Dealing with the dreaded self-evaluation


A written self-evaluation submitted to your manager seems like a cruel trick question, or at the very least, a hard line to walk. If you’re too self-congratulatory, you come off as a delusional blowhard. But if you’re too negative, you risk undermining yourself — and your career prospects.

Some companies such as General Electric and Adobe have dropped the traditional annual performance review altogether in favor of more frequent check-ins, says Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace.

Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, has also noticed a change.

“We’ve seen the overall performance management process shift from one goal-setting meeting and one performance appraisal meeting to year-round check-ins, flexible goal-setting, and increased employee input. Self-reviews create the conversation that results in the formal review that is used to evaluate salaries and promotions.”

Whether your appraisals are annual or occur more frequently, here’s how to make sure you’re getting the most out of these forced career checks.

Do your homework

If your supervisor hasn’t explained already, ask how self-evaluations are used. “This helps to connect the dots between your personal view of your contributions and the company’s performance,” Klein says.

Often, documented self-evaluations are usually saved with performance appraisals, and are taken into consideration when decisions about bonuses and promotions are made.

“When an employee understands the weight that their self-evaluation carries, and the impact it can have on things that matter to them, like bonuses and promotions, it usually increases the effort they put into its preparation,” she says.

Gather ammo year-round

Sorry, but your manager probably doesn’t keep track of your wins. To snag a promotion or a raise, you have to remind him or her — and your self-evaluation is the perfect opportunity. Over the course of the year, keep a log of all your achievements and how each one has translated into revenue for your company. “If you’re preparing a month before self-evaluations are due, you’re doing it wrong,” says Schawbel. “Any time someone sends you an e-mail saying how great of a job you did, log that. Go into that self-review meeting with case studies.”

Be brutally honest

Take a hard look at yourself and your performance. What are your strengths? What could you have done better? Ask yourself what you uniquely brought to a project or task, Klein suggests.

Consider getting feedback from your co- workers to inform your self-evaluation, says Schawbel. And don’t just write what you think management wants to hear: “Full honesty is key to getting the most out of the self-review process,” says Klein. “If you’re considering being dishonest about your performance, chances are your manager is already aware of some issues that need to be addressed. Being honest demonstrates professionalism on your part, and allows your manager to review your strengths and opportunities for growth from your point of view. It also gives them a chance to offer career-path insight and identify potential training needs.”

Phrase it right

Self-reviews give employees a voice. “This is your chance to shape your performance appraisal, and highlight the contributions that you consider to be most impactful,” says Klein. “This is the perfect opportunity to discuss career goals with leadership, and make a correlation between your accomplishments and your immediate and long-term career goals.” Schawbel suggests quantifying your achievements — did they lead to an increase in revenue, an increase in savings, a more efficient process, an award for the company, or an improvement in customer-service ratings? Just don’t bash your manager, your company, your clients or your co-workers. Aim to be 90 percent positive, and save the remaining 10 percent for “areas for improvement” comments in order to appear well-rounded. “If you mention any weakness or setbacks, you immediately have to say, ‘But I did this differently the next time,’ ” says Schawbel. “Show that you’ve improved or corrected the error.”

Be pro-active

This is imperative. Your supervisor expects you to ask questions, says Klein. “To demonstrate your commitment to your personal and professional development, ask questions with suggested answers,” she suggests. “For example, instead of just asking, ‘How can I help to make your job easier?’ consider the tasks that your manager is already undertaking and ask if you could assume some of that responsibility to alleviate their workload. They’ll appreciate your proactive gesture, and you’ll get an answer from your impressed manager.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *