Even Poor Performers Have Time to Improve Before the Annual Performance Review

It’s inevitable. And, as much as I suggest that the annual review process be ousted, organizations will not let them go. So I will put aside my reasons for why annual reviews are a bad idea and instead offer the following five pieces of advice for what a poor performer, or even an average performer, can and should do now, in advance of your review.

  1. Don’t wait; ask now “How am I doing?" Don’t wait for the formal review to ask your boss how you’re doing. Start by saying, “Boss, if you were to give me my annual performance review today, what score would I get?” Asking this question is important because it leads to the next one.
  2. Don’t stop there; press on to find out “What can I do to get to a …? Suppose the boss said, “On our five point scale, I would have to rate you today as a ‘3’.” Your response should be, “What do I have to do to get to a 4?” This way the boss will need to come up with specific actions you need to take to merit a higher evaluation. Of course when you have achieved those changes, you should ask, “What do I have to do to get to a ‘5?” This way you eliminate the need for arguing with your boss or for presenting data to support a better rating.
  3. Measure your work. Once you get the boss to specify specific actions you need to take, begin to measure your progress. Track your progress on a graph so that it will be easy for the boss to see trends. Check with your boss from time to time to see if your progress is on track with what s/he likes, expects or even demands from you.  If you are on the same track as the boss, thank him/her. If not, ask what changes you could make to get back “on track.” Tracking will not only help you but it will also give you opportunities for the boss to give you corrective feedback or positive reinforcement for your efforts and the improvement.
  4. Volunteer. Everyone likes a team player.  Be proactive in looking for opportunities to help teammates when you have time to do so. Also, it is not inappropriate to ask the boss if you can help him/her in some way. Whenever the boss or colleague is in a bind to complete a task on time, offer your assistance. Offer to make a call, write something, run an errand, bring coffee, etc. These simple things can often make a big difference in how you are perceived by colleagues, including the boss.
  5. Be agreeable and offer suggestions.  Try to say ‘Yes’ more often. Rather than say, “That won’t work” say, “Let’s try it.” Or say, “I will do what I can to make it work.”  Don’t be afraid to speak up when you have an idea for how to do something better or different. When you have given support to the ideas of others it increases the likelihood that they will support yours.

Come to think of it, even if you are a good performer these things can help you perform even better, be a stronger team player and be more highly valued by your boss and peers.

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.