Every year we hold our breath as we walk into our manager’s office for our annual performance review. We usually have a good handle on our results, but even if we had a knock-out year on paper most of us dread walking into the office to receive what usually amounts to a stack of judgments we aren’t quite sure how to sift through. This occasion of trying to simplify an entire year of work into an hour-long conversation can leave us emotionally exhausted and ready to run to happy hour.
Here’s the thing though… you are so much more than your review.
How you measure up against often arbitrary or unrealistic goals should not be an occasion to rock your confidence. Instead, see it as an opportunity to find a few golden nuggets of wisdom that will propel you forward into continued growth and learning.
At the end of the day, who you are becoming is more important than what you’ve accomplished in the span of a single year. There is bigger work for you to step into, so don’t blow this opportunity to reflect in a meaningful way by hitting the bar instead of your journal. (Okay, maybe we compromise and you bring your journal to the bar!)
Here are some things to consider as you process your performance review this year:
We are not wired to take in feedback at face value —
Yes, we all get that feedback is good. It helps us gauge how we’ve contributed, what we’ve mastered, why we may have missed the mark, and where to focus so that we can advance. So how come we dread this annual feedback party and often leave a single conversation (whether it be neutral, positive, or negative) feeling defeated?
We are hardwired with negativity bias (also known as the negativity effect) which refers to the notion that even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (unpleasant thoughts, emotions, social interactions, or harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state than do neutral or positive things. In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person’s behavior than something equally emotional but negative. Because of this we naturally discount the positive end of our review.
While we may not be able to override negativity bias, our awareness of it can help us recalibrate the information we receive so our perception isn’t so skewed. (As you are reviewing your feedback this year, be sure to highlight the bright spots so you don’t miss them!)
Your boss is an imperfect human —
The person delivering your feedback is just that… a person. They are doing their best, but they aren’t going to always get it right. This means you should never take the feedback they provide as the final word. You must take their input and pass it through your own filters so that you can take away the purest form of what they are trying to share with you. Some bosses are just not that skilled at delivering feedback in a way that is clear and specific, and everyone has certain unconscious biases that impact how they see the world.
Also remember that the level of experience someone has isn’t an indication of their level of consciousness, so be sure not to give your power away and always hold yourself as the ultimate evaluator.
Think of this year in the context of a long career —
Tony Robbins says “Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.” When we become overly focused on the short term, we become less willing to take risks because we have to get it all right… right now. Some years are meant to stretch us out of our comfort zone, try new things, and take on added responsibilities, while some years we have to write off failure (which could actually be edging us towards an important breakthrough). Our lifetime success is nonlinear, so as you reflect on this year, just remember it is one of many.
Find your growth 80/20 —
Many of us fall into a pattern of feeling overwhelmed by all that we need and want to improve upon — which keeps us scattered and ineffective. Try using the Pareto principle to get focused. Ask yourself what The ONE Thing is you can improve upon that would create a massive difference in your performance. And don’t forget that it isn’t always about cultivating a hard skill — it may be creating a new habit or breaking a bad one, or it may even be shifting something in your personal life that is silently having an impact on your career.
Follow the joy —
As you look at how you excelled this year also notice when you felt the most alive. This perspective holds clues to how you might continue to shape your career. I remember doing this exercise one year and realizing that I loved the projects I was moonlighting on so much more than the core of my day-to-day responsibilities. Cue career switch!
No matter how glowing or gloomy your review is this year, just remember that you aren’t here to be perfect. You are here to become the most vibrant, skilled, loving version of yourself so that you can make a tremendous impact. Challenge yourself to see feedback in all its forms as a gift from the universe, guiding you towards the fullest expression of your life and leadership!
Sarah Anassori is a Holistic Executive Coach on a mission to guide the next generation of heart-centered leaders to step into the work (and way of working) they were made for. Sarah seamlessly unites her years of traditional business experience with her passion for mindful living, personal innovation, and authentic leadership to bring a strategic and spiritual approach to career transitions. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and at sarahanassori.com.