Changing the boss’s perception

Michael P. Duncan | TLT President's Report January 2020

Make the performance review a conversation and watch productivity soar.

Performance reviews should be positive and productive for both parties.

You may have just had your annual performance review with your boss and perhaps your subordinates (if you are a supervisor). I used to dread these but not so much anymore. 

If you think about it, you really don’t get many chances during the year to tell your boss or your subordinates one on one what you did, how they did, how the team and company performed versus objectives and goals, and what we intend to or need to do tomorrow to succeed.

Performance reviews do not need to be stressful or judgmental; rather, they should be insightful and acknowledge the contribution you as an individual have made to the team and organization. Your boss should be coaching you, and you need to coach the boss during this review. 

I remind my team that “we” win or lose together and that “we” need to get the most productivity out of each other. The performance review should be a positive and productive experience for both parties involved. The best reviews are those not dwelling too much about what has happened (past) but what will happen (focus on the future). 

Most people dread the review process because they are unaware of what their boss is going to say or what aspect of their performance they will review. To help mitigate the suspense, stress and anxiety of a review, ask your boss ahead of time what she is most interested in discussing. Perhaps ask your boss for a list of questions he would like to know more detail about during the review. 

I like the following questions (1):

What accomplishment(s) from the last year are you most proud of?
What performance objectives and goals do you have for the next year?
What development/training goals would you like to set for the next year?
What obstacles stand in your way?
What impact has your performance had on the team? The organization?
How can I improve as your manager? 

In addition, if your company has a self-review form, fill it out and provide to your boss before the meeting. Bosses don’t remember everything their employees do (especially old bosses like me), so now is your chance to remind them. 

A performance review is a perception of how the boss views your progress, efforts and contributions. Sometimes you need to change your boss’s perception of your performance. Remember, it takes 10 of your best days at work to change the boss’s perception of one bad day at work.

Also, before going to your boss with a request for a raise, make sure you can back it up with evidence like:

You had exceptional accomplishments in the past year.
You have additional responsibilities.
You consistently worked long hours to achieve the team’s or company’s goal—no “eight and skate.”
You achieve your goals and objectives on time and on budget.
You solve problems (implement positive change) rather than just point them out.
You fixed a broken process within your organization.
You continue to make yourself better by learning new things and keeping an open mind.
You do what is needed before anyone asks you to do it.
You take vacations but you don’t take days off when you are at work.
You bring positive energy to the team and your work.
You share your knowledge with the team.
You cross the finish line.

Some companies are doing away with annual performance reviews and just having “conversations.” Some are doing them more often (twice a year or even quarterly). Whatever your review period is, it is important to make sure your perception, the boss’s perception and your subordinate’s perception are similar. Feedback on performance, setting and achieving realistic objectives and goals are key to a healthy and productive organization. 

Finally, your boss would likely welcome a list of future goals and objectives from you ahead of time to help focus and prioritize during the review. 

1. Available here.

Mike Duncan is executive vice president of technology of Daubert Chemical Co. in Chicago. You can reach him at