You've been subscribed to the Lattice Blog newsletter. You'll receive an email next time we post.
Learn more about Lattice →

Why your performance reviews shouldn't surprise you...and reasons why it might

Performance reviews can be very intimidating -- studies have shown it can even put your brain in “flight or fight” mode. However, performance reviews need not produce such reactions -- mostly because you should already know what’s going to be in your performance review. Performance reviews should not surprise you.

However, the office world is far from ideal -- every office and every employee is constantly learning and adapting to unexpected circumstances, surprising situations, and unpredictable shifts. Alison Green, the titular manager at her site Ask A Manager, answers questions about such surprising problems. She always reiterates that performance reviews should not be surprising, but she’s handled questions where people experience exactly that problem.

Here are 6 reasons why your performance review may end up surprising you:

1. You’ve never had one before. Receiving that kind of feedback in a formal administrative setting may be alarming, especially if it also coincides with your first office job.

2. Your manager and you are disagreeing on what constitutes as feedback. Remember, feedback from your boss is not advice or a suggestion -- it’s a mandate to change for the better. At the same time, it’s good to make sure your boss and you are on the same page about what you’re doing well and what could be improved on -- miscommunication could explain a lot more than you realize.

3. You’re only paying attention to your manager’s feedback. Coworkers and peers may not have your manager’s point of view when it comes to your work, but they have unique insight on how well you work with them -- and being a team player is important to your success.

4. Your manager isn’t a good manager. Unfortunately, sometimes we get drawn an unlucky card. Your manager might be overly critical, unfair, or lack a certain self-awareness. In that case, it’s always good to talk to them, or go to HR.

5. You need to work on your own self-awareness. It’s good you have confidence in yourself, but make sure it’s not misplaced! Disagreeing with your performance review doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Maybe part of the takeaway from such a performance review is reviewing your own self-awareness.

6. Your office doesn’t have a good performance management system. If your office doesn’t have a good performance management system -- whether they’re using Google docs, dispensing with the system altogether, or the owner of the company simply uses a secret performance management system where they basically judge every employee with their spouse -- your surprising performance review will just be the tip of the iceberg.

These offices all have one thing in common: they don’t prioritize performance management. Ideally, your performance review shouldn’t surprise you because:

1. Your manager is giving you continuous feedback. Your manager should always be informing you of mistakes you make, praising you for successes you’ve had, and things you can improve on. If they're not doing it on their own, you're asking for it. This continuous discussion will help you understand what they’ll say at your performance review -- because they’ll have already said it. 

2. You’re speaking to various departments that benefit from or are related to your work. You should be similarly connected to your peers, team members, and co-workers. Communication should be constant and free-flowing, and you should feel comfortable that people will provide you with feedback after projects.

3. You’re self-aware about the quality of your own work, your strengths and weaknesses, and your working process. There’s no better judge than yourself, and your self assessment will likely reflect that.

4. Your office has a performance management system that works. There are several things to keep in mind when creating a performance management system. We can suggest one in particular.