Chronic Communication at Work: Your Annual Review

I don’t know very many people who look forward to their annual reviews at their job. Sure, it might be tied to a salary increase.  But on the other hand, if you work for a company that makes you fill out a form with your goals and objectives, that can be a real pain.  And then you have to sit through that meeting, which might include getting praise for your performance over the past year.  Not so bad.  But you might get some criticism as well.  And depending on your boss’s delivery, that might be hard to listen to.


It has been my experience that individuals who are living with a chronic condition have additional concerns as they approach their annual review, depending on their condition and how it impacts their life.


How has the past year at work gone for you?


Maybe you’ve had a few more days when you weren’t on your A-game or couldn’t come into work at all. Or a few comments or questions from co-workers, or your boss, about your health.  And maybe a few questions in the back of your mind about what your boss may be thinking about your chronic condition but not saying.


Here are some ideas about how to make the best of your annual review:


Keep it positive.  Approach your annual review as an opportunity to talk to your boss about what’s been going well over the past year, and to discuss the year ahead.  Remember that your expectations for how the review may be written all over your face, whether this is your intent or not.  So go in with a positive attitude.


Focus on your strengths.  Do some brainstorming with yourself on what you think you have accomplished over the past year, the big wins and the small ones.  Make a list.  You might ask your partner or a friend to go over it with you.  Once you have listed your strengths, make sure they are reflected in any paperwork you have to complete before your review, as well as during the review itself.  Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.


Keep to the evidence.   Identify specific accomplishments that your boss will understand and appreciate.  Cite evidence that clearly supports your strengths and, where possible, identifies your unique contribution.


Watch how you frame any shortcomings.  Some annual review forms include goals for the coming year, which might include any areas that you want or need to work on.  Identify goals related to your work responsibilities, and keep them both realistic and positive.  Describe any areas you think you need more work on as opportunities for making a great contribution, not fixing yourself.  Let your boss identify any shortcomings.


You don’t need to identify goals related to managing your chronic condition.  No need to raise red flags here.  Focus on goals that will benefit your department and company.  And make sure these are goals that you feel are achievable, keeping any limitations that your chronic condition places on you in mind as you create them.


Be willing to listen.  Your review is an opportunity to talk with your boss about the coming year and how you can best contribute.  Think of this as a learning opportunity.  And listen in an open – and non-defensive – manner, as much as possible.  Remember you both share the goal of working for a successful organization.


Avoid making assumptions.  It’s only natural to try to read between the lines of what he/she says during the review.  Be careful about assuming that your boss is implying anything about your chronic condition, e.g. that it is a problem in some way or that you are being singled out.


Your chronic condition is your business. If you have discussed this before, then it doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room.  But you are in control here.  If it comes up, ask your boss to clarify any concerns he/she may have.  And use this as an opportunity to educate your boss about your condition, if needed.  Come prepared with solutions.


Know your rights.  This may be a time to review your employee manual to make sure you are aware of your company’s policies regarding annual reviews.  If you are receiving any accommodations for your condition, this would also be a good time to review the agreement you have with your company.  No so much because you are expecting trouble but to give you some additional confidence.


You, your boss, and your annual review. And opportunity to showcase your strengths.  To listen.  And to collaborate on making the best of the year ahead.