I must admit I’m not a big fan of this time of year or as I like to call it ‘performance review season’. For an assistant most of the next few weeks are filled organising meetings for our manager and their direct reports to review the last year. Somewhere in that list of meetings we normally squeeze ourselves in to our manager’s packed diary for a 15 minute chat about how everything has been fine.

During this season we are normally left wondering if we will get a good performance review which will be based on a series of objectives that are pretty irrelevant because they are based on a job description that is vague at best. Having gone through the year working our socks off we end up with the same pay rise and bonus as everyone else (if we are lucky enough to get a pay rise and bonus which many of us are not!) Can you tell I don’t think much of performance reviews?

I must admit I’ve had some bad experiences. My first performance review was a tick box exercise and all of the administrators received the same pay increase. The next role introduced me to 360 feedback, which was more helpful but we all had the same objectives and we had to measure our performance against the organisation’s core values (it’s not like I was going to say “I think my integrity at work could be improved actually!”)

I was working in the next role for quite a few years and towards the end of my time there I was bored and unmotivated. Although I had discussed it a few times with my manager and things had improved the performance review and objective setting for the following year made no difference and I left to pursue other activities.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. The following job I didn’t have a job description, didn’t have objectives, didn’t have a performance review and I received the best pay rise and bonus I’d ever had before. I thought this was great, I told everyone it was the future, until I realised that not one of my managers ever really knew what I did and that wasn’t good either. So what is my point? It isn’t just a trip down memory lane I promise.

Most organisation’s do make their staff complete some form of performance review so why not make it a worthwhile experience? How do we do this? Well having experienced quite a few bad appraisal processes here is my advise on making them worth the effort:

  1. Make the effort! Don’t just go through the process thinking it doesn’t make a difference. With that attitude it won’t – trust me! Seek feedback throughout the year and use this to justify a good appraisal, this is especially important if you do not work solely with your manager (if you are a team assistant for example). Come prepared with any documentation that you need. Prior to the meeting spend a little time reflecting on your performance – be honest with yourself, do you deserve that pay rise?
  2. This should not be the only conversation you have with your manager about your performance. There should be an ongoing dialogue about your expectations in the role and your manager’s expectations of you. A performance review should not be a conversation full of surprises. By this point in the year you should be well aware of how your year has gone, what went well and what didn’t and what your manager thinks of this.
  3. Your objective should be relevant, measurable and challenging. I will talk about objective setting later this week but they are sooooooo important!!
  4. Give feedback as well as receiving it – especially to your manager! Remember your job performance depends quite heavily on your manager working in partnership with you. 360 feedback is very useful.
  5. Be honest. I hate to say it but performance reviews are a great place to pluck up the courage to talk about how you feel in the role. The meeting is about you ultimately so your manager must listen to how you feel and offer any support that they can for the following year. As I said there should be no surprises but it is hard to be honest with your boss so if this is the case use your appraisal time wisely. You will feel so much better afterwards.
  6. Take the full allocated time for your review. Don’t think you are doing your boss a favour by taking less time than all of your colleagues (something I used to do). You are not doing your boss a favour and you are certainly not doing yourself any favours either.

So yes I do have a bad view on performance reviews but only because they are, in my experience, handled so badly. Assistants have to be proactive with their performance reviews as much as they are with their day to do work and only then will we get the appraisals we deserve.

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