Tip # 1: Take the lead
You are not in control of the performance evaluation process and outcomes, but there are many ways how you can influnence them. Don’t completely rely on others (e.g. your manager) to build a narrative and present your results on their own - summarize the results and build the narrative for them (or, even better, with them).
Back to the series overview
- Tip # 1: Take the lead - February 9, 2023
- Tip # 2: Keep track of what you do - February 19, 2023
- Tip # 3: Highlight the best - March 11, 2023
Performance evaluation is one of those things that impact your life and career a lot, but you are not in control; and generally not even in the room when the decision is made. This does not mean that you have no influence on the decision - after all it is based on your work in a certain period. Working hard and achieving a lot is definitely a way to affect the outcome of your next performance review.
There’s a catch though - even the greatest achievements can be overlooked, underestimated or even wrongly attributed. Producing great results is not all; presenting them to the evaluators is also very important. It brings a challenge - most often someone else (likely your manager/superior) will do that. It also brings an opportunity - you can indirectly influence the outcome by helping them present your results in the best possible way.
Different organizations run their performance reviews in different ways - ranging from just asking one’s manager for a grade and calling it done, to elaborate and lengthy processes occupying entire leadership chain for a few weeks. Evaluatee involvement also ranges a lot - from no involvement at all, to requiring some sort of self-evaluation to be made. Whatever the process is where you are, you can take some steps to influence the course of the evaluation.
The main idea is that you want to shape the position of the person who would represent you in the evaluation, and give them enough facts supporting that position - such as business outcomes, metrics, delivered products/features, peer feedback, etc. This could come as a simple bullet-point list of facts/achievements, or take more complex forms such as dashboards or written narratives. Regardless of the form, you should be the one producing the most of it, at least in the first few iterations, and ideally involving people you’re trying to influence in the process.
Here’s some concrete steps you can take:
- Even if they are not required, write a short self-review, share it with your manager/peers/relevant others.
- Have a performance-centered conversation with your manager shortly before performance evaluation kicks in, make sure you align and agree on the overall expectations and outcomes, and that nothing important went missing (on both sides)
- Prepare some evidence to support your claims, especially for hard-to-verify ones.
- One useful exercise to do is to assume everything you claim is false, unless is supported by examples and evidence. “Mentoring others through code reviews” - need some examples of really insightful code reviews. “Increase productivity of other teammates” - concrete examples of your code/tools/designs/decisions/etc. that actually caused that.
- If it’s not already part of the process, gather some feedback about you and your work from peers, superiors, partners in other teams/roles, people you support and mentor, etc. - essentially a DIY “360 feedback”.
Extra tip: It wouldn’t hurt to chat with your manager/superior about the evaluation process itself. Knowing more about the process and evaluation criteria allows you to “fine-tune” the narrative - allocate more “air time” to more relevant things, reframe some things to match a broader organizational narrative, etc. It is also beneficial for them - the better the “form” and the “content” of what you give them matches what they need, the less work they would have to do. So it’s a win-win situation.