Painless Performance Appraisals

It’s that time of year again- performance appraisal day.  While you may prefer to endure a painful dental procedure than go through this process, take comfort in the fact that many employers dislike it even more than you do.  Here are some tips that will help take the pain out of performance appraisals, and allow you to effectively use them to develop your career.

Be Prepared.  Take some time before your performance appraisal to think about your past, present, and future with the organization.  Reflect on the past year, and make notes about your achievements and any problems that you have encountered.  If you have made mistakes, think about how you corrected them and what you have learned from them.  Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and have examples ready.  Create a plan of how you are going to overcome your weaknesses, and any challenges that are inherent in the position and the organization.  Also give some thought to your own career.  Are you hoping to advance within the organization?  What types of training or skills development would help you to achieve your own career goals?  By taking the time to consider these questions ahead of time, you will demonstrate that you are a motivated professional, and you will make your employer aware of your achievements and your goals.

Be Open-Minded.  Part of the purpose of the performance appraisal is to make you aware of your weaknesses and potential challenges.  Very few employers will ever give a perfect performance appraisal.  It is their job to identify weaknesses.  Don’t be defensive when the manager is telling you about a weakness.  They are giving you this information to help you improve upon your performance.  If you are open-minded, and listen attentively, your manager will be impressed with your professionalism and your attitude.  Take steps to improve on your weakness, and you will make yourself a more valuable employee (which is particularly important when there are budget cuts.)  You will also be making yourself more marketable to future employers.

Take Notes.  It is important that you stay focused during your performance appraisal meeting.  Listen to what your manager is saying and ask for clarification if needed.  Take notes so that you can remember all the details of the discussion.  This focus will demonstrate your professionalism, and it will help later when you are working on improving your performance and achieving your objectives for the following year.

Be Honest.  Depending on the organizational culture, and your relationship with your manager, the performance appraisal may be one of the only opportunities that you have to discuss your concerns, and your future goals.  Don’t be shy.  Be open and honest with them about the challenges that you have encountered.  This will give them the opportunity to make the necessary changes to make your job easier.  Don’t assume that they are aware of your challenges.  The situation may look very different from their perspective.  Also, be open with them about your future career goals.  They know that you are not planning to stay there forever.  If you let them know about your goals, they may be able to take steps to help you achieve them.  Also, if there is something in your performance appraisal that you feel is untrue or unfair, professionally voice your concerns.  If you are surprised and upset by something that is said, you can ask the manager if you can have some time to think and reflect and meet back in a day or two.  This will give you the opportunity to cool down, and collect your thoughts so that you do not respond emotionally.  The purpose of the performance appraisal is not to make you feel attacked, it is to facilitate two-way communication and to help you improve your performance.  Most employers will appreciate it if you are open and honest during this process.

Take Action.  After your performance appraisal meeting, you may be tempted to go home, have a glass of wine, and forget about it for another year.  Don’t make that mistake.  Develop a detailed plan of how you will overcome your weaknesses and challenges, and how you will meet your objectives.  Be sure to include specific goals with deadline dates.  When your employer notices that you are working on your weaknesses and achieving your objectives, you will be seen as a model employee.

The performance appraisal can be uncomfortable and awkward, but it is also a great opportunity to get feedback from your employer, which can help you significantly improve your performance.  Further, if you follow these guidelines, you can use the performance appraisal as an opportunity to showcase your achievements, your motivation, and your professionalism.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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