Self-Assessment 5 Must-Do Tips for Writing Your Performance Evaluation

Self Assessment Must-Do Tips: How to Write Your Performance Evaluation

I warn you. This isn’t what you’d read about self-assessment in the holy Books of Human Resources. You won’t find references to “employee vitality checks”, or “learning clubs” or “active engagement and disengagement”, or “going meta”.   Or any of the other bollocks stuff that earnest HR types dream up to disguise self-evaluation. Because most people absolutely hate it. And they know it.

My approach to self-evaluation and performance review in general is radically different, as you will see.

Productive self-assessment is an art. It’s not an exercise in humbling yourself.  Far from it. A great self-evaluation sets up a chain of emotional responses all the way up to the last person signing off your Performance Review.

Here are 5 tips to remember when you are completing your self-evaluation

Self-assessment Tip #1 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. It’s my self-evaluation, after all!

I’ll stop short of outright lies, but I’ll learn from advertising and marketing techniques and write up my performance review of me, 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’m ready to accept the accolades of an adoring manager who knows that glowing testimony of them will be seen by their boss. The performance review process is a reverse back scratching exercise.  I scratch my boss’s back, they scratch their boss’s back and so it goes.

It’s a very important skill, blowing my own trumpet. 

Self-assessment Tip #2: 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.”  So I write my self-assessment based on “facts – the new definition”

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 many random assertions that I can turn into facts.

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. That’s one of the big problems managers have with performance review… finding who actually did what!

The chances that she will go back and rigorously cross-reference my account with the similarly fuzzy recollections of my co-workers are slim to zero.

Just don’t lie. Too black and white. Go for grey!  There are 50 shades on the self-assessment colour wheel/

Self-assessment Tip #3: 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 marketing tip is to remember your audience for your performance review. 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. 

She is the wise counsellor, the one who points out the path of the righteous and only gently scolds me should I stumble and fall.  So, in my self-assessment I’m going to give her some bigly credit!

Subtle nods in the direction of my manager whose wisdom, foresight and overall good personas have made it possible for me to achieve my goals is very sensible. 

You know them and so you know what both ruffles their feathers and gets them cooing like a dove.  Make sure your self-assessment has THEM cooing!

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:


It’s not a permanent position – it’s a performance review. Just until you get the good score. Results, not activity. Outputs not inputs. Deliverables. With me so far?

Self-assessment Tip #4: 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 on 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 “on the top of the list” approach is what we call “recalibration”. A very good word to use in your self-evaluation.  

I know that my manager is stressed at the prospect of going through writing multiple performance appraisals. 

Anything I can do to helpfully and respectfully tie useful bits of information together in my self-assessment is just another example of my helpful and caring attitude.  It will make it easier for my manager to write a glowing performance review at the end of the year.

This might all sound a bit cynical to you, but remember the old but very accurate army saying: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. 

I agreed a few vague objectives at the start of the performance review year with my manager. but look, neither of us could have foreseen how those good ideas and intention got derailed during the year.

So, I figure I’d rather do my self-assessment on what I was able to achieve, rather than on a bunch of half-assed ideas that were, IMHO, never going to fly.  I mean, REALLY!

Self-assessment Tip #5 : 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, when your manager asks the idiots in Sales it becomes clear that this was not the sequence at all.  Self-assessment just got flushed down the toilet. Good end of year performance review looking decidedly ropey!

A well-formed 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 powerful self-assessment of responsibility….

“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.”

Your manager will pat you on the back of the hand and say “there, there, dear.  Don’t be upset! You tried!” and your failure (and excuse) will get shoved to the back-burner when the performance review is written.

In Summary

And there you have them. 5 fabulous tips for producing a wonderful performance review. 

So, with the end of the performance review 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-assessment process.

Before you go

Once more for the record, in case you’ve forgotten, here are the 5 tips for crushing your Self-Assessment:

  1. There is no “I” in team, but there’s a whole lotta “Me”
  2. Detail makes facts
  3. Retrofit
  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. 

Being artful is defined by 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.

5 thoughts on “Self Assessment Must-Do Tips: How to Write Your Performance Evaluation

  1. Ernest Herrera says:

    I want to to thank you for this good read!! I absolutely loved every bit
    of it. I’ve got you book-marked to look at new things you post…

  2. John says:

    A great read Steve. You sound like the artful dodger yourself, but these are indeed vital corporate survival skills which you have mastered.
    Your blogs are real experience based Life Hacks.

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