The beginning of the year may be the best time to think about that inevitable performance appraisal. Leaving it to the last minute won’t help anyone (it certainly won’t help you!).
Although not loved by many employees around the world, performance appraisals are an integral part of an organization’s performance management system and provide a method by which the job performance of an employee can be evaluated and documented.
As an employee, this is when you will justify why you deserve that next big raise, or psyche yourself up for a nice dressing down…
Remember that a performance appraisal should be viewed as an opportunity to learn. Knowledge is power and being thoroughly aware of what the performance appraisal is really designed to achieve helps to relocate it from the realm of myth to something you can face head on. Think of it as a process that needs to be managed, just like everything else in your life.
Remember also that first and foremost, the organization you work for wants you to succeed, no matter how much it may seem that they don’t. The organization gains absolutely nothing from you failing. There are exceptions to this though but that is a different story altogether.
You have to realize that if you get a bad review you can be almost certain that your superior is about to get a bad review as well for not getting you to the point that you were supposed to be. The goal of your performance appraisal then is simply to have a constructive conversation…
On your marks
Knowing exactly what is about to go down is one thing but it is equally as important to prepare…
Don’t go in to an appraisal expecting an out-of-body experience where you passively receive feedback/directions from your manager. This is supposed to be a two-way dialogue covering macro/micro issues and goals.
Make this a time to reconnect with the company’s objectives (vision and mission statement) and align these goals with your own goals. Come in to the appraisal prepared.
Appraise yourself before getting appraised. Look back at some of your challenges, successes and yes, failures. Dig up as many of your accomplishments as you can. Now is the time to toot your own trumpet…
Your manager likely manages many people and it will be up to you to remember as much about your performance as you can, don’t overlook the details which he/she may have missed. Instead of picking on every little success or stumbling block, focus on the broader issues such as how you’ve grown, overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle or developed a new skill/part of the business.
Before you go in to an appraisal, be aware of how you can improve any of your own shortcomings. This will make your manager’s job much easier. It also helps to have records of your previous appraisals so that you can show/chart the progress of your own growth. At the very least, being proactive at this point will speak volumes about your character and score you some brownie points.
Feedback received from previous appraisals can be used as a benchmark to identify areas of improvement and can help steer the conversation in the right direction as well as make sure your manager is not being biased. As best as you can, make sure there is clear proof brought for everything said about you, for you and against you.
A performance appraisal should take into account the entirety of your service period and not just zero in on a small/set amount of time.
If possible, you may also want to share your records of previous appraisals with your manager before game time so that the conversation will be much more streamlined and efficient. He/she may even thank you for bringing both of you onto the same page.
When the meeting begins, make sure that you are conscious of the fact that both you and your manager are there to learn from the conversation. It’s not every day that you get to learn from listening to how someone else perceives you.
This is supposed to be a civilized, two-way dialogue. This isn’t a war or Game of Thrones and there’s no need to get defensive. It always helps to assume good intentions on the part of the person appraising your performance. What you want is for this person to be on your side. What you don’t want is an enemy sitting across from. You need a friend who is committed to helping you achieve your goals.
Now begins the delicate balance between the art of listening and speaking. Listen to feedback and goals that have been set out for you. Hear everything in context and put everything in perspective.
Performance appraisals are based on metrics so stick to the facts. If you hear things about what you did well and where the organization thinks you need to improve, remember to always connect talking points in the conversation squarely to metrics.
‘Room for improvement’ is often way too vague. What you want are concrete steps that help you to grow professionally. Those that have been through performance appraisals will agree that sometimes the feedback or criticism received can be surprising. If something comes up that you weren’t expecting/prepared for, ask for specific instances. Getting to the root of the matter may even uncover that there wasn’t an issue at all or that maybe some form of misunderstanding had taken place. A year is a long time and some things can just get lost in translation along the way.
Remember, nobody is perfect and as human beings, we should want to be better. You should want feedback on your job performance. You should also want to be developed, guided and even pushed. Like an athlete heading towards the finishing line, sometimes we can only see so far.
Maintain engagement through your body language. It’s amazing how simply sitting forward can make you seem more like a participant, as opposed to sitting/leaning back in your chair which can make you seem more like a passive recipient.
Also, it’s not cool to rat on people or talk smack about others behind their backs, even if you find that you are facing challenges due to office politics.
Great, you’ve survived another performance appraisal. Did the world end? If you’re still here with us, chances are it didn’t.
After the meeting, the process of reflection begins again. What did you learn? If you did not come away with some form of insight, the entire exercise has been for naught.
If there was anything you left out, didn’t understand or forgot to add during the meeting, make it a point to contact your manager for clarification. Keep in touch with him/her as best as you can for continuous, ongoing feedback.
Above all, always look towards the future. Every day is a chance to improve.
The point of the performance appraisal was not just to look at how you’ve done but also to set goals for the future. You have to realize that doing the exact same thing again and again and expecting different results will not work. This is the part where you begin to put your plan into action.
Bask in your achievements and accept your shortcomings. They are after all what makes us human…