In many offices, review season can be a stressful time of the year.
"No one likes performance reviews. People don't like giving them, employees don't like getting them and Human Resources doesn't like coordinating them," said Marie McIntyre, a career coach in Atlanta and author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."
And while performance evaluations will likely look different at many companies this year, it's understandable if few people are eager to look back at 2020.
But you should. Whether you've been trying to adapt to working remotely, struggling to balance your kids' online schooling with your daily workload, or just having a harder time focusing with everything else that's going on in the world, it's more critical than ever to have some idea of expectations and priorities.
"It's pretty important to know what your boss is thinking when working remotely and under different circumstances," McIntyre said.
So even if your manager isn't keen on doing a review, she recommended still asking for a meeting to look back at the year and set goals for 2021.
Here's how to navigate your performance review in the middle of a pandemic.
Have a plan
A performance review should be a two-way conversation, so come prepared with a list of your top accomplishments, new goals and any pain points or requests you would like to discuss.
There can be a recency effect when it comes to achievements, so take the time to review the entire year, including pre-pandemic work that might have been overlooked.
"The onus is on an employee to articulate results, not your manager," said Jane Scudder, a leadership and executive coach. "Even the very best managers can't stay plugged in to everyone's results."
Have three success stories at the ready to talk about, recommended career coach Hallie Crawford. "Have the story of why it was successful and what you did to contribute to it, and three areas that you want to improve or get back on track with, along with goals you want to achieve in the coming year."
Don't get defensive
Negative feedback is hard to hear. But try not to get defensive and keep an open mind.
The key is focusing on the future when discussing negative feedback.
For instance, if your boss brings up a project that was three weeks late, McIntyre suggested saying that you understand why that is a concern and what you could do differently in the future. Or have a plan on how you will avoid missing a deadline again.
"If you get into an argument with your boss, you've lost," she said. "You're already in the review, you aren't going to change their mind."
Give your boss feedback
Working remotely brings a unique set of challenges. And sometimes, the problem is your boss. Maybe you don't have a clear sense of priorities and communication is lacking.
For instance, if the problem is you need more communication with your boss, Crawford suggests saying something like: "If we could have a few more meetings, that would help me be more effective."
Raising issues with your boss can be tricky. When bringing up the problem, focus on how the change will make you a better employee and will benefit the manager and company.
Be open about your needs ... but not too open
Many employees are working under less-than-ideal situations when working remotely these days, which could affect their work or require flexibility when it comes to scheduling.
But just how candid can you be with your boss?
"You don't want to raise concerns about your ability to do the job," said McIntyre. "What you do want to do is let them know of any unusual or difficult circumstances."
When approaching the subject, focus on the positive. For instance, starting later in the day once the kids are set with distanced learning and working later into the evening will make you a more effective employee.
"In my book, it is better to overcommunicate those needs ..." said Crawford. But she advised not to start the conversation off with any pain points.
"I wouldn't say them at the beginning, [do so] closer to the middle or end of conversation," she said.
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