5 Steps to Prepare for Performance Review Season – Maximize Your Bonus Payout, Land That Promotion and Get That Raise

5 Steps To Prepare For Performance Reviews

Hi all – CMO here, and I’m excited to bring you a guest post today from my friend Anna Cosic. We met in person at Lola Retreat earlier this year, and she has a fascinating story! She’s also a career expert, so when she offered to write a guest post all about preparing for performance review season, I was excited. Personally, I hate performance review time, and so I’m looking forward to picking up some tips!

Anna is passionate about helping other women, like I am, and I know you’ll find these tips useful. 

For a lot of us, Performance Evaluation season is just around the corner. Who isn’t looking forward to walking into their boss’ office for Judgement Day? And feeling uncomfortable for days ahead of time for that awkward one-sided conversation?

The good news is that you already now can start preparing yourself – but more importantly, start priming your boss  – for this talk. You want to ensure they have everything they need to evaluate you in the best way possible. Ultimately this leads to more money for you!

DISCLAIMER: The way these talks are prepared and carried out, along with the adjustments make afterwards, vary greatly from company to company. I will give examples along the way, but you’ll greatly benefit from understanding exactly how these are done in your organization in order to max out your money.

That said – the way you can prepare is the same.

Understand The Process

Before you jump right in, take some time to understand the person on the other side of the table. In preparation for the Performance Evaluations, your manager will typically receive an email from HR or an automatic software notification. That e-mail will tell them that it’s time to evaluate all of their team members, and propose the financial adjustments and promotions.

As they prepare, they will get an overview of their team, showing positions, ranking in the company, current salary, salary development from last year, eventual promotion from last year and any other factors.

They will also get a suggested % to adjust all salaries, along with a lump sum of money that they can suggest how to distribute among top performers.

By understanding what the process looks like from the manager’s perspective, you can better “help” your manager see you. A bonus insight here is your understanding of your boss’ nature. Do they tend to take their time on projects like these or just put in the bare minimum?

To understand how this works in your workplace, you can start by asking around, to your boss, someone in HR, or that colleague who always seems to have the inside information.

If you’re new, you can play the newbie card. If you’re not, you can say that you’re just curious to understand how you can best prepare yourself.

Look At What You Know

It may sound odd, but as businesses become more and more fast-paced, many of us don’t have job descriptions that match what we do. The goals that we’re being measured towards have long been outdated, or only cover part of what we spend our time on.

If that’s the case for you, spend some time making an updated job description. Write down any additional goals you’ve achieved, or KPIs (key performance indicators) you’re being measured on.

If your area of responsibility has greatly increased over the year, make sure to highlight that. Especially if you are a manager, and the number of people or the size of your budget has gone up.

By doing this and comparing your updated version to your original one, you can have a conversation with your manager to get on the same page for the upcoming talks.

Present it to your boss for adjustment

Send an email to your boss or ask for a meeting to go through the adjustments. You can preface by saying that you’re aware that Performance Evaluations are coming up. You want to make sure they have the most updated information for the year end evaluation. 

While it’s not optimal to back date something like this, in my personal experience as well as with my clients, a lot of managers are understanding that things change and that we’re not always on top of adjusting according to it.

Some will be OK with it, some will not, and some will really appreciate you taking the time to prepare them!

Keep emphasizing your deliverables

So you’ve presented the information and hopefully your boss has taken notice. Now they’ll proceed to reward you generously, right?!

Yes, yes, hopefully maybe… But let’s make sure to keep emphasizing your results in a subtle but clear way up until the talk.

It’s called self-promotion. In these times of information overload, this is the surest way to keep you and your results top of mind for your boss. He or she doesn’t have to dig too deep to remember your astonishing contributions to the company’s bottom line, or whatever it was you did.

Sounds awkward? It can be, especially if you’re not used to it. Since this is the person with power over your job and personal finances, a little discomfort is a small price to pay versus the potential reward, right?

The most effective way to do this is to schedule a weekly meeting with your boss. This way you ensure that you have a face to face focusing on what you’ve done, and what you’re currently working on. You’ll also want to highlight questions you may have, or show where you need support and resources.

If you’re questioning how in the world you’re just going to start talking about yourself, you’re right. That conversation gets old real fast! When presenting your results, try to move it away from yourself. Focus more on the impact your results have had on the business and the clients.

The Talk

It’s finally time for the talk (or possibly a letter).

Your manager will most likely present to you a qualitative evaluation. They’ll say some nice things and then announcing what your raise will be for the year. They’ll also cover what your bonus payout will be (and why), and whether you’ll be promoted to the next level up.

If this goes as expected or better, you say thank you and great working with you! Then proceed to go home and have a drink in celebration.

If not, and make sure that you are mentally and emotionally prepared to have this talk in a constructive way before you walk into the room,

You have better leverage to handle not getting the news you’re hoping for in this meeting then and there, rather than walking out in shock and coming back at another time. 

Assuming that you’ve completed the initial steps, you have something to lean on when it comes to this talk.

CMO Note – Good luck with your performance reviews, everyone! You got this.


Anna Cosic is a Career Coach who works with busy, ambitious women to advance their careers.

Anna Cosic

She holds a Master of Science in Management from Stockholm University. Anna spent almost 10 years climbing the career ladder in Scandinavia’s biggest media company, Schibsted, eventually leading an international start-up in the Philippines and managing 70 people before starting her coaching business. She is originally from Sweden, but these days she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, toddler son and two pugs, Igor and Doris.

You can download her free PDF “5 Surprising Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Career” here

1 thought on “5 Steps to Prepare for Performance Review Season – Maximize Your Bonus Payout, Land That Promotion and Get That Raise”

  1. Great points. One key in my rise from intern to running a large Fortune 500 division was that I talked myself up not by talking about myself but by talking about accomplishments. I got lots of stuff done, solved lots of problems. Whenever I could tie a dollar value to my fixing something I would let my boss know and pretty soon the tally was in the millions. Oddly, fear was what encouraged bosses to raise my pay by 24x throughout my career. They didn’t want to be the guy who failed to keep me happy when I was making them so much money. I know this is a gender neutral tactic too. Fear of losing key talent is a huge motivator, the hard part is convincing them that they are in trouble without you. That means your job has to be tied very closely to company profits. If it isn’t it is imperative you find another job that is, if you want to be treated well.

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