When it comes time to pull it all together for your review, the process will be efficient and effective. For example, I worked with a director of a non-profit who was allocating Covid relief funds. To prepare for the performance review she outlined the amount of funds received, who received them, and positive results of their spending.

What do you do if your work and responsibilities are difficult to quantify? Just about anything you are doing in the workplace can be quantified. For example, agree you designing processes or creating job aids to ensure consistency? How many people are using them? Are you able to determine the improvement in the time it took for them to be more productive? Share those results. Talking to a mentor or peer can help generate more ideas.

When you are able to positively demonstrate the quantifiable business results that came as a result of your efforts, it further proves your value to the organization.

It is also important to identify specific opportunities you’re seeking and determine a realistic timeframe for attaining them.  Let’s say you are a business analyst and, to move into a new software development role, you need to learn more about coding. Start by creating a portfolio of projects that shows your  competence in using the tools that you would need for that role. If applicable, earn a certification and realistically plan out the time it would take you to complete this.   

Strategy 3.  Seek Out Constructive Feedback

In order to grow, we must be open and receptive to constructive feedback and honest self-evaluation. It’s much easier to hear the glowing accolades from your manager. Yet, if this is all you hear, is it really helping you improve? If you can’t be honest with yourself about your areas of improvement, how can you grow in your career?

Of course, there are times when a manager provides you with negative feedback that you don’t agree with. Remember, you are prepared. You have a file of data, accomplishments, and feedback to support your stance. It is much easier to disagree respectfully when you have the data to prove it.

I worked with a senior director of a consulting company who felt she was not recognized to the extent she should be, and believed she was underpaid. I coached her through the process of pulling together relevant data, practicing how to communicate her message confidently, then scheduling the meeting with her VP. Shortly thereafter, she received a promotion and an 18% increase.

Strategy 4.  Show Emotional Intelligence

As you can imagine, the more composed and confident you are during a performance conversation, the more effective you will be. I realize this can be challenging, especially when you don’t agree with the feedback being shared. Do your best to separate your emotions and keep it professional.

Ideally, you want to create trusting relationships where you can ask for and/or receive feedback. Set up quarterly conversations with your manager and ask for feedback regularly. Seek out action items that will help you gain exposure and development.  Ask to sit in on meetings in place of your manager and or colleagues. Get involved and leverage those learnings in your current role. 

It’s up to you

According to the Human Resources Development Authority (HRDA), companies that implement regular feedback conversations have 14.9% lower turnover. Even still, whether you are at one of those companies or not, it is always up to you to be your own advocate. Focus on being proactive, prepared, open to feedback, and composed. Use your data to back up your assertion and respectfully ask for what you believe to be fair. Remember, your career journey is what you make it.

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