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Performance Review: Meeting with the Boss

Five Ways to Make the Conversation a Success

Performance Review: Meeting with the Boss

By Margaret Steen, for Yahoo! HotJobs

When you walk into your boss's office for your performance review, you need a game plan. Documenting your accomplishments is a good starting point. But just as important, you need to know how to come out of the meeting with the information you need.

Experts offer these tips for handling this sometimes tricky conversation:

Ask Questions 

Always press for details, says Gail Ginder, an executive coach with the Claros Group.

If your boss says you're doing a great job, this could mean you're about to be promoted. It could also mean that your performance is just OK, but your boss didn't want to take the time to do a more thoughtful review. To find out which is the case, ask for details. What aspects of your performance stand out to your boss?

Asking questions becomes even more important when the review is negative. "Often feedback is given without specifics," Ginder said. "Ask for specific examples of times when your performance didn't meet expectations. Then ask, 'And what would great performance have looked like? What would you have wanted me to do in that situation?'"

Tell Your Story

If you disagree with your boss's assessment of your performance, ask if you can tell your side of the story.

"Say, 'I have a different perspective on this situation. Would you like to hear it?'" Ginder said. Make sure your tone of voice is not defensive. "You want to make your boss curious," not annoyed, about what you have to say. Then explain, calmly, why you didn't make the choice your boss now says you should have.

Don't feel you need to give an explanation like this in every case, though. "It's perfectly fine to say, 'I hadn't looked at it that way. I'd like to try that next time,'" Ginder said.

Play It By Ear

It's generally a good idea to discuss your future with your boss at your review. But if you're blindsided by criticism of your performance, it may be better to save that for another day.

"Only have the big-picture discussion about where you want your career to go if your review is going well," said Janet Scarborough Civitelli, founder and president of Bridgeway Career Development.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

You don't have to explain or discuss every minor improvement your boss thinks you could make.

The key is to know when the issue is something that could put your job or promotion prospects at risk. Once again, the best way to find out is to ask.

Ginder suggests saying to your boss, "'I need a little perspective here. How serious is this?'"

Follow Up
If you are surprised by a negative review and want some time to reflect before discussing it, ask your boss for more time. "Your boss knew it was coming," Civitelli said. "You may have to say, 'I need some time to think about these things.'"

If your boss wants you to improve your performance, ask if you can talk again in a few weeks to see if you're succeeding.

In some cases, if your review is very negative and you feel it's unfair, you may want to ask if there's a way to avoid having the review made part of your permanent record until you have had a chance to rectify the situation.

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