A little bit of pre-work can go a long way in regards to an annual eval. You will find that by investing in some of these steps not only will it set you up for the conversation with your supervisor it will also help relieve some of the angst you may naturally feel. In the last installment, we focused on how to prepare and in this post, we want to look at handle feedback in the review itself. It may sound odd but getting ready to receive feedback is a part of the preparation process.

Before the review, you will want to think through what type of feedback you might receive. Mentally process it several times by seeing it in your mind’s eye. This will help you to be better able to control both voluntary and involuntary responses. It is being caught off-guard that often puts us in positions where we cannot be our best. Even if you don’t anticipate a difficult conversation you should go into every review expecting to get some type of critical feedback. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, a supervisor who desires your growth should be seeking to offer something constructive for your professional development. Being mentally prepared for possible critical input beforehand and thinking through what it might be will help you to both process the feedback when it comes and help you be able to keep a professional appearance during it.

You will want to be prepared to handle feedback well. This is key because you don’t want your supervisor to sense a defensiveness that will inhibit them from sharing something potentially important with you. In other words, if they sense you are not receptive to feedback they may back off and not say all they want to say. This will hurt you in that 1) you won’t get the info and 2) they won’t believe you are coachable. Both of these perceptions will hurt your ability for future opportunities. Instead of being tense and defensive, seek to practice these principles:

Remember: Constructive critical feedback is a blueprint for success. Do you think most football coaches would win most of their games if they had the other team’s playbook before the game? Constructive feedback is much knowing the other team’s plays. When a supervisor gives you feedback they are giving you direct insight into work behaviors they value. Paying attention to these will help you stay in alignment with what they are looking for in the workplace.

Embrace the discomfort: Recognize and understand critical feedback is universally uncomfortable. We all desire to please authority figures. At a physiological level, the natural stress engages your brain’s limbic system to trigger rises in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. This is why it’s important to think through these situations beforehand, it helps you not be surprised. It’s interesting to note that the supervisor is likely initially as uncomfortable as you. Your response is key to lower the pressure in the room and help the next steps to go well.

Watch your body language: Whether we intend or not, we give off signals through the way we hold ourselves. Be conscious of this during feedback as others pick up on it. Avoiding positive eye contact, crossing arms, and slumping in your chair all give off signals you are not listening and engaged. As mentioned earlier this might mean something important is not said if they sense you are not receiving it.

Take notes: Actively jot down notes as input is shared with you. This helps you to look receptive to constructive coaching as well as serve to direct some of your naturally nervous energy toward something productive.

Seek advice, clarify what you heard without rationalizing: Don’t be afraid to ask how you might put into place some of their coaching. This can be productive as long as it is done from a posture of seeking understanding. This generally isn’t a time to try to rationalize your behaviors as this mostly likely will come across as being defensive. Instead frame questions that help you understand what they are looking for while helping them to understand your situation. Getting their best thinking on your challenges allows them to preview some difficult places they may not realize you find yourself while engaging them on finding ways to solve the dilemma in ways they see as positive.

Thank them for being honest: This simple action bring great closure to a difficult conversation. Even if it was not necessarily what you wanted to hear the chances are you can still benefit from it. Thanking the person for being honest with you will help make sure the pathways of conversation stay open in the future.

Annual reviews are naturally a time that make many understandably uncomfortable and nervous. They can also, however, be an important part of how we improve our work and align our expectations with the work and behaviors our supervisors are seeking. Paying close attention to feedback and putting it into place is an important aspect toward being able to grow our influence in the workplace.