Should I be Honest In My Performance Review?

An etiquette expert explains.

Performance reviews present a great opportunity to celebrate successes, learn from mistakes, and determine areas for personal and professional growth. It is important to be upfront and truthful. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw yourself—or anyone else—under the bus.

Rather, think of these evaluations as informational interviews. Take the time to explain what’s working well, where you could use some assistance, and which direction you’d like your career to head in—and consider some ways in which your manager can help you best get the job done.

When describing wins, do take the time to describe your accomplishments in detail. Rather than speak in vague terms, stick with specifics and hard facts, and provide insights into why these ventures worked so well:

“Our team really rocked it this quarter. We grew sales by 34% in the enterprise category, thanks to doing more roadshows and spending more time on-site speaking with customers—which helped us to understand their problems in a way that the general market research reports couldn’t.”

Always tie your activities to end results, and explain exactly how much time was saved, productivity was boosted, or dollars were added to the bottom line. Be sure to give credit where it’s due, and stress how well you’ve worked with colleagues, including where everyone’s strengths lie:

“I really can’t give Taylor enough credit: Like our marketing team’s analytics show, those videos she whipped up were a huge hit with my clients during the new back-to-school savings advertising campaign we all built.”

When discussing areas of concern, or shortcomings, you should use a different strategy. While it’s important to take accountability and consider where areas for improvement exist, don’t spend too much time harping on the past or griping over spilled milk. Instead, take a positive and constructive stance, and explain what you learned from the endeavor, where you could do better, and how you’re responding to these challenges differently now and going forward:

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close this deal, but based on conversations with their executives, I’m looking to offer our solutions in more flexible, pay-as-you-go plans and bundle in consulting services to help the client design more end-to-end solutions rather than just trying to sell standard packages.”

Likewise, when describing areas for personal growth and improvement, stay strictly upbeat and couch requests in terms of interests and areas you’d like to learn more about:

“I’d love to spend some time with the data science team to find out more about what customers are looking for this season.”

“It’d be great if I could shadow someone from the sales team, so I could learn more about their technique.”

“Would it be possible to volunteer for X project? Getting more hands-on experience with the product would be a great opportunity!”

Never mind negativity: Every mistake is simply a learning opportunity—stay laser-focused on how and your manager can turn setbacks into successes, and you’ll do fine.

Scott Steinberg is the author of The Business Etiquette Bible.