Here we go again! It’s time for the annual performance review, an experience that creates either euphoric satisfaction or stunned disbelief. Anything in the middle feels like a dull thud and doesn’t amount to much.
Once we get our rating news, we’re left with several options: reach higher, get better, give up, or hide.
Performance reviews often feel like verdicts by a one person jury.
That’s because the process for evaluating performance is driven by your immediate supervisor or manager. S/he hunkers down behind closed doors at appraisal time, thinks about what you’ve done, rates you, and then writes comments. (That’s the torturous part for supervisors. They usually don’t know what to write or how. It’s not a happy time.)
Because I was that manager for over twenty years, I know there’s a better way.
Not every company or every supervisor has a systematic appraisal process. Many companies don’t even do formal performance evaluations. But you need them to.
When they don’t, it’s in your best interest to fill the void. When they do, you have a great chance to influence the outcome.
It starts with understanding the things that can work against you. Supervisors unintentionally miss important stuff about you at appraisal time because they:
- Mostly recall how you performed in the last three months
- Remember either a big success or a major snafu that involved you and reflected on them
- Think about you in terms of duties and not outcomes
- Have so many people to supervise that you become one of the crowd
- Communicated with you too infrequently
Your performance contributes to your workplace brand identity, so if you don’t stand out, your contributions and value are in the shadows.
The greater your perceived value, the higher your appraisal ratings.
Your value as an employee is about your contribution to the goals of the company, your department, and your work group. If there are no specific goals as the basis of your appraisal, there’s no way to keep score or to rate your contributions fairly.
So here’s a strategy that will set you up for a performance appraisal that means something:
- At the beginning of the rating period, write 3 to 5 measurable and/or observable goals for yourself for the year. Make sure they line up with the goals of the company.
- Show them to your supervisor and tell him/her that you want to be held accountable for achieving them as written. (Do this even if your supervisor doesn’t have goals or the company either. Show your supervisor that you aren’t afraid of committing to results. That’ll get his/her attention!)
- Ask your supervisor to enter your goals on a blank appraisal form and schedule a meeting with him/her every 3 months to talk about how you are progressing.
- At review time, tell your supervisor that you would like to submit a self-appraisal that s/he can use as a reference for their final rating of your performance. Write the self-appraisal and rate yourself on the same form you and your supervisor have been using all along. (When employees self-appraise, they usually rate themselves lower than their supervisors do. You can bring that up if your supervisor balks.)
- At your annual performance appraisal meeting with your supervisor, talk about the gaps in the way you self-assessed v. their assessment. Ask how you can improve for the next year.
Performance appraisal is a commentary on how focused and committed we were to getting meaningful work done. Staying focused is a mainstay for being business fit. When we do that well, we reap the rewards. Hopefully, that means a nice raise and a step up for you.
Do you have questions about how to write your goals? Please let me know and I’ll offer some help. Thanks.