How to Navigate your Annual Review in This Bleak Economic Enviroment

Dear Debra: My annual review is next week.  Should I negotiate for a raise or just be glad to have a job?

Always negotiate.  What's the worst that happens?  You learn there's a freeze on raises or bonuses, so you negotiate for non-monetary perks: an updated, more prestigious title that adds more cache to your resume; an opportunity to take over as editor of your company's industry newsletter or head up a project you have stars in your eyes for; working one day a week from home to cut out two hours a week of commuting time and cost.

Be prepared to discuss specific achievements.  Confidently give examples and brief stories that illustrate your performance and star power.  Cite hard numbers: "I tripled profits while simultaneously cutting department overhead by 50%."  "Identified $1.2MM in underperforming assets and created this detailed blueprint for turning that around" (and of course you have a one page summary of that plan in your hands for show and tell).  Whip out your plan for helping your department, team or company reach their objectives, cut expenses, retain talent, lower attrition.

Tell your boss you are open to frank feedback, including what you need to do better to meet your individual, team, and company goals.  This sets a positive tone.  Outline three specific areas in which you plan to hone your performance, including workshops or advanced training courses you've signed up for.

You'll be prepared in advance for this because this week, before your review, e-mail 10 coworkers, supervisors (other than your boss doing the review), subordinates, and customers and ask for their frank feedback about what's effective and what needs improvement in terms or your performance.  Ask them to comment on problem-solving, decision-making, thoroughness, creativity, objectivity, risk-taking and judgment, follow-through, open-mindedness, people skills, leadership abilities, communication and listening skills, organizational awareness, persuasiveness, drive and initiative.  Look for key themes in their responses.  You'll be prepared to discuss in your review strengths plus how you're working to improve weaknesses.  Ask their permission to share any glowing reviews with your boss.

With reviews, the best surprise is no surprise.  Walk in prepared.  Walk out confident that you've been your own best advocate, whatever the outcome.

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