How To Handle Performance Review Anxiety in 5 Steps

Updated June 24, 2022

Feedback can play a key role in helping professionals recognize their achievements and understand how they can grow in their careers. With this, many organizations have adopted the approach of using regular performance reviews to offer employees feedback on their work. While these feedback opportunities can be highly valuable, performance reviews can sometimes cause anxiety for employees who are uncertain about what to expect. In this article, we outline why performance reviews are important, offer a step-by-step guide for handling performance review anxiety and provide tips for completing a performance review successfully.

Related: 10 Tips for Doing Your Best in Performance Reviews

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Why are performance reviews important?

Performance reviews are important because they offer a space for supervisors to provide both positive and constructive feedback to employees. Through this feedback, professionals can gain insight into how well they're currently meeting expectations and how they might improve their performance in the future. With this information, performance reviews can help professionals gain perspective on their past work, set goals for growth, achieve higher-level goals and cultivate success in their careers.

Despite these benefits, though, some professionals experience anxiety when facing an upcoming performance review. This anxiety may be a result of the ambiguity often associated with performance reviews—for instance, if a professional doesn't know what to expect from their supervisor's feedback, they may feel uncertain or nervous in anticipation of the review. While such feelings are common, it's beneficial for professionals to overcome this anxiety and recognize the value that performance reviews provide. Fortunately, there are a few actions professionals can take to move past these emotions and use feedback to strategize growth.

Related: How To Respond to a Negative Performance Review (With Example)

How to handle performance review anxiety

If you're facing an upcoming performance review and feeling anxious about it, there are some essential steps you can take to calm your nerves and move forward with confidence. Here's a step-by-step guide to follow to handle performance anxiety effectively:

1. Prepare yourself

As you approach the date of your performance review, try to prepare yourself for the meeting by reaching out to your supervisor and asking what you can expect. Consider asking your supervisor about what topics they plan to cover in your review and whether they have a template they plan on following. From here, you can gain an understanding of what the review might be like and focus your energy on preparing adequately for the conversation.

Read more: What Is a Performance Review Template?

2. Welcome feedback

To calm your anxiety, it's important that you recognize the value of feedback and welcome it as a part of your professional life. Both positive and constructive feedback can offer you insight into whether you're meeting your supervisor's expectations and how you can improve your performance. With this, feedback opportunities can serve as a useful starting point for your professional development journey through which you can cultivate more long-term success.

3. Remember the purpose of a review

In your preparations, try to remember the purpose of having a performance review. It's likely that your supervisor wants to use this opportunity to offer you feedback so they can celebrate your achievements, help you grow as a professional and support you as you navigate any challenges. It can be helpful to remind yourself of this purpose whenever you feel unsure in anticipation of your review.

4. Set goals for yourself

Before heading into your performance review, set goals for yourself that you can discuss with your supervisor. This activity can help you focus on the future and maintain a growth-oriented mindset. Having predetermined goals you can reference during your review can show your supervisor that you're being proactive about your performance and are invested in your own improvement.

Read more: 10 Effective Goal-Setting Techniques for Achieving Your Goals

5. Use confidence-building strategies

Beyond preparations, you can handle your performance review anxiety by building your confidence and reflecting on all that you've achieved in the time since your last feedback session. Consider making a list of your successes and reviewing it to gain perspective on how much you've accomplished within a specific time frame. This can help you approach your performance review with more self-assurance, even if you expect to receive constructive feedback from your supervisor.

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Tips for completing a performance review

Here are a few tips to consider for completing your performance review successfully:

  • Set an agenda. Prior to your performance review, try to set an agenda for the conversation with your supervisor. If you know what topics your supervisor plans to discuss, you may be able to better prepare for the conversation and approach your review with confidence.

  • Establish a dialogue. During your performance review, it's important to establish a dialogue and allow the conversation to flow both ways. You can offer your input to your supervisor by reflecting on your own performance and setting goals you want to work toward in the future.

  • Keep an open mind. As you listen to your supervisor's feedback, try to keep an open mind and be willing to listen to their perspective. This is especially important if your supervisor offers constructive feedback—try to respond positively and remain open to growth, even if you feel the impulse to defend your performance.

  • Ask questions. After your supervisor finishes offering you feedback, they may give you the opportunity to ask questions about your review. Use this opportunity to gain more insight into your supervisor's perspective and ask for clear direction about how you can better meet expectations.

  • Solicit feedback more regularly in the future. If you often feel anxiety leading up to performance reviews, you can try to overcome these emotions by soliciting feedback more regularly in the future. With more frequent check-ins about your performance, you can gain an understanding of your supervisor's perspective in real-time and better know what to expect when standard reviews occur.

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