As the year begins to wind down, the ever-pending calendar invite for your annual review looms nearby. Is this the year that you finally break the ceiling from 2% to 3% on your annual raise? Did you qualify for any bonuses this year? Let’s dive into the review season and some great answers to keep in your back pocket when the question, “do you feel you met your goals this year” comes knocking.

Navigating the Employee Review

It’s very common for employees to have expectations that may not align with their manager’s and vice versa. These types of conversations typically come with some uncomfortable spaces to navigate, but you can prepare and successfully get you through it.

Start with a baseline of expectations and a clear understanding of what you want out of the discussion. Are you looking for a raise/promotion or maybe some constructive feedback? It’s best to stay realistic on what you were able to accomplish and how you can present your yearly work. Staying realistic can help you have an honest self-check-in and keep your expectations managed. Stay strong in your conviction with knowing your worth, while being able to successfully speak to your strengths and passions! Remember, only you have the best knowledge on what you’ve worked on and accomplished. So, bring that list to your review to guide the conversation.

In most Corporate America culture, managers often feel the need to spend more time on the areas you COULD IMPROVE on, rather than highlighting all the ways in which you EXCELLED. If that happens to you this year, I would strongly advise you to search for positives within the critique to see if it is truly constructive feedback to help you next year. If you feel there is merit, and you’re open to making adjustments, take the feedback as though your friend just gave you the cheat codes to the next level! Recognizing there is room for growth shows maturity and independence. However, if you feel that the feedback is anything less than constructive or productive, it’s okay to smile through the moment and get the conversation over with. Once it’s over, you have the decision power on whether you feel as though your work was valued and/or if you know there are other places that would value your worth. Nothing says “New year, new me” like a NEW JOB!


Why does it seem like every review always starts off with the manager saying, “Do you feel you’ve met your goals this year?” I don’t know Linda, do YOU feel like I met my goals this year? Because let’s face it… what Linda thinks is what’s going to drive your bonus/raise/promotion in this conversation. So let’s have some ready to go phrases to show Linda that yes you did meet your goals, and surpassed them.

Q: “Do you feel you’ve met your goals this year?”

  1. “I love the goals that we set together for myself last year. They allowed me creativity and to showcase some of my best work. As you can see, here are some of the biggest successes from the year…….”
  2. “I would appreciate if we could go through the list together that I created last year so I can highlight for you the hard work I’ve been doing……”
  3. “I am glad you asked that question because I have come prepared with examples for each goal that I have met and surpassed….”

Q: “Where do you feel you could have been more productive this year?”

  1. “That’s a great question and I am incredibly happy to say that my productivity throughout the year was at an all-time high!”
  2. “I am thankful to have been part of a team where productivity stayed strong throughout the whole year. I am glad to be able to say there were no stones unturned this year.”
  3. “I feel as though my hard work this year was really evident by the results my team was able to produce. Do you have something specific in mind where you would have liked to have seen more productivity?”

Q: “We will be giving you a $1,000 bonus this year for your hard work!”

(Now, I recognize based on the company size this amount can be a tremendous bonus and therefore no counter response may be required. However, these next responses are geared towards those who anticipated having a higher amount and how they can open the conversation to explore that.)

  1. “Thank you, I am incredibly grateful to receive a bonus but based on the metrics I provided you during my review I’d like to share with you my reasons to why I feel that number should be a bit higher.”
  2. “Thank you, that is appreciated but coming in a bit lower than anticipated. Can I show you some of the work I have done that might warrant that number to increase?”
  3. “Thank you, are you open to me highlighting some areas that I excelled in with the hopes that number can be negotiated? I feel as though my contributions this year could be reflected in a higher bonus.”

Preparation is Key

Constructive feedback is good for all of us – no matter where you find yourself in the organization. You’re never too senior to hear how your work impacts others – both the good and the bad. So, it’s important to walk into your annual review season with clear expectations. And a little bit of preparation can go a long way in making sure you don’t walk away frustrated by how you answered the typical questions on the spot.


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NJ has over 10 years inside the DoD working for various organizations and cleared defense contractors. With an ear to the ground on all things OPSEC, cyber, machine learning & mental health, she is an untapped keg of open source information.