Guest post by Sean Conrad

Every day I work with organizations who are trying to improve their employee performance management process. And I often hear the same thing: managers and employees don’t like doing performance reviews. On the employees’ part, it’s often because they don’t like being judged (who would!); they often complain that they get very little from the process or feel demoralized by it.

Now there are lots of things organizations and managers need to do to make the whole process more engaging and valuable for everyone involved. But as an employee, there are several things you can do so you get more out of your review and are happier at work. Here’s a look at 3 of them:

Flaunt Your Accomplishments

It’s so easy to move from one task to another, one project to another, one deliverable to another and not stop to take a breath… to take stock. It seems like we’re programmed to just plow through our seemingly endless “list of things to do”.

But it’s important to stop every once in a while and take stock of what we’ve accomplished, and revel in it. So before your next performance review with your manager (and I hope it’s quarterly not just once a year), stop and make a list of all you’ve accomplished over the past period.

Then, in your meeting with your manager, go over the list, highlighting the things you’re really proud of as well as all the things you learned along the way. You can toot your own horn a little bit. But mostly, you just need to acknowledge all that you’ve accomplished and celebrate it. Be proud of yourself and your work, and share that with your manager. It will help give you that “warm feeling” about yourself and your work.

Draft Your Own Goals

I’m sometimes amazed at the passive role employees often still play in their performance reviews. Their managers give them feedback and assign them goals and development plans; and the employees just accept.

It’s far more rewarding and productive to play an active role in the process, especially when it comes to goals. Ask yourself those four key questions:

  • What do you like to do?
  • What are you good at?
  • What will they pay you to do?
  • What can you do that will make you and your employer successful?

Then draft goals for the coming period, appropriate to your role that address those four questions.

It’s important to keep your employers needs in mind – what are their strategic goals, and how in your role can you help accomplish them? You should be able to directly link what you do every day to the organization’s mission, vision and strategy. But you should also be able to take some joy in what you do and do what you do best.

By drafting your own goals, then discussing and negotiating them with your manager, you help set yourself for success and for being happier on the job. And you’ll likely feel more engaged because you had a role in determining what you do.

Ask About the “One Thing”

I think the most important function of a performance review is to support your development and career progression. With that in mind, feedback expert Jamie Resker suggests you ask your manager: “What’s one thing I could do to be more effective in my role?” Ask for details and clarification if you need it.

Your goal is to identify one thing you can work on improving or developing. This focusing in on “one thing” gives you something tangible and practical you can work on.

Then ask your manager for help in developing in that area. You may be able to enroll in some company sponsored training, but there are also lots of free or low cost resources you can access, like books, blogs, job shadowing, etc. Make sure you also get your manager to help you develop that “one thing” through coaching and feedback on a regular basis. By helping you be more effective in your role and expand your knowledge, skills and abilities, this focus on developing can make your employee review more satisfying.

Your Happiness is Within Your Control

Ultimately, your happiness at work, as in all of life, is in your control. If you play a more active role in it, your performance review can be a great tool to help you improve, develop and be happy.

As a senior product analyst at Halogen Software, Sean Conrad helps HR teams improve their organization’s performance management processes, so everyone gets more out of them. He’s a regular contributor to the Halogen blog, often writing about employee engagement and motivation