Performance appraisal sucks. And the part that sucks the most is self-appraisal.
We struggle with coming across as arrogant, as though nothing could be achieved without us. Well, I am here to tell you to get over yourselves — it’s “everyone for themselves” time.
Your performance rating depends on how well you convince your manager that you have done an outstanding job, because they do not remember. Fun fact — 91.4 per cent of managers cannot remember what you did last week.
So, don’t confuse them by bringing someone else’s name into the picture. If you’re a manager reading this, can you honestly say what your team members have contributed in the past three weeks?
Now that you are hopefully hooked on what I have to say … here are five tips for turning self-appraisal into an asset.
I warn you. This isn’t what you’d read in books on human resources. You won’t find references to “employee vitality checks” or “learning clubs” or “active engagement/disengagement”, or “inside” information.
I’m not going through this process to make others look good. I’m doing to make me look good. I’ll stop short of outright lies (especially if I think I’ll get caught out), but I’ll learn from advertising and marketing techniques and write up my achievements in glowing terms.
It’s a very important skill, blowing your own trumpet. Start practising now.
Given no one remembers the nitty-gritty, I describe the things I want to play up in exhaustive detail, and lightly brush over the things I’d rather everyone just forgets. Why stir up all those bad memories?
Remember the definition of a fact is “the right amount of the right kind of information to make someone believe it”.
Everyone loves a story, so I tell them one. I never go overboard and involve aliens or quantum physics, but apart from that I find a rich panoply of random assertions that I can turn into facts.
One assertion by itself doesn’t hold much weight, but a bunch of closely allied assertions can bench-press pretty good.
The chances that the manager will go back and rigorously cross-reference my account with the similarly slightly inaccurate and fuzzy recollections of my co-workers are slim to zero.
I have a manager who is going to read my self-appraisal and make a judgement about me based on what I have written. The key essential of marketing is to remember your audience. In this case, my manager and my manager’s manager.
Remember, it’s not sucking up — it’s marketing. And if you do feel like it’s sucking up, then I have three words of advice: Suck it up.
It’s not a permanent position. Just until you get the good score.
I’ve done some good things this year. Not all of them were on the objectives list at the beginning of the year. So, I build my actual achievements, however modest they are, into or over the top of the list I was supposed to be working on.
And I provide plausible “switching statements” as to why I worked on this set over here, and not that set over there. The “over the top of the list” approach is what we call “recalibration”. A very good word to use in your self-appraisal.
I know that my manager is stressed at the prospect of going through writing multiple performance appraisals. Thus and so, anything I can do to helpfully and respectfully tie useful bits of information together in my self-appraisal is just another example of my caring attitude.
This might all sound a bit cynical to you, but let’s be guided by that old but very accurate army saying: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”.
In reverse order, justifying requires hardening of positions. The harder the position, the easier it is to identify as true or false. The classic sequence is justify, lay blame and quit. It’s almost inevitable.
An excuse starts with taking responsibility and then moving it off your patch gently and imperceptibly. Not a violent movement.
So, in summary, with the end of the performance appraisal year fast approaching, my advice is to start early on constructing the temple of half-remembered truths. Burn some incense of forgetfulness.
Have a preliminary chat with your manager to see how much they remember, and how stressed they are about the whole performance appraisal process.
And one more thought before I really go. It’s best at all times to remember what someone once said: “When all is said and done, success isn’t final and failure isn’t fatal. Whether you won or lost isn’t important. What matters most … is how good you looked.”
As I cannot find any reference to someone else saying this pithy saying, it must have been me. Obviously!
Steve Ashby is CEO of Businessmentals.