Performance appraisal sucks. Everyone says so.
And the part that sucks the most is self-evaluation. Mostly because we hate writing about ourselves. We struggle with coming across as arrogant, as though nothing could be achieved without us.
For many of us, the issue is SELF-CONFIDENCE. (Please understand, this article is written to have a few laughs about Self-Evaluation. But the underlying message is that we can help you with Self-confidence, because it is a skill – that you can learn).
So, into the breach, brave soldiers! Let’s attack the Self-Evaluation monster and re-programme ourselves at the same time (and have a few impudent and irreverent laughs along the way!
READY???? Taranta taa taaaaaaa!!! CHARGE!
The first thing to do when it comes to feelings of lack of confidence to talk about yourself instead of others is…..
Get over yourself!! – it’s “everyone for themselves” time! And why would I, with 35 years’ experience in HR say this?
Because it’s true. That’s why.
Your performance rating depends how well you convince your manager that you’ve done an outstanding job, because THEY CANNOT REMEMBER (LIKE ALWAYS)!
Fun Fact. 81.4% of managers cannot remember what you did last week. OK, maybe not 81.4%. Maybe it’s even higher than that!!
If you’re a manager reading this, can you honestly say what your team members have contributed in the past 3 weeks? Probably not, unless you’re like a CEO I worked with briefly, who carried a piece of paper in his shirt pocket and wrote down EVERYTHING that his team of nine VPs did. True story!
Every day. Hence the brevity of our relationship. I don’t thrive under relentless, constant supervision.
With so many people like you who are suffering, you could, y’know… like, comment, even share this article and help someone in the depths of their despair. To find a way out….
Just so you know, we’re releasing a surprisingly brilliant on-line course on 14th December called “Crush Your Self-Evaluation (and Get Outstanding Results!). Stay tuned, we’ll give you a lot more information over the next few days. You honestly won’t know yourself after you’ve been through the course.
Now that you are (hopefully) hooked on what I have to say… here are 10 Tremendous Tips for Turning Self-evaluation into an Amazing Asset.
I warn you. This isn’t what you’d read in the holy books of Human Resources. You won’t find references to “employee vitality checks”, or “learning clubs” or “active engagement/disengagement”, or “inside” information. Or any of the thousands of other bollocks stuff that earnest HR gurus dream up. Which I, as a time-served grizzly veteran of all things HR, dreamt up in my time too.
This is “do unto others before the other buggers do unto me!”
Tip the First: There is no “I” in team. But there’s a whole lotta “ME!”
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 MY turn on stage. All the spotlights are shining on ME. And I’m not going to freeze like a rabbit in the headlights. I’ve got Gloria Gaynor belting out “I will survive” in my head and I’m ready to accept the accolades of an adoring manager who secretly knows that she/he needs my glowing testimony of THEM to show THEIR boss.
An upward sequence of sycophantic, smarmy schmaltz (if you will).
It’s a very important skill, blowing my own trumpet. I’ll start practising now!
Tip the Second: Detail makes facts
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 that the definition of a fact is “the right amount of the right kind of information to make someone believe it.”
I’m a big believer in the old saying “never let the facts get in the way of a good story!” And 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!
As they say in NLP, all memories are myths. So, I make sure the memories I recall are positive, have a full load of “feel-good” elixir, and make us all dream of the better days behind us. My manager is now feeling relieved that at least someone remembers what happened and who did what.
The chances that she 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.
Just don’t lie. Too black and white. Go for grey!
Tip the Third: It’s Not All about You
I have a manager who is going to read my self-evaluation 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.
My manager is the friend I’ve always dreamed of, when it comes to bosses. In fact, she is much more than that. Wise counsellor, the one who points out the path of the righteous and only gently chides me should I perchance stumble and fall. “Yay though I walk in death’s dark vale yet will I fear none ill: For thou art with me; and thy rod and staff me comfort still.…” (Psalm23:4) you get the picture, right?
Subtle nods in the direction of my manager whose wisdom, foresight and overall good personness have made it possible for me to achieve my goals is very sensible. You know them and thus you know what both ruffles their feathers and gets them cooing like a dove.
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. Results, not activity. Outputs not inputs. Deliverables…. With me so far?.
Tip the Fourth: Retrofit
I’ve done some good things this year. Not all of them were on the objectives list at the beginning of the year. (Even better if there WASN’T a 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. Even though that was the original list. The “over the top of the list” approach is what we call “recalibration”. A very good word to use in your self-evaluation.
There are literally hundreds of websites offering the right sentences to use. They range from the OECD https://www.oecd.org/dac/18074294.pdf to the Vale of Glamorgan government offices in Wales, who use the “Estyn Common Inspection Framework” for self-evaluation phrases. https://www.estyn.gov.wales/document/common-inspection-framework-september-2017
I wonder if there’s a “Westyn Common Inspection Framework” and whether it has Welsh phrases. Like “I’m not bein funny like, but I want less munty chopsing now after, raiyt? Worririz aint tidy darts, and I’ll be gerring raiyt tamping if it carries on! I’m just sayin!”
Loosely translated as “I want to make it clear that I will not tolerate this unhealthy arguing (about your results). It’s not good for anyone, and I will get somewhat irked if it continues”.
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-evaluation 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”. So, I agreed a few vague objectives at the start of the year with my manager but neither of us could have foreseen how those good ideas and intention got derailed during the year.
So, I figure I’d rather be appraised on what I was able to achieve, rather than on a bunch of half-assed ideas that were, IMHO, never going to fly.
Tip the Fifth: Excuse, don’t justify
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 (again from NLP) is justify, lay blame and quit. It’s almost inevitable. “Well, I tried to make it happen, even though it was a stupid objective. But those idiots in Sales couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery, so I stopped.” So, upon asking the idiots in Sales it becomes clear that this was not the sequence at all.
An excuse starts with taking responsibility and then moving it off your patch gently and imperceptibly. Not a violent movement. I’ve heard people say things like “I accept full responsibility for the stupid things those idiots in Sales did. I obviously used too many big words when I was explaining what I needed.”
Contrast that statement with this one….
“I’m aware it was my responsibility to (insert desired result here) and that it didn’t happen. I did spend time talking with the sales team about (desired result) but maybe I didn’t make it clear enough how important it was. Or go back frequently enough to make sure it was happening. It did come at a time when I was really busy on (another desired result) which DID get finished.
It wasn’t the sales team’s fault. I thought they were working on it, and they thought I knew that they weren’t. I’m just disappointed that the breakdown in understanding meant that we weren’t able to achieve the desired result.”
And there you have them. The 5 Fabulous Finangles for producing a wonderful Self-Evaluation. Did I say there were 10 Tremendous Tips earlier? Ah.
That was Marketing! SORRY/NOTSORRY!!
So, with the end of the performance management 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 Management process.
You could even ask them for a brief meeting to “re-establish your actual goals” and verbally get them onto the ones you achieved, and away from the ones they thought they gave you back in the moisty mists of time. All as part of showing intense interest in the self-evaluation process.
Before you go
Once more for the record, in case you’ve forgotten (I promise I won’t rewrite them knowing you are unlikely to go back and check!)
1. There is no “I” in team, but there’s a whole lotta “Me”
2. Detail makes facts
4. It’s not all about you
5. Excuse (yourself), don’t justify
Before you go (again)
And one more thought before I go. The Artful Dodger from Dicken’s Oliver Twist wasn’t artful for nothing. It helped him survive. No mean feat for an older gent in those troubled times.
Being artful is defined by no lesser authority than the Oxford Dictionary as “1. being clever and skilful, especially in getting what you want: 2. intelligent and skilful, esp. in persuading, sometimes without being completely honest.” Sure, there are some negative connotations such as “slyly crafty or cunning; deceitful and tricky.” But they sound like classic definitions of advertising to me.
Before you really, really go (have I said that before?)
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!
Writing this has been a great deal of fun! I sincerely hope that you enjoyed it, and maybe got something out of it too, other than a few laughs. Can I respectfully request you to like, comment here, and/or share with friends going through the self-evaluation hurdles now. They might just find something useful!
And as I said, watch out for news about the upcoming Online course “How To Crush Your Self-Evaluation (And Get Outstanding Results!)