Monday, March 31, 2008

The Dreaded Performance Evaluation

Everyone hates performance appraisals. Bosses hate them because they have to come up with phrases like "does not model significant think-ratio standards throughout processing" and say them with a straight face. Employees hate them because they know that somehow, someway, the evaluation is going to be used to try and screw them out of a raise.

But here's the truth: Performance appraisals aren't going away. Try as they might, the critics aren't going to get rid of a tool that the analysts and bean counters love because, well...who knows why they love stuff like that.

Remember that performance appraisals are sort of like your living epitaph. See them as written in stone, following you throughout career eternity. Past performance appraisals are studied closely when you apply for a new position at your company, when you ask for a raise or when promotions are handed out.

That's why you should put as much effort into your performance appraisal as you did your NCAA basketball bracket. You want to be prepared for anything. Your input — both written and oral — should focus on the great things you have done in the last year, positioning you as an invaluable member of the workforce team.

Here are some things to get you started to performance review greatness:
· Keep a record. If you haven’t been doing so, begin immediately writing down your accomplishments, no matter how small. Maybe you only lent a hand for a day or two in another department, but this shows your willingness to pitch in, learn new skills and be an enthusiastic worker. By jotting down your day-to-day activities, you’ll not only start to track your strengths and skills, but provide solid evidence of your capabilities.
· Get compliments in writing. If a supervisor, or co-worker or customer appreciates your efforts in writing, hang on to those letters or e-mails . If kudos are given orally, write them down, noting the date and circumstances and person involved.
· Study the field. Who is going to be involved in your performance review? What kind of forms will be used? This helps you develop a “game plan” that looks at what subjects will be reviewed, how your performance will be judged, and who will be providing input. If you’ve had a difficult time with a supervisor, prepare to offer evidence on your improvements or commitment to the job. Don’t be defensive or on the attack: let the facts speak for themselves.
· Stay cool. No one likes criticism, but a performance review session often points to your accomplishments as well as your mistakes. If you worry you may get angry, practice with a trusted friend or family member to work on staying calm and focused. Also ,work on your body language — don’t assume a defensive or hostile stance. Maintain eye contact, and try to keep your body relaxed, but attentive.
· Use it as a road map. The performance appraisal process should be a clear indicator of where you need to go in the next year. If a supervisor fails to make this clear, ask for it in writing, or if this doesn’t work, write your own review of the information, and ask a supervisor to read it. This way, you can refer to this map all year long, noting the progress you have made, and will be a key part of your next appraisal.

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