How Women Can Approach Their End-of-Year Review With Confidence

As December approaches, thoughts turn to the office party, Secret Santa, treats in the company kitchen and, most of all, preparing for an extended break. However, for many professionals the thought of rehashing the past year at their end-of-the year review can be troubling and anxiety producing. Especially for women, the annual work evaluation with their boss can bring to life a scene with the fictional character Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

For many women the biggest barrier is the confidence gap. According to a report conducted by KPMG nearly two-thirds of the 3,000 professional and college-age women surveyed expressed a desire to someday become senior leaders. But only 40 percent were consistently able to envision themselves as leaders.

Another study by McKinsey and Company and Lean In found that "men typically attribute their success to innate qualities and skills, while women often attribute theirs to external factors such as "working hard," "getting lucky," or "help from others." Because women receive less credit--and give themselves less credit--their confidence often erodes and they are less likely to put themselves forward for promotions and stretch assignments."

This research tells me that women need to double down and make feeling confident and exuding confidence a top priority. I truly believe that we can overcome the confidence gap - it will take time and a commitment from men and women alike, but it is achievable.

As you prepare for your end-of-year review at work it is important to remember that you have to be able to articulate your strengths -- with confidence -- as others are not going to do it for you. Here are five steps to help you walk into your review with confidence so that you are well positioned for success:

Do your research. Do you think you deserve a pay raise? Well, the best place to start is to do some online research to determine what the average pay for your position is. While there is not a one-size-fits-all answer for a particular title in a specific industry it is important to understand what the going rate is for someone in your position. If you are under-paid or at the middle of the pack bring the salary information that you find to your review. Explain to your manager how your salary is falling short based on your research. Many states, including my home state of California, have gender pay equity laws -- so don't be afraid to ask if your pay is the same as what a man in your exact position makes.

Make two lists and check them twice. And then expand on them. First, make a list of your accomplishments from the past year. What successful projects have you completed? When have you gone above and beyond? When have you stretched yourself and succeeded? Write down the answers and articulate how you have exceeded expectations. And then make a list of your goals for the coming year. What new areas do you want to work on? What new ideas do you have for your team or company? These don't have to be revolutionary ideas, but try to come up with some new projects, ways to streamline your work or make the business more efficient. Make sure you come to your review with some forward-thinking ideas.


Enlist an ally.
You are your best advocate, but that doesn't mean you should go at it alone. You should tell a mentor or trusted co-worker that you plan to ask for a promotion or raise. Many people think this should be a private conversation between an employee and the boss, but it is important to demonstrate that others think you are deserving as well. If your boss is hesitant when you ask for more money or responsibility, mention that your ally is consistently pleased with your performance and that he or she can explain how you have exceeded expectations.

Practice your pitch. After you have done your salary research and made your lists, practice! Practice what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Role play with someone else or practice your pitch at home so that you can succinctly and professionally articulate why you deserve more. You don't need to rattle off everything you have done well last year, instead pick out three examples that best illustrate your success and three ideas that you have for next year. You should have some additional ideas of why you deserve a raise or promotion in your back pocket in case your boss asks some tough questions or you want to beef up your case. If you can position your accomplishments and goals in a way that addresses the organizational needs and wants of your boss, you'll show that you are able to add strategic value to the company.

Give yourself a pep talk. Before you walk into your review remind yourself of all the reasons why you are awesome. Think of a project or situation in which you felt really proud and relive that in your mind. The most important thing when it comes time for your review is to walk into your boss' office with your head held high, a smile on your face and thinking to yourself "you've totally got this!"

When all is said and done, even the biggest Scrooge can be transformed into the model of generosity.

Dr. Bernice Ledbetter is Practitioner Faculty of Organizational Theory and Management at Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management. Her research and teaching interests focus on leadership and values, especially gender differences, as well as on moral developmental and non-western approaches to leadership. Dr. Ledbetter recently started the Pepperdine Center for Women in Leadership to empower and advance women in the workplace.