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Terri Dean knew that she found a place to call her own the moment she stepped through the doors of her company for the first time. Today, she is president of Verizon Connected Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Verizon that is responsible for residential and small business installation and repair operations in six states. During her 26 years with the company, an important part of her ascent up the corporate ladder has been a series of positive workplace performance evaluations.
During the early years of her employment, Dean, like many others, held the preconceived notion that her boss followed all her actions. She came to realize that her supervisor has little time to keep up with every detail of her daily activities.
“I had to learn to sit down early in the year with my boss and document objectives for the year and quarterly touch base to see how things were going,” she explains.
Dean also learned the importance of having a clear understanding of her role in any given situation. “I was working for an executive and was asked to support someone on his behalf,” Dean recalls. When she received her evaluation, Dean was told that she wasn’t verbal enough during several meetings. “I thought my role was to support not to participate.”
It is also important to get a clear understanding of the company’s values, your job’s objectives, and how performance is measured so that evaluations don’t come as a surprise. According to Joi Spraggins, president and CEO of Global Perspectives Inc., a human resources and organizational development firm with headquarters in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, you and your supervisor should come up with an action plan including strategies of how you hope to accomplish your goals.
You should also be mindful of other informal (unwritten and unspoken) values, says David Thomas, professor of business administration of the Harvard Business School. “My observation is that most professionals are pretty savvy, but often do not understand subtleties. You have to get more data about the culture of the organization than just asking questions,” says Thomas.
If the lines of communication have been open and the goals and values clearly established, Spraggins says that you and your boss should know the answers to the following questions:
- What am I expected to do?
- How well am I doing?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- How can I do a better job?
- How can I contribute more?
- How well am I doing?
What to Do When You Disagree
If you’ve followed all recommendations, but learn during your evaluation that you and your supervisor disagree, support your point with examples of your work. “You want to create a conversation where you give your side with data and assumptions,” offers Thomas. “You should not have the goal of changing a manager’s mind. That leads to an explosive situation.” Set a date and time for another meeting to reflect on what was said. “Have the next conversation before you submit anything in writing,” urges Thomas.
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