Conquering the dreaded job performance review

Conquering the dreaded job performance review

It’s that time of year again. Not for new year’s resolutions. Not tax season. But it’s the dreaded annual job performance appraisal time when companies ask their employees to complete a self-assessment so managers can conduct their review. (And, hopefully, give a raise!)

Self-assessments come in all shapes and sizes, depending on the company and approach to annual reviews. Some are extremely formal with an online portal where employees have to sign in and input their accomplishments and growth opportunities, while others may be asked to fill out a paper form to discuss at a review meeting.

No matter the approach, does anyone really look forward to self-assessments? Anyone? Just receiving the email from your boss saying it’s that time to complete the assessment stirs up feelings of anxiety and dread. Wonder why that is?

  1. MAYBE YOU’RE NOT PREPARED. Perhaps you can’t remember one single project you worked on all year.
  2. ARE YOU TOO HUMBLE? You may be uncomfortable with the idea of gloating about your greatness.
  3. IS THERE A LACK OF CONTENT DOCUMENTING YOUR PROCESS AND RESULTS? What if you don’t have results for each of your objectives?

Regardless of how you feel about annual performance reviews, there are ways to get past the fear and dread that accompanies them. Here are a few helpful tips for making self-assessments a little less intimidating.


Every year in January, I make a resolution to be better prepared and document my accomplishments as the year progresses. It’s interesting because you think, “I don’t need to write down this major win. How can I forget what a rock star I was 12 months ago? Duh.” Trust me, you forget. We all do.

To help you remember all of the great things you’ve done throughout the year, start a new Word document now and at the beginning of every year. Name it “2015 Accomplishments” and keep it front and center on your desktop to remind you. Every time you complete a major project, add a bullet in that document. Nothing long and fancy. Just enough that will trigger your memory in 12 months. And, don’t forget recognition. Reviews are not just about whether your completed a project, but it’s also about receiving recognition for your efforts from your coworkers or clients. Did you get called out at the last staff meeting for going above and beyond? Write it down after the meeting.


Maybe this isn’t an issue for everyone, but for me to sit and “brag” about all the great things I accomplished this year is uncomfortable. But let’s face it; if you don’t “remind” your boss about everything you accomplished, will he/she remember? Doubtful. Don’t force your boss to write your review based on his or her memory. Do you really want that?!

To break out of the supposed “braggart” mindset, try not to view reminding your boss of your accomplishments in the calendar year as tooting your own horn. Think of it as being honest. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review featured insights from Timothy Butler, director of Career Development Programs at the Harvard Business School. Butler noted that it is important to “talk explicitly about your accomplishments” and speak with clarity about the contributions you’ve made to your company.

You can also write your review from the standpoint of talking about your accomplishments with regard to your career map. Ford Myers, author of Get the Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring, advocates that a self-assessment is “an opportunity for you to reflect on how you’re doing in your career, not just your job.” If you feel like you’re thumping your chest with all your accomplishments, you can temper your review by discussing skills you would also like to develop. Not only will this help you to feel more humble (and honest!), but also it can let your company know that you have a continued desire to improve and not just stay stagnant in your career and what you can offer.

When you take a step back and realize that your coworkers are also completing self-assessments, remember that they may not be as shy as you are about stating their accomplishments. There is a big difference between being honest, citing projects you worked on, and helping your company’s bottom line and just sounding arrogant. Don’t hesitate to pat yourself on the back a little for a job well done.


In addition to updating your “2015 Accomplishments” Word document, create a new folder in your email program called, “Wins.” Anytime you get an email from a colleague or leader with kudos or results from a project you worked on, drag that email into that “Wins” folder. This way, you won’t have to go through your entire inbox or sent folders at the end of the year. Just click and drag. It’s that simple. But it does take some discipline. Don’t get lazy.

Besides emails, you may have had to prepare reports throughout the year that recapped a particular project. Refer back to those recaps for specific data points. And, don’t forget, wins don’t have to be monumental to get the recognition you deserve. Maybe you saved your company 3% on your office supply order (sorry, shameless plug!). Or maybe you are now using a new travel booking site that earns the company cash back on future travel. Remind your leader of that savings from 11 months ago vs. just answering “What have you done for me lately?”

I’m not suggesting that by using these quick tips, performance review time will go from dread to uncontrollable excitement, but take it from someone who’s been writing these for a million years: every little bit helps in ensuring that you get the credit you deserve.

And, one last tip: Email your final self-assessment to your personal email address. It’s a great document to have when updating your resume or in your next interview. It reminds you how much you rocked it and how valuable you can be to the next lucky company.