How to prepare for an annual appraisal at work

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Did receiving your report card at school fill you with dread wondering just what the teacher had said about you and then not knowing how your parents would react? And does the thought of your annual appraisal at work fill you with a similar sense of dread?

Recently I have assisted several clients prepare for their annual appraisal at work and it is interesting to see just how many people dread going through this process.


The thing is that just as with interviews, it is possible to take a lot of the anxiety out of the process by doing the right preparation. You can take more control over your annual appraisal and feel more confident about the whole process by following these 7 steps:

  • Understand your company’s review process. In theory this should be a 2 way process to discuss your work over the last year and to set some goals for the following year. It is important that you have a clear understanding of your manager’s expectations of you.
  • Take time to prepare. You need to be ready to discuss what you have achieved during the year and the value you have added to the business; this should be easy for you to do if you have kept track throughout the year, but if not then you need to set aside some time to give it due consideration. Don’t forget to note any challenges you faced too as it is important to mention these, how you handled them and if they raised any training needs. It is also worth speaking to some of your clients, both internal and external, and mentioning their feedback during your appraisal. Make a note of all the points that you want to raise with your boss to make sure that you do not forget anything during the meeting.
  • If you have received any criticism during the year or at your appraisal, don’t go on the defensive. Instead take on board the criticism and look for ways to improve.
  • Show your true worth to the company by reviewing what you achieved against the goals that you set for the year. Here it is important to show that you have gone beyond expectations rather than just completing your goals.
  • If your previous appraisal had highlighted any weaknesses, show what you have done during the year to improve in these areas.
  • Make a plan for the coming year, set yourself some goals and highlight some skills that you would like to develop.
  • Think carefully about whether or not to ask for a pay rise. This will very much depend on how well you can prove that you exceeded expectations during the year.

And what if your appraisal doesn’t go well?

Firstly, know that you are not alone; at some point almost everyone receives a review that is disappointing and confusing. It is how you react that can have a big impact on your future performance, evaluations, and compensation.

On receiving a bad review, it is important that you don’t go on the offensive. Instead you must remain calm and professional. Listen carefully to what your boss has to say and take notes if necessary and ask for specific examples of each criticism so that you have a clear understating of what is being said. It is difficult but important that you try to ignore your feelings at this point and then take your own critical review of what was said.

If you are asked to give an explanation of something you did, or didn’t do, be honest with your answer and never try to put the blame on someone else, even when you believe others were at fault too. Make sure that your boss is aware of all your accomplishments in case any have been overlooked and back them up with examples.

When you leave the meeting, hold your head high, smile and thank your boss for taking the time to explain things to you and suggest a follow up appointment after you have had time to put a plan of action in place.

Remember, you are not perfect, you are human and you make mistakes. The worst thing you can do at this point is to get defensive. The best thing you can do is listen to the evaluation and try and learn from it. Being professional means that you want to focus on what you can do better which is the purpose of a review in the first place.

It is important that you view your annual appraisal as an opportunity to learn. If you have received constructive criticism, you can incorporate it in your plan for the upcoming year by setting yourself learning goals and personal development opportunities. By doing so a poor evaluation will just be a temporary set-back, one which you can take control of and turn round for the following year.

 “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall” – Confucius

© Anne Galloway

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Anne Galloway is the Careers Consultant for those who want to put the fun and passion back into their working week. Find out how Anne can help you along your path to career success at


I am a Certified Advanced Resume Writer, Employment Interview Consultant, and Career Coach and it is my aim to help ambitious and motivated people like you become fully empowered to get the job you want.