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Making the most of annual reviews

Posted 8:31 a.m. Sunday

It's the end of the year, time for holidays, gifts, parties — and annual reviews.

While not the highlight of the season, they are a reality: The Society for Human Resource Management finds that nearly three-quarters of organizations conduct annual performance appraisals. Another 16 percent perform them semi-annually and only 3 percent of organizations reported that they did not conduct formal reviews.

These reviews can directly impact your financial well-being, as they're often the basis for raises or bonuses. Here are a few tips for making the most of the process:

PREPARE — It's critical to prepare, and ideally you've been keeping track of your accomplishments all year. An easy way to do this is to keep a file of key successes as the year goes on. Make a note each time you meet a key sales goal, receive an email with kudos from a client or earn congratulations from your boss on a project. That way you'll have all the information in one place when it comes time to prepare.

"It's easier to not have to wrack your brain," said Rick Gibbs, a performance specialist at human resources company Insperity. "And often it's an uplifting experience because you forget about some things you did. If you forgot about them, your supervisor likely forgot them too."

Reacquaint yourself with how the performance appraisal is conducted to equip yourself with the information you might need.

THINK BIG — Think about the big picture. Review your job description to remind yourself where you fit into the company's structure. And look over the company's larger goals such as its mission, how it makes money and its priorities for the year to get a good handle on what you are doing to help meet those objectives.

ACT OBJECTIVELY — It can be tough to get feedback, good or bad, says Gibbs. It puts you in the spotlight and that makes many people uncomfortable. But try to remain calm and cool throughout the process.

If you are on the receiving end of bad news, try not to take it too personally or make it confrontational. Ask for more information to understand the situation and if appropriate, counter with your own supporting evidence.

PLAN AHEAD — Often a portion of the performance review is forward looking, where an employee and manager can discuss future goals. Don't miss out on this chance to help shape your future.

"This is a prime opportunity for the employee to share ideas, show initiative and value to the manager," Gibbs said. "We don't get many of these opportunities."

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