My favorite time of year is rolling around (and no, it’s not the holidays with their nauseatingly excessive tinsel-before-turkey consumerism). I’m talking about time for end of year progress reviews. They’re those agonizing, mandatory, and often confusing reams of paper we’re forced to suffer through.
Many times you’ll find yourself nervously wringing your hands wondering what’s going to be on the form that determines whether you get a 1.63% raise or a 1.67% one. Once you get your review, I’m sure you’ve wondered more than once if you received someone else’s because nothing on the form looks remotely familiar.
Ah yes… the joys of working in Corporate America.
But you don’t have to subject yourself to this pain. You actually have a tremendous say in what ends up on that form but you’ve likely been too lazy or timid to take advantage of the opportunity. There’s one very easy way to ensure you get a fair review that shows you in the best light possible…
Write it yourself.
Crazy? Maybe, but let’s analyze this situation:
– Your boss is overwhelmed with writing 9 other end-of-year reviews for the rest of your peers.
– Your boss is overworked and has a hard time remembering all the great stuff you did this past year. Recent things? Sure. January? Not so much.
– Your boss, like everyone else on the planet, is inherently lazy and would love someone to make their life easier.
This is where you come to the rescue. Ask your boss if it would be okay if you could provide them with a self-appraisal. This is a legitimate request. Explain you’d like to be sure you’re well calibrated to what your boss expects of you and the best way to do so is to evaluate yourself through your boss’ eyes. By doing so, you’ll be able to find out where your blind spots are developmentally and you can work with your boss to fix them (e.g., if you rate yourself “Awesome!” on delegating and your boss would really rate you “Ho hum” then there’s a meaningful conversation that should happen there).
The self-appraisal serves a few other purposes – it enables you to remind your boss of all the great things you did throughout the year (not just last month) and you have an opportunity to paint yourself in a favorable, yet objective light. In tough times like these, you need every edge you can get. As you write this self-appraisal, be sure to set aside all those negative things you might typically think about yourself. If you don’t, you won’t be happy with the result.
To successfully pull off writing a great self-appraisal, here are a few key points of guidance:
Be Objective and Fact-Based
You can’t make this stuff up. Ensure you throw a very critical eye to your work. Start by simply listing factual accomplishments (dollars saved, projects delivered, customers sold, etc.). All these items should be measurable (and be sure to quantify those items and compare them to your original goal). Be sure to pull out your original list of goals for the year and note whether you overdelivered, delivered, or didn’t deliver on each one. Facts only.
Once you have the facts nailed down, be critical of yourself. If you hand your boss a review that says you burp rainbows and poop jellybeans, they’re going to look for ways to knock down that overly glowing review. Don’t be too harsh though. Simply be objective and realistic. If this is hard for you to do, imagine you’re writing about the accomplishments of a peer or subordinate to detach yourself from the writing.
You’re lucky if YOU can remember January. It’s not fair to ask your boss to remember it. If you haven’t done so this past year, try this for 2010: keep a living version of a progress review on your performance and update it every month. Make notes on successes and failures. By the time you get to the end of year review, you’ll have a journal of what you did that year.
Listing all your accomplishments for the year helps overcome any recency effect of bad experiences (which tend to stick in boss’ minds more than the great stuff you did last spring). Be sure to list the failures too because I can guarantee if it’s not on the self-appraisal, your boss will be sure to point it out AND they’ll start wondering what else you left out.
Write for the Final Version
People are busy. And lazy. If you write a perfect self-appraisal in the first person (I, I, I, me, me, me) your boss will have to go in and do some heavy duty editing. Save them the time – write your self-appraisal in the third person “Mike did a solid job of writing his weekly blog in a timely and entertaining manner” is easy to cut and paste into a final review.
Yes. I said it. Write it in the third person. If your boss concurs with your fact-based and comprehensive assessment of your work and it’s written in the third person, they’ll likely simply copy and paste it into your final review. Sure, they’ll tweak a word here or there but when they’re overwhelmed, it’s much easier for them to use your words.
To make matters even simpler, fill out the self-appraisal administrative data (name, rank, serial number, etc.) and write it in the actual form (assuming you use MS Word documents or something similar). Doing do increases the likelihood the boss will use your version and simply edit it versus creating a new form and filling in what you wrote.
This Stuff Works
I had a great boss one time who insisted I write a comprehensive self-appraisal. He told me to be sure I wrote it in the third person. I knew I had to be objective and fact-based because that’s the kind of guy he was. I was tough on myself but not too tough.
When he presented me with my final review, 85% of it was stuff I had written (verbatim). The other 15% was stuff I had blind spots on (and that ended up being a great developmental conversation) or minor tweaks to the wording on my self-appraisal. I had saved my boss a great deal of time by being rigorous on my self-appraisal. I had also ensured the things I did early in the year made it into the review.
Do you already write self-appraisals? Have you seen this approach be effective? What works best for you?