Performance Reviews

15 things that you should never say in performance reviews

By on October 5, 2018

Millennials hate performance reviews. Yet reviews continue to be a part of many organizations where every employee has to go through with the process. Not everyone is thrilled due to some of the negative aspects attached to it. It is natural for employees to get nervous and inadvertently say things they normally wouldn’t. We have compiled a list of statements and questions that MUST be categorically avoided in performance reviews.

Here’s What Not to Say in a Performance Review

Getting nervous during the performance review process is very, very common. Not just the team members who are getting evaluated by their managers, but even the managers responsible for the said performance evaluation too. Understandably, this anxiousness that has been built up over years of annual reviews, can do more harm unless managers know how to handle certain questions that might make them uncomfortable. Here are 15 of them:

1. Why should I have done it if it was not my responsibility?

Although it may not have been your responsibility or in the job description, there is a tactful way of expressing your sentiment. If you start speaking defensively, the message that goes out is you are trying to cover up for shirking your responsibilities. Managers have multiple direct reports, so at times it gets difficult for them to keep track of who is responsible for what parts of the work.

In such cases, if you are wrongly accused of not performing tasks that you weren’t supposed to, take a stand. Be assertive, firm yet polite when explaining how this was not a part of your action list and should have been taken care of by those responsible for it.

On a side note, if it is within your skill set, it is prudent to help out your teammates without compromising on your responsibilities. Some day, they too can help you out wherever possible and return the favor

2. I worked harder than my teammates so why do they get all the credit?

Working harder than your teammates does not automatically make you liable to get all the credit. Comparison of who is working harder can be quite subjective. The real question is, who is consistently getting results and delivering as expected? Your teammate may not be working harder but smarter and thus getting more done in a lesser amount of time. e.g. this kind of situation usually arises with skilled salespeople who appear to be more successful than some of their harder working teammates.

You need to determine to what extent your goals are achieved and then put forward your case. The competition with your teammates should be healthy where you push each other to achieve more success. In the end, it is the entire team that is going to benefit out of this collaboration.

3. It wasn’t me but really my team’s efforts.

Okay yes, it may have been a team effort. But when you are being specifically appreciated for all your efforts, acknowledge that compliment. It means your manager has spotted that extra bit of effort or creativity that you put in your work. By giving the entire credit to your team you are doing 2 things:

  • One is you are undermining your manager’s judgement
  • Second is you are sabotaging your own chances of growth

Upon being complimented, thank your manager and assure them that you intend to maintain this enthusiasm level in all your endeavors.

4. But isn’t this what you said/did/wrote?

When you say things like, “but this is what you said or did or wrote” you are accusing your manager of saying, doing or writing something and then not delivering as suggested.

You do not want to argue with your colleagues (definitely, not with the manager) but communicate with them about the misunderstanding of expectations that were set. Instead you could say, “I believe there is some confusion as this is much different compared to what we had discussed”. Also, due to exactly these situations, it is best to document all expectations carefully so that they can be recalled whenever required to clear the confusion.

5. Shouldn’t I get a raise now?

Performance review is not conducted for you to demand a raise. Instead it is an opportunity for you to demonstrate how your performance helped the team and subsequently the company. Your actions should prove why you deserve a raise. When you meet your goals and exceed expectations, you are able to show your value to the organization.

Of course, if the manager still does not acknowledge your accomplishments, then it is definitely time to move on to places where your skills and efforts are better appreciated.

6. What about A or B’s performance?

Your performance reviews are specifically about your performance and not your colleagues’. How they have fared during the employee review period does not concern you. If you ask such questions, it gives out the message that you are trying to pull down your colleagues and shows you in a negative light. Your manager may also get the impression that you are trying to avoid the real issues or putting the blame on others for your shortcomings.

If you have any concerns about your teammates or their performance then discuss it separately with your manager in a professional and ethical manner. You are not trying to throw them under the bus but simply getting everyone to follow the same set of standards, and ensuring all-round professional development in the company.

7. It is not something I’m good at so avoid it actively.

Statements like these show that you are not willing to take up challenges and want to stay in your comfort zone. But you cannot grow and develop without getting out of this zone. You need to take on challenges and responsibilities no matter how much they scare you. That is, you need to get out of the fixed mindset and develop a growth mindset if you want to succeed in your career.

8. That wasn’t my fault

Defending oneself is second nature to human beings, and it is easy to take help of this phrase to shield oneself from future ramifications. But this line can be interpreted as unwillingness to contribute or being a team player, neither of which might be true. A top performer would provide ways to manage the situation, and not take refuge behind this sentence.

9. Saying Yes to everything

Saying Yes too quickly to the feedback provided by managers can seriously hinder the learning opportunities in front of an employee. By carefully considering the point put forward by the employees or managers, we can come up with valid reasons to follow up.

10. “But…”

There are better ways to bring an action item in front of the meeting attendees. Using ‘But’ to any suggestions made by others might come across as pessimistic. Borrowing the ‘Yes, and..’ structure from the world of improv instead, can lead to many fruitful discussions where everyone is eager to add to the existing list of suggestions or ideas.

11. “This isn’t fair”

Using subjectives that can be interpreted in multiple ways can do a lot of harm to an employee’s career prospects. Instead of saying something isn’t ‘Fair’, defining what ‘fair’ is with facts and numbers (if possible) can make the manager think about important results that might have gone under the radar.

12. “That’s not part of my job description”

The era of strictly defined job descriptions is on its way out, as more and more youngsters entering the workforce want to try their hand at different aspects of their work. Being a team player and saying something on the lines of “I wasn’t aware of ___ being my duty, but I can take it on” not only eases the pressure on the managers, but also allows them to oversee it and provide help if necessary.

13. “I know”

A statement like “I know” can sound defensive to managers, especially when they’re trying to give constructive feedback. Following that ‘I know’ with a strong course of remedial action, however, shows the manager that you take initiative to get better, and they can help according to the need of the hour.

14. “In my last review – ”

Bringing up unsolved issues from previous meetings in the current one on one setting, especially when they are not part of the set agenda, sounds a lot like settling scores. If there is a grievance that hasn’t been addressed, it can be bought up at a later stage. Keeping the performance review focused on improving the employee’s efficiency and effectiveness can alleviate this, as employees will not hesitate to bring issues to their manager’s notice immediately.

15. Overpromising

It is important to see the performance review process for what it is – a chance to grow, and not impress the manager with loads of work and promises of more. This unhealthy habit leads to burnouts and puts extra strain on the rest of the team (and managers).

Once you accept these challenges, your manager will be more than happy to help you whenever and wherever you get stuck.

To take this further, we’ve also collated a list of phrases helpful in employee reviews. Let us know if we’ve missed out on any.

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