Get You What You Want With Your Next Self-Evaluation
It’s annual appraisal time for many, many people. And part of that is the often-dreaded self-assessment, self-appraisal, or yearly accomplishment review. Regardless of the name it goes by in your organization, it’s the document through which you evaluate your annual accomplishments for use by your supervisor, manager, or executive. And he or she uses it (hopefully) as an input for his or her assessment of your performance. In this post, I address ways to make this process more effective, less stressful, and more useful for everyone.
Preparing an assessment of your own accomplishments is often a harrowing experience. Most people dread it because they believe it doesn’t matter, it could only hurt them, or they can’t remember enough of what they did to write it effectively. Also, myriad studies show people are terrible judges of their own performance. I dislike such sweeping generalizations, usually because they can be proven flawed. People who are generally unobservant, prone to a rosy view of everything, or overly enamored of their own contributions can certainly be expected to have a skewed assessment of their performance, as can people who hold the opposite characteristics. But normalizing that to performance assessments in general isn’t valid. The key reason self-appraisals are bad as inputs to actual determinants of employee performance ratings is because it creates a very negative dynamic between the employee and the rater, and because most organizations have absolutely no process for driving consistency in the use of self-appraisals.
The concept of self appraisals in most organizations is that their implementation is fundamentally flawed. Employees are expected to sit down and write in the evaluation a summary of an entire year of performance, usually in a very small allowable space, so their supervisor or manager or executive can then use it to prepare their own evaluation. At worst, nothing gets done with it and it’s a waste of time for everyone involved between writing and reading it. Almost as bad, it gets used almost verbatim, or with bits and pieces excerpted from it, to stand in for an actual evaluation by a supervisor or manager or executive. Equally bad, the person preparing the valuation of the employee rights to absolutely nothing that is reflected in the employee self appraisal, creating a clear disconnect between what the employee believes is important and has evaluated, and what the manager has written the appraisal for.
A Better Approach
A better approach is to start the beginning of the year and document accomplishments and developmental needs as you identify them, for yourself. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what your organization wants to do with your self appraisal at the end of the year. Document for yourself as you go along throughout the year so that you can recall what’s important, what you wanted to work on more, and where you identified areas that you would like to improve. Keep this in whatever format you like, but protected. Evernote is a wonderful tool for it because it combines the ability to create notes, add photos, take screenshots, or file scans of documents. But regardless of the tool you use, whether it’s Evernote or a paper notebook or a binder that holds copies of the things you want to refer to, make it work for you. Then, as the end of the year approaches, keep some things in mind:
Meet with the person who will use your self appraisal and find out what they plan to do with it.
Write for the intended audience, which means the person who will use your self appraisal, and the people who are likely to review your performance appraisal for promotion potential, performance awards, and career opportunities in other aspects.
Maximize the use of space. Summarize your accomplishments with respect to cost savings, cost avoidance, increased business, process or safety improvements, improved return on investment, and specific mission oriented outcomes. Avoid the temptation of attempting to capture everything you’ve accomplished or itemizing all of the things you were doing throughout the year. Write an overview that synthesizes how your accomplishments throughout the year led to improvements in organizational performance in the areas for which you are responsible.
Avoid over-emphasizing areas of weakness or needed improvement. However capitalize on the opportunity to show that you’ve identified areas in which further development or training could further your career and your contribution to the organization’s success.
Leverage the self-appraisal to preload the discussion for building opportunities into your objectives for the following year.
Take care, and enjoy life,