In terms of performance management, the performance review is like a relic from the past century. It’s a great way to take up valuable time on the job, put an employee on the spot, and gather very little meaningful data all at the same time.
No one likes it, least of all performance managers: Easily 90 percent of those surveyed in the 2015 Deloitte Human Capital report said they plan to replace their performance review system within the next 18 months.
Other game-changers include Fortune 500 companies like Accenture, which employed some 330,000 people when it announced, last summer, that it was doing away with its annual performance review and employee rankings. GE replaced its annual performance review with periodic “touchpoints” and coaching.
An increasing number of companies are following suit. But what about the rest of us? What if you’re in an organization where a performance review is still standard practice?
You may even be gritting your teeth about a pending review right now. But don’t fear it, own it, says Tamra Chandler, author of How Performance Management is Killing Performance – and What to Do About It. According to this Seattle-based talent expert, it’s just a matter of knowing how to flip the script.
Here are six tips from Chandler on how to face the challenge of a performance review head-on and look like an MVP:
1. Disconnect the stress reflex
“Seeing, ‘it’s time for your annual appraisal’ in your inbox can elicit the same response as spotting a snake on the hiking trail,” Chandler notes. It’s natural. Neuroscience shows our brains are fundamentally self-protective, and a perceived threat can trigger a defensive fight or flight reaction. First, take a few deep breaths to help unhook from that instinctive stress. You can’t communicate very well if you’re drowning in defensiveness.
2. Change the channel
Once past your “come in and close the door” panic, generate your own positive intention. You’re going to walk in and transform that review from a one-sided critique into a meaningful conversation. How? By re-framing and approaching the review not as a fait accompli, but as a possibility. Here’s a rare chance to have that good, uninterrupted discussion with your manager.
3. Shine a light on the future
Performance reviews often isolate past performance and ignore future potential. Instead, drive the discussion toward ways you can build on what you’ve accomplished. Talk frankly with your manager about your goals, and recruit his or her help in getting you there: What tools and support could help develop and enhance your skills, and add value to the organization?
4. Focus on teamwork
Chandler notes that one of the fatal flaws of a performance review is that it considers only the effort and input of one person. The truth is, nobody works alone. Make sure to connect your performance to projects, team contributions, departmental goals, and organizational outcomes. Speak openly about situational and teamwork challenges you may be facing, and get your manager’s help to smooth the path for you in the year to come.
5. Try to see It their way
We know that managers have their own pressures, including the constraints inherent in the appraisal system and managing to set budgets. Don’t expect full transparency, but do as much discovery as you can. Ask what criteria drive the assessment, and how they limit what your manager can do. Understanding his or her constraints will help you avoid taking it all personally, and defuses the tension of being on opposing sides.
6. Remember what really counts
We know now that most people are motivated by intrinsic rewards, such as finding meaning in our work, feeling valued by others, a great work environment, and sharing the satisfaction of acing a team project. But traditional performance management hinges on extrinsic forces, as if what makes us work harder is fear or rewards.
Chandler suggests mentally disconnecting your appraisal from the black-and-white absolutes of gain/loss. Speak from your own passion, letting it shine through in the discussion. It will get noticed, and may influence your career trajectory.
Chandler and her team at PeopleFirm dug deep to create this well-researched, enlightening roadmap for change. Of course it’s great news for leaders and managers, but it’s also a goldmine for employees. It spells out those fallacies we all suspected but may not have entirely grasped.
The bottom line: if you feel like a performance review is unfair, inaccurate, and arbitrary, you’re right. Armed with the tips and tools in her book, there’s no reason to just take it sitting down. Stand up to the process, establish a positive and engaging conversation, and your manager may just thank you.