How Employees Can Prepare for Performance Conversations

by Teala Wilson | Posted | Performance Management

How Employees Can Prepare for Performance Conversations

This is the last installment of a three-part series exploring performance management best practices through the eyes of HR, managers and employees.

Read part 1 of this series – Making ongoing performance management a reality

And here’s part 2! – How to engage employees in coaching conversations

Talking to your manager about your job and your performance can be, well, awkward. Getting the performance conversation going, broaching sensitive topics, having honest and frank discussions about work challenges and career advancement, receiving feedback about performance, highlighting your successes without feeling like you’re boasting… and the list goes on.

While it’s true your manager plays a key role in getting (and keeping) the lines of communication open when it comes to performance management conversations, let’s not forget another important player in the whole process ‒ you.

As an employee, you have the power to drive valuable, more meaningful performance conversations with your manager throughout the year rather than just waiting to see how things go at your annual performance review.

Here are five ways you can make performance conversations rich, valuable and easier for you and your manager.

Tip #1 – Take journal notes daily

Take a load off your memory by keeping a journal in which you make notes on any successes, incidents and challenges as they happen. You can use these notes during one-on-one meetings and later to help with writing your self-appraisal during annual performance review time. Journal entries could include:

  • Emails from peers or managers who have recognized you for a job well done 
  • Names and dates of completed training and learning activities
  • Status of goals from a percentage completion perspective (e.g. 90% complete)
  • Tasks you’ve completed that go over and above your job description
  • Challenges, issues or concerns that you want to capture in the moment

Tip #2 – Set the agenda for one-on-one meetings

Everyone is busy, including your manager, so why not help out by setting the agenda for your next one-on-one meeting. It can eliminate wasted time by ensuring both of you are discussing, topics, issues and successes that matter to you and the entire team. Some agenda topics could include:

Tip #3 – Schedule your own meetings

Who says that managers are the only people who are allowed to set up performance conversations?  

If your one-on-one meeting is further down the road – or might not happen at all ‒ grab the opportunity to set up a time to chat with your manager. This will demonstrate that you’ve got initiative and also reinforce your commitment to your job and responsibilities. And remember Tip #2: Include an agenda to eliminate surprises and keep the discussion on track.

Tip #4 ‒ Take responsibility for your career

Your professional and career development is an important part of performance management process, but your manager can’t read your mind or take charge of your development plan. To progress in your career, you need to:

  • Be clear about how you would like to grow professionally
  • Know what knowledge, skills and experience you need to develop
  • Actively seek opportunities for professional and career development within the organization and through external learning resources
  • Complete any development plans assigned to you and apply the learning to improve your performance

Tip #5 – Solicit feedback from others

Your manager isn’t the only person who can provide you with feedback. Anyone you interact or work with in your organization has the potential to offer feedback, so take the opportunity to ask them how you’re doing.

Your co-workers might see positive attributes and opportunities for improvement that your manager doesn’t see, providing you with a broader set of feedback you can put to work to enhance your performance.

Take control of your performance


When it comes to making the performance management process successful, everyone has an important role to play, including you. I hope you’ll find these tips valuable for keeping the performance conversations easier, more effective and ongoing!

Part 1 of this series – Tips for HR: Making Ongoing Performance Management a Reality

Part 2 How to engage employees in coaching conversations

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