What happens in December?
Yes, the cubicles are decked with boughs of holly. Yes, feelings of comfort and joy radiate from everyone gathered around the warmth of the snack machine. Yes, you dream about the big bonuses your bosses are going to receive and you're not.
Of course, there is one very special gift that you will get from your employer. It isn't a bonus or a raise or even a turkey. It's much more personal.
It's your end-of-year performance review!
What a welcome gift it is — an objective, totally balanced assessment of your accomplishments over the last 12 months, with festive ideas for how you and the company can be even more simpatico in the next year.
Unless, of course, you're getting fired.
Performance reviews come in two flavors — positive and negative. Since the chance you will get a positive review is zero-point-zero, you probably should be spending the 10 days of Christmas and the eight days of Hanukkah preparing for the worst.
One good place to start is a recent post on Forbes by Caroline Ceniza-Levine. "How to Prepare for a Performance Review, Part 1: If You Expect A Negative Evaluation."
Ceniza-Levine discusses many of the reasons to expect a highly nugatory review and provides strategies for responding to each one. Or, in your case, all of them.
One reason you could get a negative eval is that "you made an obvious mistake on the job."
(Let's agree that it is useless to deny that you made the mistake, though you could take a flier at blaming the blunder on a co-worker, preferably someone who is on a holiday vacation and isn't there to defend themselves.)
The correct response? "Be ready with a plan for how the mistake will not happen again." Tell the reviewer that you have signed up for a training course. It could be a class in communications skills or workflow processes, but I strongly recommend you sign up with Abrakadoodle, a source for charming classes designed to teach 6-year-olds how to make art.
You may think it's silly, but giving your manager a desk organizer made of hand-painted egg cartons and decoupaged toilet paper tubes could save you from the gallows.
Another reason to expect a bad review is because "you have not met your success metrics."
Metrics are evil.
You can make excuses if your sales figures have gone into the dumper, but it is almost impossible to save yourself when the company starts throwing around statistics like ninja throwing stars. You're cooked.
Or are you? "Don't assume that just because you didn't meet expectations that the company will not help you" writes Ceniza-Levine.
What we're talking about here is "outplacement support." Your manager could suggest leads or even make introductions to possible employers. In your dreams, that is. Your support will consist of having security carry your boxes to the curb. If you're lucky, they may dump your boxes in front of a festive window display, or reserve a place to spend the holidays living under an overpass.
Now that's holiday spirit.
"Your boss has been critical" is another reason to prepare for a bad review. This is easier to do if the boss's criticisms are specific, like "you're an idiot" or "your face makes me puke."
Generalized criticisms are more difficult to parry, but it can be done. Our author suggests you "ask for clarity at the review (ideally beforehand but certainly by review time.)"
Given your dim bulb of a manager, you may have to ask multiple times. If you do survive the review, stick your head in your manager's office several times a day to ask, "Do you like me now?"
It may sound intrusive, but after a year of this, your manager will be delighted to write a glowing review, just to get you to stop bugging them.
The fact that "the company is making changes" is also a valid reason for expecting a negative review. They may be trying to clear the decks in order to replace you with a new person, or, more likely, a new app. It is also possible that your manager is about to get chopped, and wants to spread the gloom.
This is a difficult situation and you may have to use the ultimate weapon in responding to a negative review.
Start crying. If that doesn't work, start packing.
In annual review season, spaces under the overpass go quickly. You'll want to get yours early.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at creators.com.