End of Year Reviews: A Waste of Time?

lincoln and grant

Winter is coming…

It’s that time of the year again, and you know what that means. Time to get ready for a most exciting time: the annual review.

On paper, it’s a way to recap what you’ve done, how well you’ve done it, and what you can do next year to do an even better job.

Some of you will drink the kool aid, dig in, and really try to get the most out of it. Others think it’s all crap—a pointless exercise that wastes everyone’s time and serves as a checkbox for everyone to cross off so HR is happy.

The truth lies somewhere in between…depending on what your company is like. In my experience, most companies go through the review process in a genuine way. They really do want to have an annual reset where everyone can talk about what they’ve done, where they’re going, and whether or not both sides are on the same page.

Why Annual Review Are Good

Some employees aren’t very vocal and don’t express things to their managers very often (or at all), so this is a good way to make it happen. Which it should: if you don’t foster communication between employees and employers, years can go by when the both of you can be drifting apart.

God I sound like a relationship conselor or something.

But think about it: it’s true! Some couples never sit down and talk about these things either, and then one day they wake up and realize, “Wait, you never want to have kids? You think we’re moving to New York in a couple of years? You want to stop working and open up a donut shop?”


And let’s face it: some managers just aren’t very good at staying in touch with their direct reports, so again—this system is a good way to make sure it happens at least once a year, with everyone signing their name to the paperwork to vouch that it all actually went down.

Career Aspirations

Most people don’t work at their dream jobs. They don’t wake up in the morning going, “I don’t want to change a single thing about my job and what I do—it’s perfect!”

Unless you’re a major league baseball player. If you are, I hate you.

Most people take that to mean we all wake up with a chip on our shoulder and some deep, dark fantasy to spike the water cooler with vodka and poison everyone.

Not true. The truth is much more bland: we all have minor things about our jobs we don’t like. Things that are totally malleable and changeable and won’t cause the whole corporate apparatus to collapse.

Take graphic designers, for example. They’re asked to come up with designs or concepts and execute them. Some of them want to learn a little bit more about front-end web development so that their designs can actually make it to digital projects as they were intended, but they just don’t see a way to make that happen.

Letting your manager know you’re interested in doing that means he/she can help out. It could be as simple as assigning more digital projects to that designer. A small thing, but a good starting point to help get them to their goal.

Or say you are a project manager but you’re really interested in analytics. So you tell your boss that you have a deep interest in that and you’d love to learn how Tableau works. Your manager can figure out who has a license and maybe you can share with someone else who rarely uses the software.

Boom. Something tiny that can inch you towards your goals.

These may seem like small things, but when you express what you want and your manager helps get you there, you’re in control. Of your job. Your career. And by extension, your lfe. And that’s going to make you happier and more satisfied.

Things You Hate

Then there are the things you really do hate about your job. Instead of tweaks you’d like to make, these are the things that REALLY frustrate you. The things that you tell your friends before you even order the first drink at the bar.

And other than the “I hate my boss because he’s a jerk” type of comment, you should figure out how to express these things that make your job a living hell and communicate that in your review.

With tact, of course.

If it’s not having enough time to complete tasks, mention that you feel like you’re rushed a lot and that means you aren’t able to do your best work.

If it’s not having the right equipment or tools, same thing.

NO ONE will fault you for not having what you need to do the best job you can.

Just make sure it doesn’t come off as whining. Be constructive.

Some of you love to complain. You love to be the martyrs. Well, you’re wasting your time. You’ll stay in this loop where your job drives you crazy, you complain non stop, and nothing ever changes. Years go by and then you get bitter and angry and then you turn into creepy Rob Lowe.

Don’t turn into creepy Rob Lowe.

A Word on Goals

Goals are a big part of the review process. You set new goals for the year and then recap how you did on your goals that were set the year before.

Goals give you something to point to and a compass with which to navigate the rest of the year. PICK THEM CAREFULLY. Four months later, you should pull these out and figure out how you’re going to go about completing those goals.

If your goal was to establish a new process, then you need to have a plan to get you there. If the goal is to get some certification, figure out the cost, the steps involved, and then go get certified. You’ll have to plan and then execute that plan to achieve your goals. They won’t just happen.

This goes back to having control of what you do and what you work on when you go to the office every day. It will empower you. it will make you feel like you are in the driver’s seat.

You’ll have a better shot at being happy when you go to work.

You’ll also find out how hard and important it is to set goals.

What Other pople think

In my opinion, the most valuable part of the process is getting to hear what your coworkers have to say about you. You’ll get to hear (in)directly from the people you work with, especially those in different groups than your own.

This feedback is crucial—because it’s anonymized you shouldn’t have to worry about ulterior motives. It’s just good, honest feedback.

Usually, it gets broken down into the good and the bad. The good is nice to hear and interesting and all, but the bad is where the money is (of the “things to work on” for those of you that support the removal of dodge ball from schools). If you really want to get better and become a master at what you do, you need to pay close attention to those negatives.

Maybe you’ll hear things that you’re already aware of, but odds are you’ll hear something that totally catches you off guard. PAY ATTENTION TO THESE THINGS. Don’t just shrug it off and say, “I know who that was, he/she is a jerk!”

There’s some truth to all of these things and it’s up to you to come back in a year and address those issues.

This is a chance to get better at what you do by taking constructive feedback head on. It should be one of your goals to fix these things.

Reviews are What you Make of Them

Yes, it’s a cheesy line, but it’s true. If you’re really motivated to become better at your job and at dealing with other people, this is a great opportunity to do just that. If you’re jaded and couldn’t care less, how did you make it through 1300 words about annual reviews?

And if you’re company sucks and it’s obvious they’re just going through the motions on this, then make it your own project where you’re the one driving. Get the feedback you need to get and turn it into something you can use for yourself, regardless of what they do with it.

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