HR Headaches: My Employer Doesn’t Conduct Performance Reviews

If your company doesn’t have a performance review process in place, follow these tips to ask for feedback.

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Every employee wonders how they’re performing at work, if they’re meeting their manager’s expectations, and if they’re on track for a raise or a promotion. But what if you work for a company that doesn’t have an established performance review process in place?

While it’s certainly the norm for companies to conduct annual or biannual performance reviews, some smaller companies or startups might not have this process in place (yet). So how should you go about soliciting feedback about your performance if your company doesn’t have a review process?

Why feedback is important

First, it’s important to understand why getting feedback is important for your career development. Some of these reasons include the following:

  • It helps you understand where you stand in the company and within your team. You might think you’re performing to a high standard, and delivering quality work, but sometimes there’s a mismatch between your perception, and the perception of those around you. Asking for feedback helps you bridge the gap between how you think you’re performing, and how your colleagues and managers think you are.
  • It helps you see your blindspots. Related to the above point, soliciting feedback can be an eye-opener in terms of understanding areas of improvement you may not be aware of. We all have professional blindspots, and being open to hearing that maybe you come on too strong to clients, or that you sometimes shut down your coworker’s ideas will help you be a better teammate. This would require asking for a 360 review, and getting feedback from your entire team (more on this below).
  • It shows that you have a commitment to growing and improving. Asking for honest feedback speaks volumes about your commitment to being a better employee and colleague.
  • It strengthens your working relationships. Having honest and transparent conversations around performance can help you find mentors who are invested in your growth, and strengthen your existing relationships.

Having honest and transparent conversations around performance can help you find mentors who are invested in your growth, and strengthen your existing relationships.

How to ask for feedback

If your company doesn’t have an established performance review process, there are ways you can ask for feedback. But it’s important to come prepared with your goals for the meeting, questions to ask, and examples to provide.

Set up a one-on-one with your manager

If you don’t already have scheduled one-on-ones with your manager, schedule one, with a clear agenda so they, too, can come prepared. You don’t want to put them in a position where they have to either reschedule, or come up with feedback on the fly.

Establish your goals

Consider what your motivation is for asking for feedback. Are you trying to get a promotion and want to know if you’re on track? Do you want a change in your compensation? The primary focus of a feedback meeting should be to listen and understand what you’re doing well and what needs improvement, but ultimately, you can apply these learnings to your professional goals. For example, if you’d like a promotion in the near future, and you’re told that you submit reports with typos, you might want to put energy into being more detail oriented going forward.

Specific questions to prepare for your feedback meeting

It’s crucial to come prepared, especially since you’re setting the meeting. Here are some examples of specific questions you can prepare:

  • If you just wrapped up a large project, you can ask: “After delivering the ABC project, what do you think I did well there, and what areas did you spot that I could improve on?”
  • You can ask your manager for feedback that your fellow colleagues may have passed along. For example, you could ask: “Has anyone on the team noted examples where they felt I was helpful or could have been more supportive?”
  • You can focus on the company and team at large by asking: “How can I better support the mission of our company and team?”
  • Consider showing your manager that you want to perform better for the next project and ask: “Is there anything you’d suggest I read/learn before being assigned my next client/project?”
  • You can then demonstrate that you’re committed to growing at the company by asking: “Is there any advice you’d offer to be promoted in the next quarter?”

Be transparent with your manager about why you’re soliciting feedback

Companies with an established performance review process typically use that time to set goals and discuss promotions, raises, and bonuses.

It’s okay to share your motivations for the meeting with your boss. Companies with an established performance review process typically use that time to set goals and discuss promotions, raises, and bonuses.

For example, if you’re asking for feedback because you’d like to be considered for a promotion, you can be transparent about this! But you should also come armed with concrete examples that demonstrate why you deserve it. These can include your wins over the last few months, positive client feedback, and areas where you’ve shown growth.

Get a more complete picture by asking your fellow coworkers

Your manager is not the only person who can provide feedback; you can also approach your colleagues (via email), and ask for an honest assessment of what it’s like working with you. This would be considered a 360 review, and allow you to see how you’re viewed by people you work with directly. Here are some great scripts you can include in your email.

Going forward: Encourage your company to set up a performance review and feedback process

Every organization, even small ones, should have some form of feedback process so employees can understand their areas of improvement, and where they’re strong. As an employee, you can encourage your manager to start the process of putting performance reviews in place, even if you’re working remotely or virtually. Some companies do them once a year, but more frequent check-ins can be more effective.

Feedback and performance reviews help everyone improve, from managers, to employees, to companies at large. So if your organization doesn’t currently have a formal review process in place, asking for feedback is a good place to start, and might encourage them to implement reviews, company-wide.

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