performance appraisals

Profit From Insider Secrets on Performance Appraisals

Fact: Nobody likes doing performance appraisals. But they are one of those things you just have to do if you have a job. In this blog post, I’m going to share some insider secrets to writing performance appraisals that lead to the results you want.

This past week I was at a conference where I had opportunities to talk with managers about what they want to see from their young professionals. They all complained about young professionals being unrealistic in writing their own performance appraisals.

I realized when I got home that no one’s told you the rules for writing performance appraisals. So here goes.

Performance appraisals are not report cards

You are not trying to get all A’s on your performance appraisal. This is not school.

Let’s say your performance appraisal has a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score. You do NOT want to give yourself all 5s, like you wanted to get all A’s in school. Giving yourself all 5s tells your manager that you are not in touch with your real job performance.

A 5 should be used only for going way above and beyond what your job requires. For example, say one of your teammates had to take unplanned medical leave. You stepped up and did her work in addition to your own and you excelled at everything. Nothing fell through the cracks. Bosses or clients noted your exemplary performance. That might warrant a 5.

You get paid to do your job

You were hired to do a job, and you should have been given a description of that job and your company’s expectations for you. Showing up at work every day and doing what’s expected does not result in a 5 on your performance appraisal. It warrants a 3 or maybe a 4 if you exceeded your goals. For example, if your contributions helped your team meet its goals before deadline and under budget, give yourself a 4.

One exec I coached frequently complained that her younger staff always wanted to be told they were doing a good job. “That’s what I pay them to do,” she said in frustration. In reality, she needed to be telling them “thanks” or “good job” occasionally, but she was right in her belief. Your company pays you to do a good job, not a mediocre one.

Where do you want to grow?

Most employees discover they are interested in learning new information or acquiring new skills. The performance appraisals are the place to note that. For example, if you are sometimes required to put a slideshow together and your graphic skills are weak, you could give yourself a 2 in that ranking.

Giving yourself a 2 gets the attention of your boss and starts a discussion about why you gave yourself that ranking. This gives you a chance to let your boss know areas in which you want to grow. It also shows that you are realistic about your abilities.

Have a plan for how you would address your shortcomings, such as taking a course or attending a local conference. One rule you need to know: Always have solutions before you complain about something. Your boss has lots of problems. He wants you to bring him solutions.

Prove your worth with examples and data

When you write your performance appraisal, think about it the way you would your resume. Use examples, stories, data, results achieved. If you think you did a great job on something, don’t just say so. Document it with hard data. See our post on that. 

Recently I encouraged our daughter, who is working on her MBA, to keep a journal of what she’s doing in school. There’s no way she will recall everything by the time she finishes. By keeping a journal, she can record how she took on a project that was running late and turned it around in record time. Or how she was able to build an effective team on the spot.

If you want to get creative, get your clients or teammates to praise you on video, taken with your phone. A video testimonial beats a written one every time. On your performance appraisal form, you can include a link to the video for your boss to review. But again, make it specific and in story form. Not just “Paul does a great job writing up reports.”

Don’t be these people

The new hire who gave himself all 5s after 6 months on the job.

The intern who gave herself all 5s in her exit interview—clueless that she had been let go early because of poor job performance. Apparently she needed to work on her listening skills, too.

The guy who gave himself a 5 in communication, but then had misspellings and punctuation and grammar mistakes throughout his self-assessment.

Doing performance appraisals sucks—for everyone. No one gets excited about taking the time and energy to write them up and give or get feedback. But they are the reality of working in today’s world—until we come up with a better alternative. So do them well.

Check out this article on the Harvard Business Review.

Image: (c) Vinnstock

© Pamela A. Scott, 2016

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