Three Things NOT to Do at Your Year-End Performance Review

The end of the year is performance-review time at many companies, which means that you’re probably reading this in between frantically reacquainting yourself with your goals for 2016, and wondering how to persuade your boss to give you a raise.

If you’re feeling a little nervous, take a deep breath. While annual reviews can be stressful, they’re also an opportunity to make your accomplishments known, advocate for yourself, and get on track for the coming year.

Go into the meeting prepared and with a clear head, and you could come out ahead. But first, let’s talk about what you absolutely shouldn’t do, if you want a productive and positive performance review.

Don’t…

1. Expect the worst.

Ideally, your manager is your partner, not your adversary. If he or she is any good at their job, you should already know where your weak spots are and what you need to do to improve, thanks to plenty of one-on-one meeting during the year. There should be no surprises in a performance evaluation, and if there are, that’s on your boss, not on you. (Provided that you’ve kept your ears open and that you’re receptive to constructive criticism.)

That said, not every manager is clear on their responsibility to communicate areas of improvement throughout the year. Some have trouble giving constructive criticism — even though research shows that workers want corrective feedback, provided it’s delivered in a helpful fashion.

Regardless, approaching your performance review like a trip to the principal’s office won’t help you get the conversation off to a positive start. Even if your manager highlights areas for improvement, that’s not necessarily a bad sign. In fact, it might show that he or she is willing to endure a tough conversation in order to help you achieve your potential at the organization.

2. Come in unprepared.

The biggest mistake you can make in a performance review is to wing it. For one thing, your lack of preparation will be evident, and give the impression that you’re not taking the meeting seriously — not what you’re trying to convey to the person in charge of your raise. For another, it’s hard to remember everything you’ve accomplished when you’re on the spot.

Start by gathering your materials, including your job description, goals from last year (if you were at the company at that time), and a list of what you’ve accomplished. Best-case scenario, you’ve been tracking these over the course of the year, and will just have to match your accomplishments against your goals. If you’re not quite that organized yet, go through your projects, folders, and inbox, and highlight your wins. Now’s the time to put a number and a dollar sign on what you’ve done. If you can demonstrate that you’ve made or saved the company money, you’ll be in a much better position going into your review.

3. Demand a raise.

It might surprise you to know that the end of the year is not necessarily the best time of year to ask for a raise. For one thing, budgets tend to be set. There’s no point in demanding a 10% raise if your manager only has a 3% bump in the budget.

That doesn’t mean that you should give up on getting more money. Provided your review is going well, the second half of the conversation is a great time to let your manager know about your goals for your future at the company. If you’d like to be promoted, for example, ask your manager what you’d need to do to get there in the coming year. If you think your current duties seem more relevant to another, more highly paid job, you can make that point. The goal is to help your manager see your path and help you make progress.

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