4 Ways to Ace an On-The-Fly Performance Review

These career tips will help you win at your employee review, even when you don't get advanced notice

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In an ideal world, your boss would schedule your performance review a few weeks in advance, giving you plenty of time to think about your achievements over the past year and goals for the coming one. But in reality, "employees usually don't have time to prepare. Their managers will just spring it on them," says Gregory Giangrande, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Time Inc. You can ask to schedule it for a later date so you'll have some prep time, he says, but if the answer is no, follow his advice to sail smoothly through the meeting.


"People tend to get uncomfortable in performance reviews," says Giangrande. "But try to keep your (professional) demeanor consistent with your day-to-day interactions." If you have a good-natured relationship with your manager, don't suddenly get stiff. If you have a more formal dynamic, don't try to act chummy.

Emphasize Your Value

Here's where knowing about your review in advance would have come in handy-you could have taken the time to do a self-assessment and think about what you've accomplished. But even if you can't remember every project you rocked, make sure to mention what Giangrande calls "the uncelebrated but important things"-those tasks that maybe aren't part of your defined job description, but add value to your organization. And, knowing your worth is one of these 3 Ways to Be a Better Leader.

Listen to Criticism

This one is harder than it sounds. "Don't be quick to defend yourself or get defensive, just sit and listen," says Giangrande. "As hard as it is, make the person feel comfortable in delivering the message." Don't react, don't say anything quickly, and when your manager is finished talking, thank him or her for the feedback. Say that you want some time to process, especially if it was a surprise. (And once you've had a chance to assess, schedule a follow up convo.) If the criticism rings true, then own up to it and ask about training or other support to help you improve. (Read more on How to Respond to Negative Feedback at Work.)

Be Gracious About Positive Feedback

Everyone likes to hear good things about themselves, but don't take it for granted. Thank your manager for the good feedback and emphasize that you're always looking for ways to improve and add value. One nice touch Giangrande recommends: Sending a follow up note. "Say thank you for the conversation, reaffirm how much you value working for the organization and how important your career is to you, and express gratitude for encouragement, feedback, and support."

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