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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Performance Reviews – Make the Most of Them

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It’s the season of the performance reviews (at least in Australia).  And yet my heart is not filled with great joy – mine, and basically everyone else’s who has to have an appraisal of their performance by their superiors or peers.  Partly it’s because law firms aren’t very good at this process, and partly it’s just because…

Nobody Likes Performance Reviews

I get it, I really do.  The thought of “self-assessing” and then having somebody mark you down even harder is quite disheartening.  Add to that the absolute truth that performance reviews are connected with your salary (don’t let anybody tell you otherwise – they are) and you have a big pile of stress from the moment you get your forms to complete up until the point you walk out the door.

And Yet there is Hope

Despite the down side, and the manner in which law firms traditionally conduct their performance reviews, I remain hopefully that the performance review process for you, this year, can be a beneficial one.


Because you’re reading this article, and I”m going to try and help you out with some tips to get the most out of your performance reviews.

First – Absolute Honesty Only Please

Yes, you’ve heard it before so I’ll start with the trite.  Performance reviews are an opportunity for you to actually look at where you are good, and where you are not.

Nobody likes feedback.  In fact, getting honest feedback is something many lawyers dread, which is why they constantly ignore the sage advice of consultants everywhere to conduct meaningful client surveys.  But that’s a topic for another day.

The reason that performance reviews are confronting is that you can’t delude yourself out of your faults when faced with somebody saying them out aloud.  You can’t rationalise, deflect or fight back against your boss who is calling you out on something that you were hoping they didn’t know about.

That’s why people don’t like performance reviews, and yet it’s also the starting point of how to get the most out of them.  Absolutely honesty with yourself, and expect absolutely honesty from your reviewer.  Anything less is a waste of time.

Next – Be Happy about the Good Things

Most people have a tendency to focus on the negative out of their reviews and stress about them, without reflecting on the positives that are inevitably there as well.  Unless you are fundamentally useless (which I doubt) performance reviews are likely to be a balancing act of complement and criticism.  If the complements outweigh the criticisms in number and importance, then you’re doing well.

Don’t forget that part, because it is something to be happy about – your hard work in those areas is being appreciated, articulated and identified by your bosses.

Now Deal with the Negatives

This is the part we don’t like, and the part we are least equipped to deal with.

There are two options – you agree with the criticisms made of you, or you don’t.  For this post I’m going to assume that you know them to be true (absolute honesty, remember) or at least accept that your boss thinks they are true.

So what next?  Most people walk out of their review happy to still have a job.  However if you want to really get the most out of your review you need to action the negatives as well.  Law firm’s aren’t often very good at this so you’re probably going to need to take responsibility for yourself.

Here’s how:

  • articulate the problem;
  • describe to yourself what the solution looks like – remember you can’t work toward a goal unless you know what it is;
  • starting one new habit at a time, implement new behaviors in your life that will work on that issue.  If it’s a small issue this might be easy, but if it’s a big issue if might be a longer journey – but stick with it, and at your next performance review you can know that you’ve dealt with those issues, and are ready to take on some more (constant improvement, remember).

That’s my contribution for today to review season – good luck with yours!

Happy Lawyering!

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