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I have yet to come across an employee who is genuinely gleeful when it comes to discussing their performance review. Even if you are a top performer, there always seems to be zingers included that come from left field, hold no merit, or are completely unrelated to your overall performance.

We’ve all been there… how you respond to your performance review is critical for your long-term success at a company, and your career. Regardless if you perceive your review as good or as bad, here’s how you should respond to your Performance Review.

During the Conversation

1. Detach yourself from the situation – create some objectivity.

While having the conversation, treat it as though it were any other meeting. Remove any and all personal attachment you have to the discussion. If you need some help detaching, reframe the meeting in your mind around someone else’s performance. With someone else in mind, you are able to give yourself some space and distance and start hearing the words that are being delivered.

2. Take notes.

Give yourself the task of taking notes of what’s being said – good, bad, indifferent; to help focus you during the discussion. It will lessen the confusion later on and will capture more information that you will have thought you absorbed. We tend to get stuck on one or two comments during the discussion – and everything else can get lost in your own noise. So write the conversation/discussion down.

My trick – I like to write down verbatims. I try not to summarize like I would do during a normal business meeting and instead, focus on quoting things of importance from my boss. That way, there is no chance of me jumping to the wrong conclusion, or creating incorrect inferences from the conversation later.

3. Blank your face out.

I wear my emotions on my face… thank goodness for phone calls sometime! But the most important lesson I learned early on in my career, is how to prevent my emotions from showing on my face – particularly important during these discussions.

Before you walk into the room, take a deep breath and find your center (or whatever place makes you erase any emotion). Secretly, I make it a game in my own mind – how long can I keep blank; how awesome is it that my boss isn’t getting the reaction she thought she’d get; and so on.

After the Conversation

1. Review the document and match it up with your notes.

See, aren’t you glad you took notes in the meeting? Here’s when you go through and highlight (yes, use a real highlighter) sections that were discussed. Then use a system for items that were of interest to you – good or bad. You want to be sure that you fully understand the information that was delivered to you, so you can respond to it if needed.

Make sure that you do a good read on the document in its entirety. If there are comments, suggestions, or other information within the document that is of interest to you, make sure that you take note of that as well to be discussed/reviewed as needed.

2. Map out an agenda.

I recommend having a follow-up conversation even if you think your review was awesome or spot-on. It shows that you care about the process, and also provides you with additional insight into specific areas. And if you need to have a follow-up discussion because there were a few surprises in there… even better.

Before you have the conversation, make an agenda. At most, have three bullet points or areas/groupings to discuss. Make sure that you address anything that you feel isn’t represented accurately and/or anything that was a surprise. Have your questions written down and supporting evidence there, so you don’t forget anything during the discussion – trust me, this will come in handy. This way, you will make sure to cover everything you want – and you’ll do it with class and organization.

3. Escalation/rebuttal – only if necessary.

About 75% of the time, an escalation or rebuttal makes the employee look like a crazy, raving lunatic. BUT, the other 25% or so of the time, escalating the issue is necessary – and this is particularly important if you feel as though your review includes personal attacks, has any protected class information in it, or isn’t justifiably fair/based in fact.

It is up to you to follow the company’s proper guidelines and rules for escalation and rebuttals. One step off pace and you will not be taken seriously. Remember to remove all emotion out of the process – base your response in fact, provide specific examples, and stay away from personal attacks.

Don’t Forget…

Remember – while your review does stay in your employee file for eternity and can impact your prospects at that company, it does not travel with you to your next company. And it is only a reflection of your performance for one year.

This process can help move your career forward and help you grow in areas of need more than anything else. If you approach the process as a potential learning and development opportunity to help propel you forward and improve as an employee, it will be a more positive experience for everyone.

And if all else fails, it can make for a laughable experience years later… I promise, I have one of those in my that was ridiculous file.