How to Make the Most of Your Annual Review

This post comes from life and career coach Michelle Bayley, who looks at an important part of the employee/employer relationship that sometimes doesn’t get the planning and attention that it needs…

“Many of us are now in the run up to annual review time. If your response to the idea of a meeting about your past year’s performance is “make it be over”, try remembering that your review shouldn’t be a one way street where your boss is doing all the talking – it’s also your chance to make clear the value you’ve added. And it’s a chance to put your side of the story if it feels like you’re getting feedback that’s plain unfair.

So, make the most of your review by preparing in advance and staying focused when you’re in the meeting itself. Here are some areas to focus on:

Before the meeting:

Brush up on your organisation’s performance management system: It might sound obvious, but even if you think you know how the system works there may have been some recent changes. So, at the very least it’s worth having a quick look on your intranet if you have one, or a chat with someone in HR. If you work somewhere where there isn’t a formal system, talk to your manager in advance about what ground they’ll be covering in your meeting.

Gather your evidence:

  • You should have objectives that you’ve been asked to deliver on, so dig them out and make some notes on how you’ve done. If you haven’t been able to get something done, it could be down to circumstances beyond your control (it’s hard to deliver that key project to revolutionise widget production if the board didn’t provide a budget for it!), so that you’re ready with explanations.
  • Think about the times when you might have gone beyond your own objectives to help deliver work that wasn’t officially yours to do – if you don’t bring up what you’ve done your helpfulness might be overlooked.
  • Many organisations have competences or certain skills or ways of behaving that they expect you to demonstrate as you go about your work – think about how you’ve done against these and again, gather specific examples. At appraisal time, it’s not just about what you’ve done but how you’ve done it.
  • Talk to someone who can help jog your memory about what you’ve done over the whole year. Managers can sometimes fall into the trap of focusing on the past couple of months, so it pays to remind them of your greatest moments back in last April or May.

Have some time to yourself: Immediately before your meeting, keep some time free. You’ll feel much more focused than if you rush straight from another meeting. It’ll also help you to stay calm.

In the meeting:

Make your case: Many managers will begin by asking you how you think your year has gone, so it’s your chance to give them a summary of what you’ve done well. Keep it clear and highlight specific examples of your best work and biggest wins – don’t bombard them with detail at this stage or you’ll lose the impact of your message.

Be open to feedback: For many of us any kind of feedback can feel like criticism even when it’s intended to help you improve. Rather than be overly defensive, be open to what you’re hearing.

Ask for examples: If you get negative feedback that you know is unfair though, take a deep breath and ask for specific examples. So, if you hear “I don’t think you’ve been much of a team player this year” and you know there have been times when you’ve gone out of your way to contribute to the team, find out what specifically the comment is based on, then calmly offer your examples of you at your team playing best. Sticking to facts and evidence helps keep your emotions in check.

Show you’re keen to improve: Your appraisal meeting is one of the few times you get to see your manager when the focus is on you instead of on work. So, it’s a good opportunity to say what you want to do more of and what kind of training and development you’d like. If you’ve seen a great training course you’d like to go on, you can boost your chances of attending by letting your boss know exactly what the benefits will be to the business.

When you’re busy getting on with the day job it can be tempting to just wing it when it comes to your appraisal meeting but putting some effort into preparing for it should ensure you get a fair report that gives you the recognition you deserve.”


Michelle Bayley is a certified professional life and career coach. You can find out more about her at Find Your Way Coaching.