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Getting Through Your Year-End Job Performance Review

What to expect, and how to attack certain topics.

A performance review is your opportunity to voice any concerns, so if you want to discuss specific topics, don't be afraid to speak up. (iStockPhoto).

If you wait for your year-end performance evaluation with a sense of anxiety or even dread, resolve to be more proactive in handling the process this year, which can make the review more positive and even useful. Here are some of the things people worry about most when it comes to performance reviews, and answers to help you make the process go more smoothly.

Is there anything you can do to influence your performance evaluation ahead of time?

Yes! Ahead of the time when your manager is likely to be writing your evaluation, provide him or her with a brief, bulleted list of your accomplishments for the year or a list of what your goals were for the year and how well you performed them.

People sometimes assume that their managers remember everything they've achieved during the year, but you're always going to be more familiar with your work than your boss is. Providing a list to jog his or her memory is a chance to make sure that you're both working with the same information. What's more, some managers will pull language directly from this kind of self-assessment and use it in their own evaluation of you.

What if your manager's evaluation of your work overlooks a lot of key contributions you made during the year?

An evaluation generally won't include everything you did during the year, but if you feel that your manager's overall assessment of your work would be different if more of your accomplishments were taken into account, speak up! Say something like this: "I appreciate the feedback you've given me. I wanted to note some of the contributions I made this year that aren't included here, like X, Y and Z. Would it be possible to factor those into my overall evaluation as well?"

What if your manager brings up criticisms that you've never heard before?

Ideally, nothing on a performance evaluation should be a surprise. In general, your manager should have been giving you feedback throughout the year, and the evaluation should be a summary of the year overall. But the reality is, sometimes managers don't give as much feedback as they should. And sometimes evaluation time forces a manager to step back and reflect on how things are going, and prompts the realization that there are problems in your realm. If that's the case, it's legitimate for your manager to raise those issues as part of your evaluation, even if they haven't come up previously. Of course, a thoughtful manager will acknowledge that and say something like, "I realize I haven't raised this previously, and I should have."

It's also reasonable for you to ask to receive feedback on a more ongoing basis in the future so that you aren't hearing about things for the first time in your evaluation.

What if your manager criticizes your work but doesn't provide concrete examples?

It's frustrating to hear things like, "you need to take more initiative" or "you need to bring the quality of your presentations up" without being given any concrete specifics to help you understand what your manager is asking you to change. If this happens, don't be shy about asking for more clarification; in fact, it's important to do that because otherwise you're not likely to be able to make the changes your manager is requesting. You can say it this way: "I really appreciate getting this feedback. So that I'm able to understand the issue and what you'd like me to do differently, could you give me an example or two of where I haven't been hitting the mark and what it would look like if I was?"

Will your performance review be tied to the kind of raise you receive?

At most companies, yes. Some companies only do cost-of-living increases, which are generally roughly the same percentage increase from person to person, but most companies tie performance to compensation.

If your manager doesn't mention a raise as part of your review, should you bring it up?

People often wait for their managers to supply the perfect opening for a conversation about salary, but the perfect opening may never come. If your manager doesn't address salary as part of your evaluation and it's been at least a year since your salary was last adjusted, bring it up yourself! Say something like this: "I was hoping we could also discuss my salary. It's been a year since my last raise, and in that time, I've taken on quite a few new responsibilities and am performing well, as we just discussed. I'd like to consider increasing my salary to a level that reflects these increased contributions."

Do you have to sign your evaluation if you disagree with it?

If you disagree with your evaluation, you might feel funny about signing it (if you're at a company that includes a signature as part of the process). But signing an evaluation doesn't mean that you agree with its contents; it simply indicates that you received it. Because of that, refusing to sign is generally seen as a hostile and adversarial move, and it can do real harm to your standing with your manager and at your company. However, you can certainly add a note that says "signing to indicate receipt only."

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