By Chad Broadus

Can we just admit one thing before we start? I mean, just between you and me? In most companies, the annual review is an exercise in corporate kabuki theater. You fill out a little form, your boss fills out a little form, you and your boss discuss the little form, and hopefully you get a cost of living increase at the end of the process. Your boss then tosses the form into the dusty recesses of the HR bin and never thinks about it again - ever. The next year, you go through the same process all over again. 

Performance Review RevolutionIn the course of my career, I've come across just one exception to this annual ritual. At Whole Foods Market, they didn't have "annual reviews," "performance reviews," any other etymological construction that gave the impression that you were on trial. It was called a "Job Dialog," and it was just that: a dialog about your job. There was still an annual discussion, but it was backed up by a quarterly check-in to keep the dialog going. And, it actually worked. If anything was slipping, you didn't have to wait a whole year to figure it out and note it.  Corrective action could be taken much earlier. If something was stuck in your craw, you didn't have to wait so long to get it off your chest. I believe the process led to better overall relationships between team leaders and team members, and higher job satisfaction.

So why do you care about my halcyon days at Whole Foods? Because you can get similar results by starting a guerrilla job dialog process within the current framework of your company.

Be Prepared

When your annual review is approaching, take some time to ponder the little form you have to fill out. As we see in the president's annual review (a.k.a, the State of the Union), perception is everything. For each item you're being measured on, cite specific examples of how you met or exceeded the criteria during the previous year. There are probably many small tasks or events that your boss doesn't remember. Be sure to provide a bread crumb trail to your awesomeness zone.

Be Proactive

Beyond the areas covered on the standard review form, make a bullet list of SMART goals and positive things you can accomplish in your circle of influence. Don't overcommit, but make them all a bit of a stretch. Also think about problems and solutions within your sphere of influence.  Before the annual review, share these things with your boss as additional items you'd like to discuss. This will show her that you're thinking holistically about the business and your place in its success.

Be Consistent

After the review, shoot your boss an e-mail every quarter detailing progress on your SMART goals, and all of the ways you're meeting the standard annual review criteria: a little mini version of what was discussed during your review. This will keep your accomplishment fresh in your manager's mind throughout the year.

By subverting the tired old annual review process like this, you'll actually be bringing about some positive change which, by the way, will cast you in the light of the careful planner and doer, the person whose name is always on the tips of management tongues when they need someone who communicates well and gets things done. That's change that can have very nice salary repercussions. Good luck, rebels

Chad Broadus is a tech professional and writer living in the Pacific Northwest.