Does the mere mention of the words ‘performance review’ fill you with dread? You’re not alone. The anxiety involved with this sort of thing is partly why many companies have recently turned their backs on the traditional performance review … only to bring them back with a modern twist.

So, love them or hate them, performance reviews are likely here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. The question is, how do get through review season with minimal stress? More importantly, how do you make it work to your advantage?

To find out, we spoke to Marsha Forde, our Director of Human Resources for a recent episode of Safe for Work, the Workopolis podcast.

The full episode, The rise and fall (and rise) of performance reviews, also includes an interview with Sonia Boyle, vice president of human resources at GE Canada, and a look at the history of the annual review. It will make you laugh and cry.

Here are some pro tips on how to prepare for a performance review.

Develop a relationship with your manager

The most important element in the performance review process is also the one that takes the longest to put into place: developing a real relationship with your manager.

“For a good, beneficial review, you need to have a relationship with your manager in the first place, as the annual review shouldn’t be the first conversation you’re having. I would say the manager is accountable for this too, as you should have a relationship that is built on trust and respect. If the trust is already there, that will lead to a smoother, and much more productive, conversation,” Forde says.

Don’t fear feedback

No one likes hearing negative feedback (and very few managers like giving it), which is why we often put off performance reviews. This tendency to delay, however, only makes things worse.

“I think the best way to prepare is to not wait for the formal twice-a-year check-in. There’s a responsibility for managers to give ongoing feedback and encourage open communication. And similarly, employees have to hold managers accountable and ask for clarification and guidance. Don’t be shy,” Forde says.

Set goals and embrace change

“I think it’s naïve to think that what you set out to do at the beginning of the year doesn’t change,” Forde says. Businesses change and industries change, often quite quickly, and there’s sometimes a need for your job to change with it.

“You should always be checking your original goals with what you’re seeing happening in the business. If something is misaligned, bring that up to your manager and course correct …  before you get to a formal review,” she says.

Focus on communication

As the aforementioned points touched on, one of the biggest mistakes employees and managers make is that they don’t communicate throughout the year.

“You have to be communicating on a daily basis, setting goals and revising them, together, so that you’re always aligned. If you’re doing this regularly, and not waiting for the end of the year, when you do sit down for a formal review, you can discuss real areas of improvement, and set meaningful goals, for both your career and the future of the company,” Forde says.

Looking for more on performance reviews? Get the full episode of Safe for Work by tuning in on SoundCloud or iTunes, or by watching it on YouTube below.