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How to Use a Job Performance Review to your Advantage


exceedsGuest Post by Johanna Harris

You can turn your annual performance evaluation into a valuable tool. You need to prepare for your review. You should be able to detail the positive contributions you have made. If your manager identifies areas for improvement, you need to approach the evaluation with an open mind. Whether your evaluation is written or oral or both, by the end of the critique you should have a clear road map of what needs to be done to improve your performance.

Pinning down your goals and objectives

It is your responsibility to review and understand the goals and objectives of your job. You can’t do better if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be better at. You can’t do better if you don’t know how. Your job goals need to be understandable, measurable, attainable and consistent with the objectives of your department and company.

Your evaluation may focus on your immediate past performance, but you need to look beyond that into the future. You need to stretch yourself, to set higher goals, to learn new skills that will add value to the company. This is not simply a matter of more training. You need to build a support network of people who will help you in the future. You need to network with people who will give you new opportunities.

How you will be evaluated

Before your manager begins your evaluation, he will generally look at your job description, goals, compensation history, prior evaluations and any disciplinary warnings. If you’re concerned that your manager does not have an important piece of information, such as a favorable customer satisfaction survey, you should provide this information to your manager before or during the evaluation.

Your manager will base your evaluation not just on his own experience with you. He will often seek input from clients, coworkers, your subordinates and other managers.

Your manager will look not only at the quality, accuracy and timeliness of your work, but also at your teamwork, leadership, independence, flexibility, initiative and your compliance with the company’s ethics.

Two factors can complicate the evaluation process: working at a location far from your manager; and having more than one manager. If a significant geographic distance separates you from your manager, you will need to work extra hard to make sure he knows what you’ve been doing and to convince him that your work is valuable to the company. You don’t want to be evaluated by a stranger. If you have more than one manager, you may find yourself with conflicting goals and recommendations. Before your evaluation, you need to figure out how to present your accomplishments in a way that satisfies both managers.

Traps that managers fall into

You can be guaranteed that at some point in your career, a manager will jump to incorrect conclusions about your performance based on faulty reasoning. To protect your record, you need to understand the two most common logical traps that managers fall into.

● Rather than evaluating your performance throughout the entire evaluation period, a manager may focus inappropriately on a single incident because it was negative or occurred quite recently.

● Some managers tend to reward people whom they see as clones of themselves. They tend to reward subordinates who solve problems in exactly the same way they would have, even if there are other ways to get the job done.

In situations like these, you need to work extra hard to document your accomplishments in a professional and factual way. You should present this information to your manager. If he is still unresponsive, you should retain the information for the future. When you apply for a transfer or a promotion, you can present the information as an addendum to your file at that time.


Your performance review is just like any other job assignment. You can’t just show up without any preparation. You should make sure that you’ve done everything possible to document your accomplishments and present them in the best possible light. You may have the opportunity to fill out a self-evaluation form, but if you don’t, you’ll need to create your own form.

A short, vague positive review is almost as bad as a negative review. If your manager indeed believes that you are a valued employee with a future at the company, you want to give him the tools to produce a positive, useful and thoughtful review.

Copyright © 2013 Johanna Harris

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. 

J HarrisAbout the Author: Johanna Harris has been a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and in-house labor counsel for two multinational corporations. She is currently the CEO of Hire Fire and Retire LLC ( Her new book, USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace (, is intended to help you learn enough about labor law and personnel practices so that you don’t get derailed from the career track you should be on.


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