Making the Most of Performance Reviews : Feature Article; March'08

Performance Reviews – making the most of them !

If I mention “Performance Review” most of you would think of rating, salary increments, bonuses and promotions. Would you also think of future performance, skill enhancement and charting a stellar career? If the answer is “Yes” then you may already be making the most of your performance review, if the answer is “No” then read on. 


Why do Performance Reviews exist?
By and large they exist to review your past performance and provide you feedback for improvements. Most performance reviews are completed on a yearly basis. For the organization the main objectives of having performance reviews include:-

  • To ensure each team member knows clearly what they are expected to do, individually.

  • To set standards / establish a level of competence for both the individual employee and the workplace as a whole.

  • To plan for and receive inputs from employees for their professional and career growth.

  • To ensure performance of employees are evaluated on same criteria for the same job.

  • For a fair and objective basis for rewarding and recognizing individual performance To provide regular feedback on how one is doing to improve/develop self.

Usually performance reviews are completed by your manager and then reviewed together by both of you. This gives you one-on-one time with the manager to highlight your abilities and discuss professional growth. Thus the discussion is an important aspect of the review process. Let’s see how you can make this discussion meaningful.

Preparing for the Performance Review
Preparing for the performance appraisal ensures you are ready with your points of view and can table them with your Manager. Being unprepared means being a reactive or a passive participant in the process.  It is essential that you take time out and do the following:-

    • Review your work: Think about ….
      • Your job description, job responsibilities, and any job performance expectations set with your manager

      • Key achievements and factors that contributed to them

      • Factors that inhibited your optimal performance

      • Steps taken towards self-development

      • Career aspirations for future

      • Training and self-development needs.

    • Document adequately: If the review form does not provide space for the points mentioned above document them in additional comments section. Be detailed in writing your self-evaluation. Make sure to give specific examples. If you saved the company money by suggesting and implementing a process, add that. Mention figures. Write “Trained 8 batches comprising of 15 people each” instead of “Conducted training for a lot of batches’’.
    • Ensure feedback is received from all managers: If you've had more than one manager in the performance assessment period, be sure that the earlier manager has passed on feedback of your performance to the current one.

What you should do during the review discussion

What you should not do during the review discussion

What about Post Discussion?

The value of a performance review lies in the action that you take based on the discussion you have had with your manager. Do work on the feedback received. Follow through on action points you have agreed upon. If your manager has agreed to support you, remind him gently if he does not keep his commitment.

    1. Be an active participant: Your performance review will be effective if you are as active and involved as your Manager in expressing your positions and ideas. Performance appraisal time is an excellent time for you to make suggestions about work practices that could be changed to deliver better performance. Remember your manager can't read your mind. He/she can work with you to help you do your job more effectively, if you provide him/her with information and ideas.

    2. Be a positive contributor to the process: Seeing the process as a positive tool to build your career will help you maintain a positive frame of mind all through the discussion even when you are being criticized. The key is to participate with a problem-solving mindset focusing on how things can be improved.

    3. Review past performance: Go through your past performance and objectively identify the areas where you excelled. At the same time, do not avoid the criticism that might come your way. Be graceful in admitting where you went wrong and seek guidance from your Manager on how to proceed in future.   

    4. Understand your strengths and also weaknesses: Ask your manager to be frank in listing out your strengths and weaknesses vis-à-vis your current role as well as your next planned or targeted role.

    5. Discuss your career aspirations and related development needs: This is a good time to discuss your personal career goals and to get input on achieving these goals. If you don't know what role you can move into next, ask.

    6. Mention the support you need from your Manager: Be clear in letting your Manager know the areas where you would need her/his support. If you need help with more resources or you need your Manager to provide you inputs etc to be successful in your goals, mention that clearly.

    7. Ask for increased job responsibilities: If you want to grow, you must take on additional work responsibilities. So request for it. Even if you are not given higher responsibilities immediately, your manager will remember your eagerness to shoulder more responsibilities.

    8. Seek clarifications: Some managers communicate and explain well. Some don't. However, unless you clarify the reasoning or explanations, you won't know what you need to do to improve your future job performance. It's important to leave the review meeting having a good understanding of what's been said.

    1. Focus on just completing the Review Forms: The ultimate purpose of performance review is to allow employees and managers to improve continuously and to remove barriers to job success. Forms are simply a way of recording information for later reference. If the focus is getting the forms "done", without thought and effort, the whole process becomes a waste of time.

    2. Point out your manager’s shortcomings: This is a strict NO. It's your review, not your manager’s. So, do not be tempted to highlight her/his improvement areas; rather mention the areas where you need her/his cooperation. Discuss how the two of you can work better together.

    3. Express disappointment about responsibilities in the review period: If you are upset about your responsibility areas, you don’t have to wait until the review to express it. You should mention this at the time when you feel the tasks are not challenging enough.

    4. Play the blame game: Blaming others for your non-performance reflects poorly on you. Accept your mistakes gracefully, learn from them, and move on empowered with this new knowledge. Your Manager will respect you more if you are open to work on your shortcomings. 

    5. Be defensive: It is difficult to hear others' critical comments about our work. But, if you enter into the discussion with an attitude of "defending", then it's almost impossible to create the dialogue necessary for performance improvement. This does not mean you cannot present your own opinions and perceptions, but that you should present them in a calm, factual manner, rather than in a defensive, emotional way.

    6. Blackmail the organization to get a good performance rating: Don't use threats of resignation/offer letters from other firms to get a good performance rating. If your manager changes the rating based on it and gives you a rating you do not deserve, during the normalization process it will get normalised. In the long run you will lose more than you gain in the short term by way of the negative feeling of your Manager and colleagues towards you.

    7. Focus on review as a way of getting more money: Pay is important, but the focus on what ultimately matters over the long term ie., continuous performance improvement should not be diluted especially if because of the money focus one becomes hesitant to reveal shortcomings or mistakes. Improve and deliver brilliant performance. Money will automatically follow.


Reviews are not merely about recognition and rewards. It is also about learning and development. The feedback that you get can help you move up the organisational ladder faster. While during your review, your past performance is evaluated, the roadmap for the future is also prepared. This roadmap could define all the success you will enjoy in your professional life! Choose to be an active participant in this process and chart the path to where you wish to go in your career.



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    • Ghosh, G, “Getting your performance review right”,
      • Darode, V, “Top Ten Tips for a Better Performance Review”,
      • Kirk, J.F, “It's the need to achieve that drives top performers”,
      • Bacal, R, “Seven Stupid Things EMPLOYEES Do To Screw Up Performance Review”,