Everyone gets nervous before a performance review, even if we killed it this year. Maybe you and your manager aren’t on the best of terms these days or maybe you’ve hit a rough patch and haven’t quite met the goals set at your last review.
“No worries,” you assure yourself. “If things go badly, I’ll just turn to Human Resources.”
Before counting on that, read this:
1. Human Resources is your frenemy
This department exists mainly to meet the needs of your company. If HR has to choose between what is best for the company and what is best for you, they will choose the company. You can prove you’re what’s best for the company by getting to know someone in HR and earning their respect. When you contribute to the company’s bottom line, either by saving money or bringing in revenue, send your HR contact an email. Now you have the documentation you brought value to the company. On the other hand, if your manager gives you a bad review that is murky (e.g. “Susie is lazy”), you have documentation containing specific data to defend yourself — and so does your HR contact.
2. What you post on social media could affect your review
You work for your company 24/7, 365 days a year because you represent it to the community. What you post online could negatively impact your company’s reputation and therefore your review. HR is watching you. Activities like shopping online from your living room on your company laptop while working from home can be detected and used against you. Check your employee handbook for what online activity your company both monitors and allows.
3. A good review does not equal job security
A performance review is an acknowledgment that you did what the company paid you to do. You’re expected to hustle. Everyday HR sifts your conduct through the filter of what you’re doing to either save the company money or add revenue to its bottom line. Keep a list of what you’ve done and try to quantify it. Did you land a big client? How much sales revenue was it? Did you catch an accounting mistake?
4. If your manager has already complained to them about you
Most employment in the United States is “employment at will.” This means you can leave your job any time you want to for any reason, but it also means your employer can fire you any time they want to for any reason. If your manager has a problem with your performance, she may have discussed it with HR but not you. HR doesn’t have to tell you about any conflict your manager may have discussed with them.
5. Your performance review is not exactly confidential
Most HR departments operate on a need-to-know basis. They only share confidential information (e.g. performance reviews) with managers and executives who need to know certain information about certain employees. The problem is defining who needs to know. If you have nosy managers, whether they are your supervisor or not, they can ask HR for your performance review and HR will give it to them. This could be a lot of people. If it’s a glowing review, fabulous! But if it’s not, the people influencing your future at this company now have someone’s uncontested opinion of your work.
Ideally, you have regularly scheduled one-on-ones throughout the year with your manager where you discuss your work, your goals and your progress. Your performance review just puts a period on this conversation and begins a new one for the coming year. But if you get blindsided with a bad review and are thinking about going to HR, remember the same company who signs your paycheck also signs theirs.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.