5 ways to walk into a performance review with your eyes wide open

We all know that performance reviews can be especially nerve-wracking — especially when you run the risk of getting unexpected bad news or you’re already on thin ice with your boss.

But whether you’re on shaky ground or not, here’s what to do to to make sure you’re prepared for your next one.

Go in with a plan

Bernard Marr, a speaker, author and advisor, writes on his website that when getting ready for a yearly performance review, you should aim to “drive the discussion.”

“…Before you head into your review, make a short list of topics that you would like to cover with your manager. Your annual review is a perfect opportunity to talk about anything that might be on your mind with regard to your career trajectory, team, projects, and so on. Take the opportunity to make the review work for you,” he writes.

Do your own performance review first

This can help take the edge off once the meeting with your boss finally rolls around.

Shawn Kent Hayashi, the founder of The Professional Development Group and the author of “Conversations for Creating Star Performers,” told The New York Times that the first thing you should do is write out your duties at work and come up with your own assessment of each.

“Thinking through how you’ve done will prevent you from overreacting to feedback because you know what to expect,” she told the media outlet.

Brace yourself for potential curveballs

No one likes these, but it’s best to mentally prepare beforehand just in case.

Chrissy Scivicque of EatYourCareer.com writes in U.S. News & World Report that your should “prepare for hard truths.”

“Even top performers have room for improvement. No matter how well you’re doing, you have to prepare yourself mentally for a few hard truths. After all, you can’t grow as a professional if you don’t know where you’re currently falling short.What are your weaknesses? What mistakes or negative things could come out during this discussion and how will you address them?” Scivicque writes.

She goes on to add that “getting overly emotional” is sure to backfire, to keep your ears open, write things down. and ask questions, among other points.

Be ready to own where you stand

This in the same vein.

Dave Johnson writes on CBS MoneyWatch that you should be “honest about yourself.”

“Don’t lie, or even exaggerate. Your manager (probably) isn’t an idiot. If you take credit for someone else’s work or inflate the value of what you accomplished, odds are that your boss will notice. And from that point on he or she will second-guess everything you write in your review. Your review (and the list of accomplishments you submit in advance) should be clear, honest and squeaky-clean. Moreover, you should call out challenges that arose during the year. It’s OK, and probably even a good idea, to highlight one or two things that went wrong, especially if you can cite ways you grew as a result,” Johnson writes.

Come prepared with questions

The Robert Half Blog explains why you should seize this chance to ask about what you really want to know about.

“The annual review process is your opportunity to get direct feedback regarding your performance and future with the company. This is your chance to ask for whatever it is you need or want from your employer (as appropriate). It can be difficult to bring up these subjects with a superior face-to-face — whether you’re asking for a raise, a promotion, recognition or simply more insights about your expected career path — so it may be helpful to make a bulleted list of what you’d like to bring up during your talk,” the blog says.