“If your work does not speak for itself, no words will vindicate it.” Anonymous
Noble thought, perhaps, but not true when it comes to your performance review. If you don’t advocate for yourself, who will? Your manager is unlikely to remember all the ways you contributed over the past year, especially with everyone working remotely. Your review is your best opportunity to make your manager aware of your many contributions. So, following a year of working remotely, how do you make the most of it?
What Has Changed in Your Virtual Performance Review
Surely your work-life changed in the last year given the pandemic and the work from home environment and is likely to be different post-pandemic than it was before. These changes may include:
Your life outside of work
If the remote environment puts particular stress on you – perhaps even impacting your performance – you will want to point out the causes in a non-defensive manner. Some people use the phrase, “By way of explanation and not as an excuse.” This still sounds like an excuse, so we think it’s simpler to talk in terms of putting one’s year and performance into “context.” And so, if you had pandemic-related issues to deal with – you had to teach your kids or deal with an unhappy spouse who lost his job, or become a new caregiver, you need to get this on the table in a matter-of-fact way.
Pre-pandemic when you were at the office, your boss could presumably find you when needed. Did you make an extra effort to be available while working remotely? If so, you might acknowledge your awareness of this need, and that you tried to address it such as by checking emails, texts, and phone messages more often, and replying promptly. What is your manager’s perception of your availability when working remotely?
The age-old fear of managers everywhere is that allowing people (especially younger employees, rightly or wrongly) to work remotely means they will goof off, with their drop in productivity being difficult to measure and confront. Were you as or more productive working remotely versus coming into the office every day? If so, why, and what does that suggest as to the best workplace format going forward? Do you have data to back up your productivity assertion?
The workplace going forward
What are your organization’s plans for returning to the office, and how will they impact you and your career? Did you build a closer relationship with your manager and colleagues during the past year? If not, what are you going to do differently given your company’s plans to return, or not, or in some modified form, to the office?
Your career path post-pandemic
Will there be new roles and career paths that did not exist before, or some that were available but will likely be eliminated? What is the future of business travel where you work, and how does that affect your plans?
Some companies froze or cut compensation at the outset of the pandemic, citing an uncertain future and survivability. If you are asking for increased compensation, come to the performance review with an accurate sense of how your company is performing and its ability to pay at or above market. There are winners and losers from the pandemic. Depending on your industry, your company may be thriving.
The review format
Here’s advocating you do everything you can to meet with your manager in person. It’s just warmer and more conducive to building bonds. A virtual call is the next best, while a phone call is unsatisfactory. You need to see and read facial and body cues.
What Has Not Changed in Your Performance Review
Big picture, you’ll find that working remotely hasn’t changed much about what you need and can expect from your performance review.
You still need certain things from your performance review. Namely, to:
- Get a sense of where you stand with your manager and the company
- Learn behaviors of yours that are viewed as positive, and any that are not
- Discuss and hopefully agree on your career path, with milestones and timing
- Set or confirm goals for the upcoming year
- Address compensation matters
- Get answers to any questions you may have
- Understand and agree upon the next steps
Your list of accomplishments
Your past accomplishments may be the best indicator of your future accomplishments, as well as your ability to help your manager achieve his goals. Whether or not doing so is required, document your accomplishments for the period under discussion. If your company requires you to complete a self-review, it’s your opportunity to provide accomplishments. If not, provide them in advance of your review, ideally before bonus amounts are decided. Don’t assume your manager will read it in advance; bring copies for both of you.
List agreed-upon goals and their achievement. Don’t inflate your accomplishments. If you didn’t achieve a goal, acknowledge it. Divide accomplishments into logical buckets. Use subheadings. Prioritize items within the subheadings, starting with those having the most impact. A list is easier to follow and more compelling when each bulleted accomplishment is organized by topic, starts with a verb, and is placed in an intentional order within each subheading.
Accept feedback gracefully and gratefully. Don’t expect to be told you’re perfect, with nothing to work on. Such a review would be easy for your manager to give, but unhelpful to you. You want your manager to speak frankly, so let your manager talk while she’s giving feedback without interruption or rebuttal by you. Once it’s your turn to talk, do so in a calm and non-defensive manner. While you may be tempted to ignore positive comments and focus on the negative ones, pay attention to the positives to continue identifying and building on your strengths.
Work to change your behavior, as needed! Almost 60% of office workers say their reviews have “no impact on the way they approach their work.” Be part of the minority who do something constructive with their evaluation – who listen, learn, and act on it. At appropriate times, ask for follow-up feedback to determine if you’re improving in areas of concern.
Your performance review likely comes around but once a year. Pandemic year or not, it’s imperative that you make the most of it.