It’s time for annual performance reviews. You can hear the business world release its collective angst-filled sigh.
Employees with barely enough time need to fight for their jobs and hopefully eek out a nominal raise. Managers with too much work to do must toe the bottom line while still encouraging their employees to return to work.
As George Carlin says, “Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”
Suddenly, it’s your time to fight for yourself. And don’t forget that you want your pay to keep up with inflation in Hunger Games for the workplace. But, if you haven’t prepared all year long for your annual performance review, what can you do at the last minute to get that raise or promotion?
1. Prepare to sell your best of self.
Get your game face on. Overcome that limiting belief that you’re not good at sales or that selling is slimy. If you want any hope of convincing your boss that you need a cost-of-living increase, a raise, or a promotion, you need to sell yourself and the value you bring.
Yes, you bring value to your company. The better you can convince your boss that you’re an asset, the better the chance you’ll walk out of your annual performance review meeting happy. Everyone, including your boss, seeks love or satisfaction and avoiding pain. Use this to your benefit, even if you must bite your tongue.
2. Review saved emails and files.
A lot can happen in a year. It’s easy to forget accomplishments from 11 months ago. While that compliment you got from your boss’s boss in February made your day, you might have forgotten it by now. That one project that kicked your butt for an entire week early second quarter might be a distant memory today.
Review your email history, saved emails, and the files saved on your computer. Take notes and be prepared to use this information to sell the value you add to your boss and the firm. These examples of your competence are vital as you sell yourself as deserving of a pay increase or promotion.
3. Use last year’s annual review and this year’s goals.
Annual performance reviews are measurements. Measurements need at least two data points. For projects and responsibilities that lasted more than one year, use last year’s annual performance review as the basis to show how far you’ve come.
Be prepared to address every previously established goal for this year. If your goals changed mid-year, share how far you got with both your original and new goals.
4. Be specific and brief.
If you report to a senior manager or an even higher-up, be prepared to be specific and brief. Your boss will see through your façade if you go on forever. They’ll think your bloviating at best and lying at worst, both of which are a waste of their time. No one likes to have their time wasted.
Keep it simple and stick to the facts.
5. Support all your success with benefits.
Busy bosses sometimes need reminding of how valuable you are to them. You’re an expense to your boss and firm. That’s fine if you’re providing enough value, so be clear with the value you’re providing. Use the Actions/Benefits Formula.
With each statement of value, complete this formula: “I did A, which resulted in B,” where A equals your action(s) and B equals the quantifiable benefit(s).
When you’ve completed that formula for all the benefits you include in your annual performance review, rephrase your statements for the same results to not sound monotonous. You don’t want your boss to fall asleep on you.
Practice ahead of time for best results.
6. Be real.
I’ve already addressed not being too bullshitty. You can bullshit a little if you’ve got the data to back it up. Include too much, though, and your boss will dismiss your review. That could mean no bonus or promotion, and that’s no bueno.
Being real means including challenges in your annual performance review. You’re human, and to make it appear otherwise is inauthentic. Your boss wants an authentic performance review so they can work with you.
Be open to their feedback. Write their feedback down. Follow up with clarifying statements to prove that you hear what they’re saying.
Be realistic, but don’t show all your cards. Don’t admit mistakes. Instead, frame them as “challenges” and “opportunities” the way a politician would.
7. Going forward, prepare all year long.
Can you wait until the last minute, like your midterm presentation in college, to score yourself a good performance review? Sure, and it’s possible. However, you want to make more money, right? Do you want to climb that corporate ladder? Then, don’t shoot for a C or even a B.
Go for the A+!
As soon as you turn on your office computer in the new year, create a folder in your email and a file folder on your computer both titled for the current year.
Whenever you receive a positive comment or review, file it and save it. Anytime you’ve completed or been a part of a successful project, save the supporting documentation. Start immediately. It’ll make preparing for next year’s annual review much easier.
Don’t include every positive quote or successful project in your next annual performance review, just the biggest, the best, and the most important. These give support for the amazing sales pitch you’ll give next year for more money and more responsibility.
When you rock your annual performance review and get yourself that raise or promotion, use your increased income to build a more financially secure future by increasing your retirement plan contributions, paying off debt, and investing.
Taking on more responsibility and increasing your income does you no good — if doesn’t reduce your financial stress or truly improve your quality of life.
With the right preparation, you’ll feel more comfortable in your next performance review, and your confidence will show, potentially landing you higher pay and a better position.