1. Realize that most managers hate doing performance evaluations. It's not that managers don't want to give you feedback, but structured performance evaluations can feel bureaucratic (even though they shouldn't be if they're done well) and take up a lot of time, especially if the manager has a large staff. As a result, many put them off or look for ways to get them done faster. As an employee, you can take advantage of this by making your evaluation easier for your manager. That leads directly to the next two points.
2. Let your manager know that you're looking forward to your evaluation, not dreading it. One reason managers fret over evaluations is that they assume they're nerve-wracking for employees. If you make it clear that you're looking forward to feedback, you immediately make the process more pleasant for the person charged with giving it to you.
3. Evaluate yourself first. Some companies build self-assessments into their evaluation processes, and so you might be asked to fill out a self-evaluation before your manager does her piece of the process. But even if you aren't, you can do one anyway and supply it to your manager. It doesn't have to be hard – just list out what your goals were for the year and how much progress you made toward them, and add a section on strengths you bring to the job and a section on what you'd like to do better in the coming year. If you provide this to your manager before she needs to finish her own evaluation of you, there's a good chance that she'll pull directly from it (sometimes quite liberally) when she writes her own.
4. Start planning for your evaluation from the first day of the evaluation period. In other words, if you're evaluated every December, start thinking about your evaluation 12 months earlier, in January. Think about what your goals for the year should be, and lay out a plan to achieve them – including monthly or quarterly milestones to make sure you're on track. Then, work toward those milestones, and at the end of the year when it's time for performance evaluations, you can ideally show your manager that you met all of your goals for the year.
5. Keep an evaluation file throughout the year. If you start trying to think about what you did well this year, you're unlikely to remember the fantastic reception your report got in February or that great praise you got in June. Instead, keep a file where you jot down notes on project successes during the year, so that it's handy when you're reflecting on your performance during evaluation time. You can even include notes of praise from others in the file and reference them in your review.
6. Ask colleagues to give feedback to your manager. Ideally, as your manager reflects on your performance over the last year, she'll seek out input from other people who work with you closely and who might have insightful perspectives on your work. But don't wait to see if she does this, or take the chance that she might not ask the people best positioned to speak about your accomplishments. Instead, think of who particularly appreciates the work you do and tell them you'd be grateful if they'd provide input to your manager. It's fine to be direct about this; for instance, you might say, "Jane, Susan and I are getting ready to do my annual performance evaluation, and if you have any feedback on my work this year, I'd love it if you'd share it with her."
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.