If you don’t work for yourself, you’ll probably get an annual performance review from your boss.
“When done well, reviews can greatly benefit both the employee and employer,” says Darlene Price, president of Well Said Inc. and author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.” “Unfortunately, not everyone makes the most of these meetings.”
According to Michael Kerr, international business speaker and author of “The Humor Advantage,” getting defensive is the natural temptation when you receive a negative review. But you should resist the temptation, he says, “because you’ll want to demonstrate that you are truly listening to what’s being said and taking it all in without rushing to judgment,” and that you are open to receiving honest feedback and willing to learn and grow.
“If you truly do feel the feedback is unwarranted, then a more constructive approach would be to saying something along the lines of, ‘Thank you for that. I’m not sure I completely agree with that assessment, but let me take some time to mull it over and maybe we can sit down again next week once I’ve had a chance to consider it carefully,’” says Kerr.
He concludes: “Save those conversations for another time when you can have a constructive conversation about what needs to change to improve the process.”
Here are a few phrases to avoid during your next performance review, so that you can receive what you want and deserve:
1. ‘But that’s not in my job description,’ or 2. ‘But that’s not my responsibility.’
“Expressing these sentiments raises the ire of any supervisor because it makes you look like you are more concerned about shirking responsibility than you are about doing what needs to be done to help the team or organization succeed,” says Kerr. “Managers want people who will do whatever needs doing regardless of whose responsibility it is.”
3. ‘I’m not paid to…’ or 4. ‘I’m not paid enough to…’
According to Kerr, making statements like this not only makes you sound defensive but uninterested in putting forth your best effort.
5. ‘If you think I’m bad, you should see…’
Refrain from speaking ill of other colleagues during a performance review. Kerr noted that this will make you look jealous and spiteful as if you are deflecting the blame or making excuses.
6. ‘I deserve a raise,’ 7. ‘Can I have a raise?’ or 8. ‘I should be making more money.’
Every employee feels this way. “The trick is to use your performance review to prove you’ve earned an increase in pay,” Price says.
“Rather than state the obvious, which may sound demanding and petulant, be prepared to recite three to five documented achievements where you’ve saved or made the company money. Or say, ‘I’m really enjoying my job and growth opportunities within the company. What’s the expected timeline in terms of earning promotions or raises, and what do I need to do to get there?’”
9. ‘I’m going to find another job unless…’
An ultimatum will only result in a dead-end with your boss. “Plus, it sounds a little like Johnny Paycheck’s 1977 hit, ‘Take this job and shove it, I ain’t workin’ here no more,’” says Price. “Instead, speak to your boss about specific challenges you’re facing, in a professional matter-of-fact manner.” If you were given the resources you need or had certain obstacles removed, what quantifiable benefits could you realize?
10. ‘That’s what everyone says,’ or 11. ‘That’s what my last boss told me, too.’
This suggests to others that you have been ignoring an issue or are unable to change, Kerr explains. “If you’ve heard this feedback before, then consider that it’s at the very least a common perception about you and work to correct the behavior.”
12. ‘I’m bored with my job.’
“This statement says you’re tired, jaded, or fed up with your current role and responsibilities,” Price explains. “You’re admitting, ‘I don’t want this job anymore—hire someone else.’ Is that what you really want?” Although you may not feel it, your job is essential to the company; otherwise, it wouldn’t exist. “Instead, say, ‘I believe I have even more to offer. With your approval, I recommend expanding my responsibilities to include…’ This way, you sound goal-oriented and proactive, rather than passive and uninterested.”
13. ‘I wish you had told me sooner.’
Kerr suggests that now is not the time for such a discussion. “Better to turn into a future-focused action by saying something like, ‘I’m glad I know this now, and I’ll definitely work on that in the future,’” he suggests.
14. ‘Can I give you some constructive criticism now?’
“No!” says Kerr. “Unless that’s part of the review process in your organization, flipping comments around onto your boss will only get their back up and make you look overly defensive and unwilling to accept feedback.” If your boss invites you to give feedback, by all means do so, but take care not to upset anyone in the process.
15. ‘Who told you that?’ or 16. ‘Where did you hear that?’
Kerr suggests that responding to a negative review in this manner makes you sound childish and vengeful, and will only lead people to believe that you will take some sort of retaliatory action. “Better to ask, ‘Can you give me a specific example of when I demonstrated that behavior so I know what to work on in the future?’”
17. ‘You’re wrong’ or 18. ‘Are you kidding me?’
Try to avoid arguing. You and your boss may not see eye-to-eye, and that’s okay. Instead of putting up barriers or seeming uncooperative, lend a listening ear. “Be professional, courteous, and calm,” Price suggests. “Rather than firing back with both barrels after an unmerited accusation, say, ‘Help me understand your basis for that statement,’ or, ‘Do you have some specific examples?’ or, ‘Those comments do not reflect my memory and experience of the situation—may I describe my perspective?’”
19. ‘I think you’re being overly critical.’
“That may very well be, but saying this makes you look like you don’t want to accept responsibility or you aren’t concerned about the smaller details,” Kerr explains. Choose your battles carefully. If you feel that someone is targeting you unfairly, focus on the issues that are most important to you.
20. ‘That’s not my fault,’ or 21. ‘It’s John’s fault.’
As Price says, instead of looking for someone to blame, the best leaders step up and own their mistakes. “They empathize appropriately with the frustration or disappointment someone is expressing. Plus, they don’t blame people or circumstances for the misfortune.”
Blame isn’t a fun feeling, but sometimes it’s necessary to listen to it—even if only for a short time. You can empathize and figure out how to respond in a way that won’t escalate the situation. Something like: “I agree. Ideally, we needed to complete that project on time and under budget. Next time, here’s what I’ll do differently to ensure a better outcome…” is a better approach.
22. ‘But that’s just who I am; you knew that when you hired me,’ or 23. ‘I don’t think that’s something I can change.’
What your supervisor will hear is: “It’s your own fault, and I’m incapable of change and not interested in learning or growing.”
24. ‘Yup, you nailed it. That’s me: employee of the year!’
“Now is not the time to use sarcasm, even if you think it will diffuse the tension,” says Kerr. “Using sarcasm will, once again, make you come across as disinterested. Similarly, it’s all right to use a little self-deprecating humor to show that you can laugh at yourself, but be careful about taking it too far, as it can make you look insecure and lacking in confidence, and there’s always the chance your boss will take you seriously.”
25. ‘What the f—?’ or 26. ‘That’s bulls—!’
Although it might seem obvious, keeping your language clean is difficult when you’re trying to defend yourself. “Avoid profanity as it will only make you look aggressive and overly defensive,” Kerr advises.
27. ‘You should have… ,’ 28. ‘You could have… ,’ or 29. ‘You ought to…’
If you want to ensure you stay on your boss’s good side, it’s best not to suggest that he or she has done something wrong–even if they have. “Instead, take a collaborative approach.” Try something like: “To perform at my best, I really need clearly stated expectations. In the future, may we agree to… ?” or, “Moving forward, would it be possible to… ?”
30. ‘It’s about time someone recognized the great work I’m doing.’
Kerr says that when you receive positive feedback, it is best to avoid sounding arrogant by not saying anything at all. For instance: “Tell me something I don’t know,” is something you should never say.
“Simply accept the compliment graciously and move on.”
31. ‘I don’t care,’ 32. ‘Whatever,’ or 33. ‘That doesn’t bother me.’
Blurting out one of these replies after your boss says: “Your 360 assessment this year shows a five point decline in effective listening skills” or “Your peer reviews consistently indicate a lack of teamwork” is a terrible idea.
“Don’t let the death knell of indifference ring during your performance review,” says Price. “It’ll tank your career fast.” Instead, say: “Wow. I was unaware my coworkers felt that way, but I’m glad to know now. Do you have any specific examples you can share that would help me better understand the issue? What steps would you suggest I take to improve in this area?”
34. ‘ … ‘
Saying nothing can be just as harmful as verbalizing the thoughts above.
“One of the worst things you can do is demonstrate indifference through your body language, facial expressions, or by simply sitting in silence,” Kerr says. “Expressing disinterest will make you come across as disengaged from your job, unconcerned about the goals of the organization, and unreceptive to accepting feedback.” At worst, it can come across as passive aggressive.
Price also believes this is a detrimental error. “An effective two-way performance review is packed with benefits: It can facilitate clear communication between you and your boss; clarify expectations; foster trust; establish goals and a career path; identify training needs; improve performance; reveal that you’re a valuable high-potential employee; and even prepare you for a promotion.” As she explains, none of that will happen if you stay silent.
“So, always prepare several talking points, questions, and appropriate requests or recommendations. Show your boss that your performance review is a significant event, worthy of your full attention and participation.”
This article was first published on Business Insider.