No need to dread the “day of reckoning” with these helpful tips from Robert Hosking

It’s that time of year again. The prospect of your annual review has you on edge, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Though performance appraisals are prime opportunities to discuss accomplishments, career paths and areas for improvement, receiving constructive criticism from the boss can be stressful. The good news is that you can actually prepare for a performance review, which will help you feel more in control.

Here are some ways to get ready for that big day and to brace yourself for any negative feedback that may come your way.

1. Make a list of the good

Take stock of your achievements over the past year and put them down on paper. Have you assumed any responsibilities not in your job description? Received stellar comments from colleagues and customers? Attained a Microsoft Office certification and upgraded your Excel skills? Planned an amazing office party? Your boss may ask for a self-evaluation before the performance appraisal. If not, be prepared to mention several accomplishments during the meeting.

2. Be a go-getter

An annual review is more than just a time of constructive criticism and kudos. It’s also a prime opportunity for you to make requests, especially if you’ve been doing a great job. Is there a training course you really want to take, or a conference that will help you become a more productive office professional? Would flexitime or working from home one day a week improve your job satisfaction without impinging on productivity? Do your extra duties merit a promotion and pay raise? You won’t get it unless you ask.

3. Make a list of the not-so-good

We all have room for improvement. After all, life would be pretty boring if you had nothing more to learn. Gear up by knowing your weaknesses. Perhaps your PowerPoint presentations look amateurish, or you know your desk could be more organized. Mention these “growth areas” during the performance appraisal and come up with tangible ways to upgrade your technical and soft skills.

4. Calm the jitters

The performance review is not an inquisition. Rather, it is a two-way conversation between professionals who share common goals. As with a job interview, you will feel calmer and surer of yourself if you anticipate constructive criticism and practice your responses. Resolve to listen to your supervisor with an open mind and positive attitude when it’s time for the real thing.

5. Brace yourself for negatives

Constructive criticism is a natural, healthy part of any balanced appraisal process, but it can be hard for employees to hear. The wrong response: defensiveness, hypersensitivity or denial. The right response: listen to the feedback with a professional attitude. Then ask clarification questions and be open to learning more about how you can improve in your job. Be open-minded about your manager’s suggestions for personal or professional development. If you don’t feel in control of your emotions during a negative performance review, ask for some time to digest the information, organize your thoughts and respond to the evaluation after further reflection.

Instead of sulking, show your professionalism by thanking your boss for the feedback. Reassure him or her of your commitment to the job, company goals and expectations for your role.

6. Don’t be a stranger

Your performance appraisal shouldn’t be a time for unpleasant surprises. A good way to anticipate and even head off criticism of your work is to solicit regular feedback. Don’t mistakenly assume no news is good news: in addition to tracking your own progress, ask for bi-weekly or monthly meetings to touch base. Job improvement should be a year-round process, not a one-time deal.

Although it’s not the most fun aspect of your administrative job, the annual review is an important tool designed to help employees grow and develop — both as individuals and as part of a team. Take constructive criticism as a positive sign that your boss wants you to improve professionally, a goal you both share. Be a fully engaged participant in your performance appraisal, and you will gain clear insights into how to make the upcoming year even better than the last.

Robert Hosking is executive director of the administrative and customer support practice at Robert Half, where he leads operations for nearly 300 practice locations worldwide. With close to 30 years of experience in the staffing industry, he has extensive ... (Read More)

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