Here we are, we have come to the discussion stage in the annual review process, as if any of the previous two stages, self review and manager input , were not hard enough. I made a mistake, the must-get-all-done-and-off-my-plate person I am, and went too far in the process one year and sent the review with all of the comments and ratings to the team members before we were to have the discussion. I set up the times to meet individually with everyone shortly there after. Several individuals came back and asked why we needed to meet about it if they already say my commentary. My answer was yes, yes we still have to meet, spending an hour with me one on one is not that terrible, I think.
I believe the discussion is the most important part, so much so I have two previous posts on the subject and I am sure will touch on it more in the future: Thoughts on difficult discussions and Always two sides. As with any conversation it is as important to pay attention to the non-verbal cues as it is the words that are actually coming out of either party. Reading about your performance is quite impersonal and the discussion removes the ability for something to be “taken the wrong way”. As you go through each point to review, there is no need to read from the paper, you should be prepared to speak to what you entered in the review document. This should be just that a discussion, psychological safety comes to play here so that there is healthy dialogue. Both sides should also be prepared for a little negotiation as in most cases your ratings are tied to your annual increase as well as bonus.
Here are a few tips as you prepare for your review discussion:
- Was the goal plan followed and did it work or did you or they just get lucky? Fair question, easy to ask, hard to answer. This is where your backup and your facts comes in.
- Leave your emotions at the door. This is not the time to be defensive or accusatory, if you see the discussion is going down this road maybe it is not a good time and you should reschedule, breathe and start over.
- Additional contributors. Share this feedback, you gained feedback from a subject matter expert associated for a reason, this can and likely will open the door for this to be a future sounding board or mentor.
- Use the appropriate tone. Nothing in this discussion should be an earth shattering surprise. Overly negative indicates an improvement plan. Overly positive indicates there is no room for improvement.
- Touch on goals for the upcoming year. How does last year’s performance translate into your new goals? This should be brief as you should have a later conversation where you agree on direction for this year.
- Ask questions. Clarifying thought process or what something means or how it really relates. Note: it is also completely acceptable to come back with questions later in case you need some time to absorb, this happens to me. The key is to actually ask the question, not just think it as this will ease any confusion or disagreement.
- Summarize and present next steps. This is a quicker steps than you think, this is a quick “in summary” agreement and the timeline for what is to come. Are you done at this point? Do you know the increase amount? Is there a bonus involved? Do we need to adjust anything in the document (after all it is in the file)?
- Offer support and follow-up. The worse feeling is the feeling of being forgotten, if you are to come back with something or take care of something as a result of the discussion, make this a priority, it will go a long way in making sure your relationship is open and trusting.
This seems like a lot to take in but if you are consistently providing feedback, communicating, and organized (cannot stress this part enough) this will really be just another conversation. Go out on limb and hold this discussion in a coffee shop, on a park bench, on a terrace, any number of places it may break the ice a little. Yes, it is a review but it is certainly not a trial, relax and work toward your common goals.
*Special thanks to Marco A. Ramirez for the use of his collaboration post.