It’s wise to prepare for your performance review

Dear Joan:
I am in a management trainee position. I will soon be having a six-month employee review. What should anticipate and how I can handle this situation to my best advantage. I feel I could have a more meaningful exchange if I am somewhat prepared.


A good performance evaluation requires a two-way discussion, so you're wise to prepare for it. It's a great opportunity to find out how you're doing.


Performance appraisals typically have several parts: Your manager will evaluate your performance over the last six months by comparing it against the job description for your position and the goals and standards established when you were hired. In addition, you will probably be evaluated in some subjective areas such as cooperation and dependability.


  • Hopefully, your manager will use specific examples of your performance when explaining her ratings on each item.
  • He/She will probably point out some areas where you performed very well and others that could be improved.
  • He/She may ask for your suggestions on why problems occurred and seek your opinion on how you could overcome these problems in the future. Specific solution steps will probably be drawn up.
  • In addition, the two of you will agree upon new goals and objectives for the next six months.


With this general agenda in mind, there are several things you can do to prepare for your first performance appraisal.

  • First, gather your data.  Study your job description and any goals and objectives that were outlined when you were hired.
  • If you haven’t seen a copy of the appraisal form, ask your boss for a bland copy, in advance.  You could say, "I'd like to prepare for my appraisal. Would you mind if I did a self-evaluation, before we meet, so that I'm able to get more out of our discussion?"


This initiative will probably be welcomed, since it will make her job easier, too. She may even ask to see your self-evaluation before your discussion to help her plan what she wants to say.


In preparation for future performance appraisals, start your own performance evaluation file. Keep track of your own successes in each of the areas in which you will be evaluated. This will not only refresh your memory six months from now, but can act as a self-motivator as you strive for your objectives. As each item is added, you will feel a sense of accomplishment.


Use specific, results-oriented language in your documentation. For example, "Completed the Hampton Project one week early, in spite of heavy work load." or "Received two letters from customers praising my courteous service and prompt resolution of their complaints."  (Make sure to include any such letters in your file, along with your notes on how you handled the complaints.)


Document any problems you've had and how you handled them. This will help you generate solution ideas for strengthening any performance deficiencies.


During your appraisal, your manager will probably ask if there is anything she can do to help you. If you need more training or coaching in some aspect of your job, be sure to request it.


Ask for continuing feedback. Don't wait for your performance review. You should have an opportunity to improve at all times, instead of being penalized at your formal appraisal. Don't complain, "But the boss never tells me anything!" It's your responsibility to ask for feedback when you need it.


If you receive feedback that is too general, ask for examples to specific situations. If your manager says, "You need to be more cooperative with clients," ask, "Could you give me an example of how I could be more cooperative?" You could also ask, "What do I need to do more of or less of to be more cooperative?"


Finally, don't become defensive. A good boss will tactfully point out areas that need improvement and help you work on them. In order to do your best, you must know this information.


Remember, your boss wants you to succeed, too.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.