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What is a Performance Review?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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In school, each quarter or semester, you received grades, indicating how well you did in meeting the teacher’s objectives and the standards set by the teacher for learning the material. These may have been happy times, with grades that truly reflected your performance, or they may have been fraught with tension as to whether you were going to pass a class. In either case, these early experiences of being graded are not that different from the performance review, a regular occurrence in the workplace, where a manager or supervisor formally or informally judges your work performance over a specified period of time. In some cases, favorable performance reviews may be met with raises or promotions while unfavorable ones can help employees correct problems or errors with their work.

It is generally standard for a performance review to be conducted on a yearly basis. Some companies may have less formal ones more frequently. These monthly or quarterly check-ins can be beneficial to employees who are having trouble in the work environment because it gives them consistent feedback on the areas in which they need to improve.

For the employee who is not performing at peak capacity, the yearly performance review may be too long to wait to comment on areas the employee needs to change. Sometimes employers will conduct performance reviews on an “as needed” basis. Thus an employee who is doing something requiring correction will get feedback sooner so that they tailor their skills to better enhance performance.

A performance review may assess several aspects of your work, such as:

  • Work performance—Did you meet goals, work up to the standards set by the employer, be as productive as the company demanded, etc?
  • Working relationships—Did you maintain good and professional relationships with co-workers, subordinates, and managers?
  • Basic Job Skills—Did you attend work regularly, on time, and conform to dress code, etc?

As employers prepare for a performance review, employees should prepare too. If the review is a yearly one, it’s a good idea to think and make a list of concrete examples that show where your performance has met or exceeded the company’s standards in the last year. It’s also probably beneficial to acknowledge any mistakes you’ve made so you’re prepared for these if they are mentioned in a review. You might think of ways, if you’ve made mistakes that you’ve improved since that time, as these may help you to defend yourself against an extremely negative performance review.

It can be difficult to receive a negative performance review, and though it is tempting to react immediately to it, you should give yourself a cool down time before reacting or offering any defense of your actions. It’s too easy to be angry and sound unreasonable if you immediately start to defend yourself. Instead, take a day or two to read over the review and do some self-searching to decide whether any criticisms are justified.

If in a day or two, the critiques still do not seem to reflect your job performance, write a reasoned defense citing specific examples of your performance. Keep the tone professional and non-confrontational, and make your argument primarily through concrete examples of how certain criticisms were not true. In a large company, sometimes a person does receive an undeserved negative review. It matters very much how professionally you state your objections to unfair critiques if you hope to change an employer’s opinion of you. When criticisms are justified, do take these in the manner they are offered: as a learning opportunity to help you enhance work performance.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon90985 — On Jun 19, 2010

Thank you.

By anon68527 — On Mar 03, 2010

Thanks very much for this information, it has cleared my queries.

By anon63325 — On Feb 01, 2010

thank you. i got exactly what i was looking for.

By anon5701 — On Dec 04, 2007

very informative, just what am looking for. thanks!

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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