Plan Your Performance Review Before You Take The Job
by Cathy Goodwin
On a new job, your first three months are critical to your long-term success. Everyone's eye is on the "newbie" as you learn the ropes. "Does anybody want to go to lunch?" is the wrong thing to say in a run-during-lunch culture.
You begin your job by reading a stack of manuals. Or you dive right in to fix a crisis or install a much-needed system.
Logical first steps, right? Wrong! Your very first step should be to set up a meeting with your boss to find out what will count in your new job.
(1) Learn what your boss expects: outcomes, budget, and dates. Be as specific as possible. If you're designing a training program, by what date will you need brochures? Will participant evaluations of the program influence your own evaluation?
What is the next step in your career path? How can you prepare yourself for promotion?
Does your company evaluate by numbers, e.g., 5 is outstanding and 3 is average? If so, what would you need to demonstrate to earn a top score?
Does your firm "curve the grades?" If the boss is limited to three "outstanding" ratings for ten people, learn whether the top scores have traditionally been awarded to the same colleagues each year.
(2) Write your boss a friendly, non-threatening memo summarizing what you discussed:
"Mary, thanks for the heads-up on what you expect next year. Here's what I got out of our talk. Let me know if I heard something wrong..."
(3) Try to learn how your boss will be evaluated. You can expect to be rewarded for helping your boss score points.
(4) Begin keeping a record of your activities and accomplishments. Write entries every week, if not every day. Save evidence of accomplishments so you can be ready to document your performance.
(5) Finally, your evaluation may be influenced by hidden agendas.
Tom's boss said, "We want you to revitalize this product line." After considerable work, Tom managed to increase sales of a dying product. He was horrified to receive a "Below Average" evaluation. His company maintained the line as a loss leader. They wanted a caretaker, not a manager.
Angela was hired "to raise standards and prestige" of a private college's academic program. She soon realized the school needed money and she would be rewarded for increasing the number of tuition-paying students, even if standards declined.
Tom and Angela must decide whether to support these informal goals or seek jobs that will be better suited to their values and skills.
Don't wait six months or a year to find out what your boss expects. Ideally, you can lay a foundation for these discussions during the hiring process. A supportive boss will welcome your initiative. Those who insist on vague standards ("hey, we all know what we're supposed to do") or feel insulted by the question ("are you worried I won't give you a fair shake?") are sending a loud, clear warning: "Danger ahead."
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., helps solo professionals create hype-free marketing messages that attract clients, profits and credibility. Fr*e Report: The 5Cs of Client Attracting Copy .
cathy goodwin may be contacted at http://www.cathygoodwin.com or firstname.lastname@example.org