How do you prepare for end of year reviews?

Strange day as it is my end of year review. I always find these strange having someone sit in judgement of you for your year’s work. In my reasonably lengthy testing career I’ve reacted by ignoring them (in a situation set up where I couldn’t win so I didn’t play). Gamifying them (points for x mean I do x over what’s best first and best second). Laughed at my line manager over the scores (not very professional but it was a week before leaving a company, made not difference and I didn’t want to do it as I wasn’t interested (bad breakup) and what they put was totally ridiculous). Oh, and general prep of course.
It has made me be an evidence collector so I have a monthly success list where I jot down all my wins no matter big or small. I go through them at the end of the month and align them to goals and objectives to build up my evidence bank.
I’m curious about how others have experienced this process, approaches etc. I’m sure there will be some great tips and maybe an odd horror story?


Oh, boy. I’ve worked with the same team for the last 10 years (despite 2 name changes and 2 acquisitions) and never had the same review experience twice.

The current setup is self-defined goals which you align to company objectives and then you and your manager decide whether or not you met them or exceeded them. It’s not too bad, except that I’m really not good at defining goals.

In all honesty I tend to treat reviews as a bit of a game. It’s a tiny team, so my manager knows very well how I’m doing since we’re in as close to constant communication as we can be. We fit things into the formal process whatever it happens to be and adjust accordingly.


At my org, we now have a two day review panel with all of the engineering leaders (a group of 10 or so) where we review a general summary about each person, where they landed as far as meeting, exceeding, or setting a new standard, and discuss why we think they should or should not be promoted. It acts as a level set to remove some bias and frankly has been super helpful in making sure we’re fair as previously bias meant some people were passed on who deserved better reviews or promotions. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress

For me personally, I keep a running list of all the things I have done vs goals set at the beginning of the review period and make sure throughout the period that I am checking in each month with a growth plan against my goals. I also ask for regular feedback from others I work with frequently and so far, have had very few surprises. It can certainly be a scary time though of anxiety as you never know.

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I’ve been on review panels called calibration sessions where we plot people based on their scores and see if it makes sense so sounds similar. Definitely better than a single voice judging you.

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It depends on what the goal of the exercise is for them and what the goal of the exercise is for me.

The most successful review systems I’ve been a part of is where they state what they want and we discuss what is possible, what is partially possible, what is true and what is not and share perspectives. Then I state what I want and we have a similar discussion. Then we establish some sort of consent about what we’re doing going forward. This only works with sympathetic people both working towards a common good.

If I’m going to be judged by other people with no explicit benefit to myself other than what I am paid then I will try to listen, decide what is fair and state what I am going to do. I’ve always been lucky enough to have a safety net and be connected enough to work elsewhere, and I’m also good enough that only a very special kind of person would want to lose me - because I tend to work under my worth and I genuinely care about the work I do. People are worse judges of others than they think they are. If you’d like to see how to create any narrative out of samples of a story, here’s an invaluable (if low res) video on creative lying with edits.

If it’s number based I’m happy to fight with that. Using numbers to judge people, especially ignorant of how to even approach such a thing, is immoral and destructive. It is used mainly to justify poor management ability, cover themselves legally and for bullying, bigotry, racism, sexism and intimidation. I’m happy to point these things out to anyone who does this, and leave a company that works hard to destroy my morale and the morale of people I work with. “Your motivation is at a 2” is the fastest way to make it a 1.

We’re all there to work together. I’m happy to try to do a good job, and I feel like I’m paid to improve myself and how I work, but I need to align with the values of the company and the company need to align with the values of me because I’m not going to become a different person or be made to feel inadequate because they don’t like something about me.

Usually for any decent review I have notes from the last review, which I will look at. I’ll try to reflect on the time since the last review and make notes on what I feel as I sit on my own, rather than negotiate it with someone watching. I’ll collect notes on events, and also try to collate some things I did that went above and beyond so that I can make them visible. Being great and being seen to be great are different. I’ll pull together questions I might have, and I can ask for personal introductions to be made at a higher level in case I need to talk to someone else in the company I haven’t met yet.

If the review is not decent and has refused to improve or adapt over time then I prepare defensively. Bringing evidence to show the judge how impaired their perspective might be. This helps make the review shorter because I become difficult to deal with, which makes me happier and more productive. I will also wear a collared shirt, because suddenly dressing better makes management nervous.

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