Performance Reviews in COVID Times

Getting Saucy With The Job Sauce

It’s time for your annual performance review and you realize that you are far more nervous than usual. This year has been filled with unexpected changes, stress, uncertainty, and more. You start talking to yourself about how your meeting with your manager will go: What are they going to say? Will they account for the fact that I’m working from home with two kids? Have they been thinking I’m not doing my job because they can’t see me? 


Before you know it, you find yourself laying in bed late at night worrying and imagining yourself ultimately having to file for unemployment.


Like so many Americans, you are likely to have amplified concerns as the time for performance reviews approaches. COVID-19 has completely disrupted how organizations are operating. Many employees have experienced reduced hours, adjusted goals, furloughs, and layoffs. The thought of sitting on Zoom for your annual performance review can be daunting. However, this is a perfect opportunity to have open dialogue between you and your manager about what’s working, where you can improve, and what’s next for you.


The Organizational Side of Things –


Since the pandemic started, organizations have had to adjust and re-evaluate processes to ensure decisions are not based on biased information and perceived as fair. As you have been managing your own long and short-term motivation, burnout, and overall mental well-being, your employer has been organizing their performance management framework


It is requisite that organizations thoughtfully carry out performance management processes to ensure that their employees – you – have a sense of stability, clear direction, and the kind of feedback that makes a difference. 


If your organization has been hit hard by the pandemic, there are an array of things upper management is dealing with (both personally and professionally). Being mindful of what is happening with your company is REALLY important. How often have we gotten reactivated in a conversation because someone else was stressed out and not responsible for it?


Recently, an associate of mine called me after having an impromptu meeting with one of her company’s founders. Her role was never designed to be or expected to be a revenue-generating accountability. What is great about this person is that she can’t help herself anytime she sees something missing that would make a difference in her company’s bottom line…but again, it was not her job to produce sales or business partnerships.


The company my friend works for has – as many others have – gotten hit much harder than they anticipated by the pandemic. The infrastructure they had spent the last two years designing to scale the business was suddenly not working. Not only was it not working, but sales were plummeting. By October it was “all hands on deck,” but at this point too late.


During this meeting, the COO was emotional and began to question the viability of the work she had done through the Spring and Summer months. “What results did you even produce?!” he said to her. She sat there shocked and slightly offended at his remarks. However, she knew that this man was dealing with a world that had nothing to do with her – one of failure, thwarted intentions, and unfulfilled expectations. At this moment, he was simply taking it out on her. 


She later said to me, “You know it is pretty amazing how at the end of the day, we are all human. I could be offended or invalidated by what he said to me. I mean it would be just as easy for me to say the same thing back to him…but I knew it wasn’t really about me. Employees have to keep that in mind if these meetings become difficult. Being the calm in the eye of the storm is why they hired me in the first place ya know. This whole situation sucks…but we are where we are.”


Preparing for Your Performance Review –


Believe it or not, this is actually pretty simple – if you actually prepare for the meeting. 


The biggest mistake people make is going into the meeting cold. Why? Because you don’t want to be in a reaction during a conversation when you could have prepared for it ahead of time. We are not just talking about discussing breakdowns in performance, we are talking about all of it. 


Imagine sitting in the meeting and you know you want to ask for a raise. However, you didn’t do the work ahead of time to craft how you wanted to speak to your accomplishments this year. So there you are sitting in the meeting, trying to rack your brain and somehow sound somewhat intelligent during that meeting. It is a coin toss on how this is going to go. Here is what we recommend:


Preparing for Feedback


You know not to yell (right?). But do you know there are ways to respond to negative feedback that actually can make you look bad and ways that can make you look good?


Paying attention to what you say and how you say it is important. Let’s say you get negative feedback. You might want to avoid blurting out statements like “I didn’t realize that was wrong” or “It won’t happen again.” On the other hand, if you’ve been doing fabulous work, you still might receive some constructive criticism. 


Owning your weaknesses, offering a solution, or showing your attention to these details will give your employer peace of mind. How you respond let’s them know what they can count on from you and sets the tone for their relationship with you for the next year.


Listing Your Accomplishments


For some, it is easier to be responsible for one’s failures versus what got accomplished. Some of us will discredit 9/10 things because there is one thing we struggled with and thus have invalidated the whole year. Do not do this! 


Instead, own your accomplishments and the ground you took in your role. There are results that are easy to see like reducing costs, increasing revenue, improving efficiency, etc. But there are other areas that don’t always get acknowledged. Are there areas where you developed yourself as a leader? Did you become reliable in a particular skill set? Did you step up when others stepped back? These kinds of contributions should absolutely be noted and acknowledged. 


In an ideal world, your manager would be paying attention to all of this and ready to praise you for all of it. Unfortunately, they have a mountain of stuff they’re managing and can’t always stay present to every little detail. So you want to be ready for this conversation having already done the looking, as well as crafting how you want to speak to these accomplishments. 


This conversation has a distinct space to it too. We don’t recommend coming in “hot” and ready to defend why you should get a raise. It would be far more effective to share with your manager what you are proud of, what was a big deal for you. All your employer wants for you is that you are doing your job, doing it well, and finding joy and satisfaction in the process.


Assess Your Goals


This past year, you may have had goals that went unfulfilled due to the pandemic and were thus required to recalibrate. Your work may have been completely unaffected by COVID-19. Regardless of what space you are in, performance reviews are a great time to look back and assess what actually happened against what you were intending.


Bringing these notes to your meeting to discuss with your manager will lead to a much more productive conversation and partnership in creating the next year.


Do I Even Ask for a Raise?


Honestly, we will leave this up to you. Anytime you are thinking about asking for a raise or promotion, you have to be grounded in reality. Being entitled is different than being deserving of. If you look objectively at how you actually performed this year and how your company is performing, this should give you your answer.


If your company has maintained stability or even grown during these last nine months, you might be able to ask for a raise. Yet if your company has had layoffs and struggled to stay afloat, it’s probably not the time to make this request. Furthermore, let’s say your company has been having difficulties. Should you walk into your meeting not being sensitive to this, this could be damaging to your reputation and your relationship with your employer.


Final Thoughts


Still concerned about your meeting? The Job Sauce is now offering a new service: Performance Review Coaching. You will have an hour call working directly with our CEO, Scott Swedberg, to objectively review your performance, outline your talking points, and determine what could be next in your career growth. Schedule a call with us to find out more.

Jessica Campbell

Jessica Campbell

Jessica is Chief of Staff and VP of Resume Services. She has coached thousands of people in career planning, communication strategies, and relationship building throughout the U.S.

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