Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Are you ready for your performance review?

My old friend Bing gave me a heads up recently to an article over at Experience.com that discusses preparing for your performance review. Although some of it is a bit harsh and I don't agree with it ("The performance review is the company's opportunity to prove to you, once again, that they own you."), there's some good advice in there to keep in mind for this important process. The performance evaluation usually forms the basis for raises, stock options, and promotional opportunities, so needless to say, having it go well is in your best interest. Stereotypically, as engineers we have trouble communicating things to management, but if there was one interaction the whole year you would want to have go well, this is it. Tackle it like any other problem, though, and increase your chances of earning those rewards.

Understand where your boss is coming from

I write about appreciating perspectives of others in this space all the time (the Steve Young and 1994 San Francisco 49ers and the scheduling exercise as the best examples) and the performance review is another instance of that. Be sure you know what your boss is going through when these things get filled out. Does everyone on your team get an evaluation at the same time or are they spread throughout the year? What kind of deadlines are in place? How easy or difficult is it to fill out the paperwork? Are there parameters that your boss has no control over, like percentage quotas over how many people get each of the different kinds of grades?

The answers to these questions have a big impact on the amount of time spent on and the end result of your individual evaluation. In many cases, this means your boss will reuse the materials you send regarding what you've accomplished because there isn't time to do it any other way. That puts extra importance on how you word what you send on, which is covered in more detail a bit later.

Regardless of how many are being filled out at once, it is unlikely that the other parts of your boss' job let up during the period that your performance evaluation is being written. As such, be extra patient while this process is going on. No doubt you want to get the best review possible, but even if you deserve it, asking over and over again about its status is like you being the little kid in the back seat asking repeatedly "Are we there yet?" Stay connected with the process, but don't cross the line into being annoying.

Document your accomplishments

In my series on Making Yourself Easy to be Scheduled, there's a sizable section on how you can teach yourself better estimation through the recording of your daily tasks. When performance evaluation time runs around, the added benefit to that habit is that you have a list of what you worked on throughout the year readily available that you can build a list of accomplishments from.

As masochistic as it sounds, you almost have to think about preparing for your performance evaluation as an annual resume. While it doesn't have to be as formal as a resume, listing out your accomplishments using rules of resumes is a good idea. Use action verbs when describing each one, remember that numbers speak volumes, and point out leadership and teamwork examples whenever possible. Remember, you may find what you send to your boss appearing word for word on your evaluation for the time restrictions reasons discussed above, so be careful with them and have them reviewed by somebody you trust.

Be wary about what is recorded

Although not covered in the article that prompted this post, another thing to watch out for is what gets recorded on your evaluation for you to improve upon. Pay careful attention to how things are worded, as these things that were meant to help you grow may come back to haunt you later. Should your current boss share your evaluation with a potential future boss, something as generic as "Kobe needs to improve his teamwork" can be looked at pretty negatively, while something more specific like, "While Kobe is clearly our best contributor and his teammates have let him down in the past, he needs to learn to trust them because, try as he might, he cannot do it all himself" is just as constructive but includes positive sentiments as well.

Again, think of it as a resume, as it may be used as a reflection of your work when attempting to get your next job. Constructive feedback is a key part of any performance evaluation, but a misplaced word here or an ambiguous sentence there and you might get unintentionally branded in a worse light than you deserve.

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posted by Pete Johnson @ 12:01 AM   0 comments links to this post

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