How to Prevent Performance Review Surprises

05.06.2020 |

Episode #4 of the course Managing your manager by Jordan Thibodeau and Joe Ternasky


“When you assume, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘you’ and ‘me.’” —Anonymous


Welcome back!

In our last lesson, we talked about how to identify your manager’s communication style. In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at how and when to ask for feedback from your direct manager. But before we begin, you might be asking, “What is a performance review?” A performance review is a quarterly, biannual, or yearly meeting between you and your direct manager where you go over the work you have completed and your manager provides you with feedback on what you have done well and what you could do better. This audit is followed by a rating. If you performed well, then you could possibly earn a pay raise and a promotion.


Implied Expectations Lead to Missed Expectations

Your manager has expectations for what you should and shouldn’t be doing. The problem is we only get to see those expectations when we review the job description. After that, we tend to never see them again.

There are two types of expectations that your manager has for you that are critical to understand if you want to make sure there are no surprises during your performance review:

Explicit expectations: These are expectations that your manager expects you to achieve that are vocalized or committed to writing. Explicit expectations are clear and hard to misinterpret.

Implicit expectations: These are expectations that are never written down or spoken. They are the things that you and your manager assume you should be doing. The problem is you can both have vastly different ideas of what you should be doing. These are the expectations that lead to negative performance reviews because they are so easy to overlook or misunderstand. As such, implicit expectations can cause confusion and frustration for you and your manager. One of the surest ways to avoid the dangers of implicit expectations and to verify that your approach continues to meet your manager’s expectations is to schedule regular check-ins. These check-ins will function like mini performance reviews.


Setting the Right Expectations 

When you sit down with your direct manager for a 1:1 check-in (a regularly scheduled private meeting with your manager to discuss your work), it’s important to go over your expectations for each other. Here is a good way to prepare for a regular check-in:

Step 1. Create a list of expectations you have for yourself and your manager. Make sure that your list contains items that you and your manager can realistically evaluate. Frame your points so that you and your manager can objectively judge them wherever possible.

a. Order your list with high-priority items at the top. This will help you focus on which items are most important.

b. Double-check that these expectations are sufficient. Adjust your list until you are confident that if you do every item, your manager will be completely satisfied with your performance.

c. Have a plan for how you will achieve each item on your list. If you aren’t sure about how to do something, ask your manager to walk through that item with you. Part of their job is to teach you how to do yours, and they want you to succeed as much as you do.

Step 2. Share your list with your manager. Discuss your expectations in terms of achievements and time frames. How does your manager expect you to get things done? When do they expect you to get them done?

Step 3. Discuss anything that will require your manager’s help to resolve. Managers do not like surprises, so do your best to keep them informed on how you’re doing and what they can do to help you.

Step 4. Ask your manager what’s on their plate. Too many people focus on their needs and don’t focus on the needs of their manager. You can find new opportunities to grow and solidify your standing with your manager by putting their needs ahead of yours, so ask your manager if there’s anything you can do to assist them.

Step 5. Don’t make assumptions about your manager’s expectations of you. In most cases, your manager is your manager because they’ve already done what you must do and proven they are good at it. This means that you can learn from them.


To Do

Use your Managing Your Manager Journal to plan a 1:1 with your manager.

In our next lesson, we will discuss how to break bad news in a good way.

Jordan and Joe

Managing Your Manager Teachers


Recommended book

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone


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