things to remember in performance review

The performance review…for some it’s daily, for others it’s quarterly and for many it comes right around the holiday at year end.

These days, many companies are forgoing the more traditional aspects of performance reviews but even if the landscape changes, for many employee’s it becomes a thing of anxiety and concern. Knowing how to navigate your performance review (regardless of where you work) is essential to both ensuring you are excelling in your role but also understanding where you need to focus and grow yourself and your career.

Throughout time, movies have added some humor (both light and dark) to the feedback performance review process, for example Tyler Durdens colorful exchanges with his manager in Fight Club or the now infamous scenes from Office Space where they breakdown the conventional workplace stereotypes. Either way, the reality for us non-actors is that this can be a stressful experience and the exchange itself should be taken seriously.

With a little preparation, regardless of where you work – you should be fine. Here is a list of things you should and shouldn’t say at your next performance review.


  • That’s not true, you’re wrong. Showing up as defensive is the quickest sign you are unwilling to change or be open to feedback. Having a different point of view is natural but how you express your concern is where you should be responsible. Listening and actually taking in feedback isn’t easy at any age or level but if it’s coming from your manager, then you assume there is truth to back this up and you owe to them and yourself to take it first, process it and then follow up when you are less emotional.
  • That’s not my responsibility. Shirking responsibility is not just a red flag but essentially draws a line in the sand. No matter where you sit on the corporate ladder, at one point in time – we have all (myself included) have rolled up our sleeves and taken on tasks that may seem otherwise beneath our capabilities. This is not a sign of weakness but one of team camaraderie. Doing more than what you are asked to do or capable of doing shows your commitment something bigger than yourself.
  • If I don’t get (blank), I’m outta here. Threatening your boss, although made famous in movies is folklore at best. It’s never recommended unless you’ve decided that you no longer wish to have your job. A statement like this is emotionally charged and immediately puts your manager on the defense, closing down a conversation for possibility and solutions. The are better ways to express your concerns and any challenges you are facing using more facts and less emotions. Prepare in advance what support and resources you need to be successful and share those in the meeting.
  • Where did you hear that? Asking clarifying questions is a good thing but there is a fine line between what you ask and how you ask it. Wanting more information to better yourself, your role and overall job performance is what your manager wants to hear (and know) versus being combative and standoffish. A better alternative could be to ask for specific examples where you displayed the type of behavior in question so you can focus on the facts and work towards solutions for the future.
  • I think you’re being overly critical. I read this one doing my research and it came up numerous times. Stating this, will surely make you look both defensive and unaccepting of any feedback. Challenging your managers perception sends the message that you will (potentially) accept some responsibility but not all of it and in fact downplays the level of detail in which it’s being delivered. As I mentioned earlier, listening and receiving feedback can be challenging but it can also be incredibly rewarding. The details are where some of your blind spots for learning reside. Focus on the bigger themes first and come back to them when you have had time to process.


  • What did I do well this year and what could’ve gone better?
  • What can I do to improve for next year?
  • Where are the best opportunities for me to focus my learning in the coming year?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What additional knowledge or skills would make me more effective in this role?
  • How could I be more helpful to other people on the team?
  • What could I do this year that would improve my rating in next year’s appraisal?
  • Are there other people/peers I should speak with regarding my performance?


It is important to prepare before speaking with your manager as this will ensure a better outcome. There are a few key actions to take before you meet:

  • Know when you are meeting. This may sounds obvious but many people wait to be notified versus being proactive and seeking out the specific date and time.
  • Do an internal audit on your own performance to date. Make a list of all things you have accomplished. Focus not just on your output but the actual outcomes for the year – what did you carry over the finish line?
  • Review your job description and yearly goals. Often overlooked but essential for being measured against your performance.
  • Arm yourself with questions to ensure you are learning and advancing the conversation.
  • Make sure you leave with an action plan regarding next steps and milestones.

Final thoughts: Remember that your performance review isn’t fatal and is meant to be an informative and educational experience. That said, none of this is possible without your ability to show up, be present, be open and be respectful.

The Floor Is Yours: How do you create a successful performance review?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership, Joshua Miller /

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