Yearly Review Summary

Jan 24th, 2010 | By | Category: Career advice

The yearly review process has been with us for a long time, and will likely stay until the end of time.  To say the least it is an imperfect process where management and employees meet to discuss the previous years performance, and in most cases determine next year’s pay or this year’s bonus.  There are different schedules for yearly reviews, so this post may not be timely for all, but is in response to a comment received from Shelly.  The goal of the PracticaL Mentor is to generate comments from a variety of visitors to gain ideas and insights from a variety of experiences and personalities and leverage the presented ideas and experiences to the benefit of all.

Yearly reviews are probably one of the most discussed and dreaded processes in the workplace by both sides of the process.  Managers and employees each have a lot at stake as careers and pay hang in the balance. There are several sites available that give advice on yearly reviews here are some that top Google’s list.

http://www.businessweek.com/careers/content/sep2004/ca20040929_1081.htm

http://www.higherawareness.com/achieving-goals/quarterlyreview.html

http://www.scribd.com/doc/23896/12-Rules-of-the-Annual-Review

There were 4, 380,00 hits on my Google search confirming the popularity of the topic.  The goal of the PracticaL Mentor is to present ideas to help form unique and successful strategies for yearly reviews.

Everyone’s yearly situation is different. There may be a detrainment to adopting someone else’s approach unless it fits your unique situation. My first professional job out of college placed me in a situation with a dozen new hires, like myself, and a half dozen old hands who had been there from a year to 20 years.  It was a very competitive environment with a very manipulative supervisor.  With just blue collar and military experience, I had no idea of how to handle my first yearly review.  The first yearly review was the end of the probation period when the remaining wash outs were let go.  The rumor mill ran wild with misinformation.  The water cooler crowd insisted there were fewer permanent jobs than candidates. This caused a very unhealthy competitive situation, as this was a year, like now, when the country was in a deep recession. Entry-level jobs were almost impossible to find.  It brought out the best and worst in all of us.

The supervisor and old hands played us like used fiddles watching everyone jump through imaginary hoops, and pitting one against the other.  It would have made a great TV reality show, as alliances were formed and broken, and free running rumors fueled the competition.  Not a great position to be in, but as I learned later, not an uncommon one.  So what happened and what did I learn?

There was a lot of discussion among the new hires on how they were going to handle the review.  Some were well prepared with documentation of everything they had accomplished during the year.  Since we were mostly in training there were really few individual accomplishments.  Others claimed to have established leadership and management abilities when there were few if any opportunities to demonstrate these qualities.  There were a few who felt they were at the bottom of the heap, and were looking for reassurance they were doing a good job. The rest of us were somewhere in the middle. Some used the opportunity to brag, others complain.  Several would talk about what they were going to do and say in the interview. (Which had no resemblance to what they actually did or said).  These conversations transferred ideas good and bad among the group.  The smart move was to listen, adopt any ideas that fit your strategy, and store the rest in memory.

The yearly review turned out to be standardized. There were no trick questions.

The whole basis of the review was: What do you think were your biggest accomplishments?  What was your assessment of the job you were doing?  What could you do better?  What ideas do you have to improve efficiency and production? All standard questions, but the way everyone responded was quite different.  Some inflated their accomplishments and down played their deficiencies.  Others made stuff up, and blamed others for any shortcomings. There were those who tried to turn the tables by asking the supervisor questions.  Of the twelve reviews there were twelve different approaches.  Nobody was fired, but the stage was set.  The fierce competition never ended.

So what are the lessons learned? Yearly reviews in most cases are pretty much standardized.  When I worked for the government everything was on a form with check boxes.  Do some investigating into how your company conducts yearly reviews and prepare to answer the questions.  The main objective of the yearly review is communication.  The more open the exchange the better.  Don’t wait for the yearly review to develop as much rapport with your boss and others as you can.  This may not always be possible, but it is worth the effort.  During the yearly review,  try to make it a conversation, not a question and answer test.  Be yourself, don’t try to apply someone else’s tactics. (The advice may not be genuine, nor reflect your strengths and personality) Put the best spin you can on your performance. Accept responsibility for any shortcomings, and ask for help to eliminate them.  In most companies, management is responsible for bringing deficiencies to the employee’s attention prior to the yearly review.  If they don’t bring up a sore point, let it rest.  If there is something bothering you, it may be better not to intertwine those issues with performance.  Make an appointment for after the yearly review.

Salary increases; cost of living adjustments; and bonuses  should be based on some tangible and recognized benchmark.  There are salary calculators on line to help determine the salary range for most professions. Cost of living is usually tied to a consumer index. Check the Commerce Department Website.  Bonuses are a combination of the company’s financial status, and personal performance.  Most companies have a set range for bonuses.  Check the Security and Exchange site for information on your company’s financial health and pay policies.

Assessing your personal performance is probably the hardest to quantify.  This is when keeping records of accomplishments, awards, etc, comes in handy.  You have to toot your own horn. If you don’t, no one else will.  Stay in your comfort zone  your boss probably already has an opinion of your performance.  Your task is to reinforce the positives, and delete the negatives.  Remember money is not everything.  Sometimes it is better to negotiate perks in addition to, or instead of, money.  Many people are negotiating for more work from home days, better computer equipment, additional responsibility, attending more or fewer meetings, special projects,  college tuition, management training, etc…  Be creative, and reasonable.

Leave a comment, and tell a friend.

Good Luck

The PracticaL Mentor.

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