The biggest challenge, since your company evidently doesn’t prioritize this process, is that your boss probably thinks of a review as a distracting hassle.

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Q: I’m frustrated by my company’s lack of performance reviews. The employee guide says they happen every six months — but I’m coming up on my first anniversary and haven’t heard a word about reviews.

So I’ve decided to approach my manager to initiate one. She is generally unavailable and not very approachable, but I would like to know where I can improve. I hope she sees this as me taking the initiative and as a sign that I am committed to my job and the company. I feel as though it’s up to me to create the entire review process. How should I start this conversation, and what should I have ready?

A: A first anniversary is a solid excuse for initiating this sort of conversation — the timing is appropriate, it’s in the company’s interest as much as yours, and frankly your manager ought to be the one making it happen.

But maybe you can use the situation to your advantage. First, give some thought to what you really want: Probably it’s some combination of affirmation about what you believe you’re doing well and constructive suggestions about what to work on in the future. For your own benefit, you might want to write out a more specific list, or talk this through with a trusted colleague or friend.

Once you’ve clarified your goals, think about how to translate them into a review setting. Making sure you’re in agreement about what’s going well can establish common ground, but you don’t want to seem like you’re merely fishing for kudos. If there’s something you have specific concerns about, bring it up and ask for advice. Finally, leave room for feedback you haven’t anticipated.

The biggest challenge, since your company evidently doesn’t prioritize this process, is that your boss probably thinks of a review as a distracting hassle. But now you can make it easy. Skip references to company policies, and tell her you’d like to schedule a concise anniversary conversation. Then follow up with an email that hits on the main points you want to cover. As you suggest, be clear that you want to do this because you’re committed to your job and getting better at it. By doing the legwork, you send a clear signal: All your boss has to do is commit to a half-hour or so to give you feedback.

Fed up with a colleague’s sick days

Q: An emergency medicine resident I supervise frequently calls in sick, particularly when she is scheduled on a night shift or on days that bookend her weekends off.

Previously, she had refused to work nights and weekends because she has young children at home. However, that caused a revolt among her colleagues who had to endure the stresses of a much higher caseload in her absence, as well as take more than their fair share of undesirable shifts.

I am all for sick leave when it is taken for legitimate reasons. But sick leave is often seen as an entitlement that is lost unless it is “used up.” Taking days off when one isn’t ill creates problems for others.

A: The context of emergency medicine makes for an acute example of a situation that most likely occurs in many workplaces. But while you’re right on the principle, resolving this means focusing on specifics. I suspect many of us have elected to “take a sick day” for reasons not strictly related to illness. And you don’t actually know that this person is selectively faking illness, or if so, why.

Probably you’ll need to have a frank conversation with her — but it should be more questioning than openly accusatory. Maybe observe that her colleagues have noticed a particular absence pattern (have the facts on hand in case there is pushback on this), acknowledge that she may have been disappointed that her earlier scheduling requests were not workable, and ask if there’s anything she’d like to discuss.

In other words, whatever is happening here should be treated as a symptom. Does she feel she has been treated unfairly? Is another scheduling compromise possible? Or is there some other issue you haven’t anticipated? I doubt her explicit motive is to burden others. So even if a more open-ended conversation doesn’t lead to an easy solution, it should clarify the problem.

Submit questions to Rob Walker at