Should you tell the truth in a performance review? Does management want honesty?

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As we reach the end of another financial year, most of us will be critically assessed on our performance over the year. It’s supposed to be a formal way for both you and your employer to mutually agree on how to nurture you to work at peak efficiency over the next 12 months.

We are all encouraged to examine both sides of the work relationship. The employer tells you where there is scope for improvement and conversely asks you what management can do to help you perform better. In theory, it is a useful tool for the parties to gain valuable feedback on how to progress and grow the business together.

The truth worked for her…

A close friend of mine recently returned to work after having a child. Ideally she wanted to go back part-time, but got a fantastic full-time offer that she couldn’t refuse. She loves her job and has a great manager with whom she has forged a good friendship. However, the hours are beginning to overwhelm her, so when her probationary review came up, her boss asked if there was anything he could do to ensure her happiness and long-term employment.

She said she would like to work one less day a week and was immediately accommodated. Now she couldn’t be happier working in this office paradise and told me that being honest and open in her professional communication was the best policy she could have adopted.

This inspired me. So when filling out my own review forms, I thought I would do the same thing. I noted some things that I thought would help foster a better working relationship with my manager in the hope that he would take my comments on board and discuss them at my review. I kept my remarks professional and non-personal.

… but it didn’t work for me

Big mistake. Actually, huge mistake. I couldn’t have predicted a worse outcome if I tried. Not only did my boss take my statements personally, he repeated them to my colleagues. Moreover, since then, he has become extremely nasty. He has begun gossiping about me, and those comments always come back to me. He has taken work off me, which has ultimately also punished those in my team.

This was not the outcome I had hoped for, and it has made me think twice about whether voicing my concerns will actually help my career aspirations.

But is my experience an exception? Or do most managers react badly when advised of what they can do to help grow the careers of their subordinates? And if so, why invite questions from staff if you won’t be happy with what they might say?

Isn’t the performance review about creating a better working environment for all? The sad thing is I really thought this would make things work out better for both of us. Instead, it has led to a vicious cycle of gossip which he refuses to talk about with me.

The Inbetweener is a financial professional in Australia. The views expressed are her own and not those of eFinancialCareers.


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