How to Deal With the Annual Self-Appraisal
How to Deal With the Annual Self-Appraisal

It’s the fourth quarter of the year. That means that salespeople are scrambling to get deals signed, finance people are getting ready to close out the year, and that the dreaded self-appraisal is upon us. The self-appraisal is a common performance management practice. Ostensibly, an employee’s self-appraisal and rating should give the manager valuable data on the quality of an individual’s performance. It previews what to expect when the two sit down to discuss the employee’s performance over the previous year. 

The self-review is, at its core, a deceptively attractive technique. It makes both employees and managers feel that the performance appraisal is a sort of negotiation. We all know that nothing is further from the truth. The performance appraisal is a manager’s evaluation of the quality of an employee’s work. There’s no negotiating, and there should be no surprises (more on that later). And, while a few companies are moving away from this outdated method of feedback, most still have a formal performance review and assessment program in place. So, with that in mind, here are some tips for writing your self-review:

Work on it throughout the year. Most people don’t do this, and then they sit and stare at the screen at the end of the year and wonder what to write. Your company’s performance management software probably has a function that allows you to make updates and track achievements on an ongoing basis. If you do this, 75% of the pain associated with doing the self-evaluation will be eliminated.

Be honest. Have a candid conversation with yourself about not only what you did well during the previous year, but also where you fell short. Ask yourself what you’ve excelled in, and where you could have done better. 

Be mindful of the language you use. I say this all the time, but it bears repeating: Language Matters – a lot. How you frame something can make the difference between your message being warmly received or being rejected outright. You don’t want to come off as bloviating or bombastic, but you also don’t want to be self-deprecating. Find a medium with which you’re comfortable. Also, be sure to quantify any impact that your projects had. For example, if you brought in revenue, reduced costs, or saved time, be sure that you highlight those achievements. 

Assume control. Your boss expects that you are going to have questions. Be proactive, and have them prepared. This demonstrates your commitment to your personal and professional commitment. If you bring it to the forefront, you get to drive the direction of the conversation that eventually will occur.

Know your audience. This is the best advice for any communication. But when you’re writing your self-assessment, you must understand what your boss prioritizes. What are his or her pet projects, and how have you contributed to those? If you make your self-evaluation align with what your boss values, it will be better received.

The bottom line

The formal performance appraisal is here to stay, at least for the time being. You should be having ongoing, regular conversations with your manager about your performance on various projects. As such, the performance review should never spring any surprises on you. Document your achievements throughout the year to make the exercise less painful for everyone involved.