How To Handle your Performance Review – 5 Tips to Ace Your Performance Review Meeting

For many of us (at least for me), a performance review meeting is like the first day in our first ever school. A performance review brings back nerve-wracking memories of the kind we had back then, because what to say at a review meeting can often wrench the guts of the bravest employee!

The Global State of Employee Engagement, which covered over 1000 organizations in more than 150 countries revealed interesting things about employee attitudes towards workplace reviews. These figures will pleasantly startle you: a whopping 96%, of the employees dread it so much that they want the annual performance review to be scrapped! What this means is that all but four out of hundred employees dislike their performance review being an annual exercise. So, what does the overwhelming majority want?

They look for regular reviews, meaning one that is not necessarily fixed for a designated point of time of the year. This means that the more you prepare for the most likely performance review questions, the better, because it can come up any time. Keeping this in mind, in this blog, I will set out to give you some understanding of how to handle your performance review.

This blog will cover the following topics:

  1. 5 Tips to Ace Your Performance Review Meeting
  2. What You Should Avoid Saying At Your Appraisal Meeting
  3. Common Phrases Used During Performance Reviews

My aim is to ensure that you are not caught unawares the moment the call for your performance review comes up. This preparation is all the more important because most organizations today carry out what they call 360-degree reviews, which means those that are carried out by a host of people connected to the employee, such as the manager, teammate, HR, the subordinate, and sometimes, even stakeholders such as clients.

As we get down to getting an understanding of this topic, I would like to present a wonderful course that gives you a good perspective on how you, as a manager, can be insightful in determining if your employees are being productive or are unworthy of their pay. Small bonus: This course is free!

5 Tips to Ace Your Performance Review Meeting:

So, how do you defend yourself in a performance review? The first premise to facing your review meeting is to get the understanding that it is an opportunity to showcase the way in which you have performed during the year (oops…review period. Didn’t I myself mention the futility of making performance reviews annual?) So, at this meeting that will hold a mirror to how your management has viewed you, make sure you are well equipped with how to handle it.

5 Tips to Ace Your Performance Review Meeting

I would suggest these 5 tips that I am confident will help you ace your review meeting:

1. Map:

Let us understand the simple logic of a performance review. It is being done to assess your performance. Performance alright, but of what? Clearly, your job requires you to deliver in relation to some parameters, in other words, goals. Working without a goal is like playing a game without scores. How does anyone know how well you played or didn’t? Organizations don’t look at any work, no matter how well you did it, as productive, unless it is tied to a set of goals. So, make sure you map your performance to a set of defined goals.

One of the most effective ways to measure what goals you achieved is to have your job description ready for the review meeting. This is the ideal and most fool proof document to use for discussing what you achieved during the performance period. There should be no dispute once you have this with you, so that you can clearly show to your manager what was expected of you and what you delivered.

However, bear in mind a very core aspect of this tip: don’t insist that this framework was the reason for which you did not do something for which you were required to go out of the way. Managements don’t like employees giving excuses when it comes to stretching themselves.

2. Understand:

The appraisal is a process, not a one-off meeting. Keep following up at regular periods with your manager to apprise her of your progress as and when you carry out something of significance, rather than throw every small detail of what you did over the whole review period during the meeting. This will help the manager keep track of what you have been doing throughout, and her memory will be greener at the time of the review meeting.

3. Demonstrate:

Show the ways in which you went out of your way to add value to your work and how it helped the organization. Have a small, but effective list of some solid achievements that you did during the appraisal period and back it with specific examples.

4. Assure:

If you have fallen short of expectations during the review period, own it up. If you are cornered by your manager’s insistence and proof of the fact that you did not meet expectations, rather than showing disappointment or anger, let her know that you are eager to improve. Thank her for bringing it your notice, and ask her help on how to go about with your improvement efforts.

5. Question:

Never shy asking questions to your manager, even if they are going to make both of you uncomfortable. If your appraising manager throws up a shocker like “you didn’t meet expectations”, counter it with a question asking her to clarify, and then explain your position, ideally, with documentation. This will set the record straight.

What You Should Avoid Saying At Your Appraisal Meeting

So, this much was for what to say at your performance review meeting. I hope I have made a decent selection of points. That said, let us not overlook the other side of the coin, something that is as important as all the points we discussed till now: what to avoid saying at a performance review.

One of the popular conventions in diplomacy is that what is left unsaid is as important as, sometimes even more important, than what is said. Taking this analogy into our discussion, let us now look at what all to avoid saying at a performance review. This is important because the last thing you would want is spoiling your own chances of a good review by being caught with your foot in the mouth. Let me make a small but vital list of what to avoid saying at a performance review:

What to avoid saying at a performance review

1. I Was Made A Scapegoat:

Putting the blame on others, even if it is the fact, will not go down well with managements, especially when you are part of the team that did not do something right. Instead, mention politely that you were part of the team alright, but explain what situations led to the problem. Most important of all, convince them that you will improve over this error.

2. I Am Not Happy With The Quantum Of Raise:

Perception of lack of fairness is to be expected at a performance review. However, even if you felt that the review was unfair, one thing you should strictly avoid is being vocal about your lack of satisfaction with the outcome. You will appear as one who is being puerile and churlish only because management did not agree with you. The golden rule is: discuss and bargain; never fight or argue.

3. That Colleague Of Mine…:

Never talk about another colleague at the review meeting: It is completely understandable that you could have some disagreement with a colleague that you would want to bring to management’s notice. However, it is important to bear in mind that this is the not the forum to address it. Take it up at the appropriate platform. Or else, it will turn out to be a performance review at which you end up spending more time talking about your colleague than yourself, going on to contribute in no small measure to the rancor of the review meeting.

Common Phrases Used During Performance Reviews

Lastly, before I wind up, let me add a small aside. Getting an understanding of some of the common phrases used during performance reviews could help to an extent, because most organizations and HR managers are comfortable with the jargon that is prevalent in their industry. There are way too many common phrases used during performance reviews doing the rounds; however, this is my pick among them, with no particular reason for choosing them or in any order of preference:

  • Bottomline improved by —percentage
  • Positive attitude
  • Achieved and surpassed goals
  • Understands and implements business objectives
  • Works well with team…


Has reading this blog added value to your understanding of what to do or not to do at your next performance review? Has it given you a sense of purpose, direction and confidence that you can face your review in a more positive frame of mind, whenever that may happen?

If you liked reading this blog, please write to us in our comments section. If you think we could add some points to this blog, please let us know that as well. We will be mightily pleased to hear from you!

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