Ed Catmull

Request a performance review, or let sleeping dogs lie?

March 22, 2012: 12:36 PM ET

Managing your professional image goes far beyond formal evaluations. But they're a good (and necessary) start.

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: A friend sent me your column on changing a bad performance review, but I have a somewhat different problem, which is that I haven't been evaluated at all. Managers at my company usually give performance appraisals in January, partly to give everybody a chance to set goals for the year, but it's now March and my boss hasn't gotten around to it yet. Formal reviews determine some of our incentive pay, so naturally I'm curious.

On the other hand, I hesitate to press the point and ask to be evaluated. My boss has only been here a few months, and I know he's overloaded with work. But beyond that, he and I have had a couple of clashes over some changes he's made, and I'd hate to pressure him into giving me an evaluation that maybe won't be so great. Should I make the request anyway, or let sleeping dogs lie? — In the Dark

Dear I.D.: For what it's worth, your predicament is far from unusual. Plenty of studies over the past couple of decades have shown that many managers dread giving performance reviews so much that some of them (almost 40%, one report said) find ways to put off the chore indefinitely. And now that leaner staffs in many companies mean people are working harder than ever, the resulting time crunch gives reluctant bosses one more reason to duck this task.

"There could be any number of reasons why your boss hasn't sat down with you," notes Patrick Sweeney, president of human resources consulting firm Caliper. "For example, since he is relatively new, maybe the expectations from his own higher-ups aren't clear yet. Or maybe he just doesn't like doing evaluations."

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Whatever the holdup is, Sweeney urges you to "start the conversation. You can keep your request very low-key," he says. "Drop by the boss's office or email him and say something like, 'I was just wondering if we could set a time to talk, or maybe grab lunch. I'd like to keep you up-to-date on what I'm doing, and hear any advice you might have.'" More

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