Take Charge Of Performance Reviews

Posted: December 28, 2010

Don’t let performance appraisals become a formality – they can be a powerful career development tool for women at work.

By Anne John

Every year, there comes a time which is awaited with eagerness by some, dread by a few and even indifference by others. No, I am not referring to promotions, bonuses or salary increments here, but to what goes before all these – the annual appraisal or performance review process.

Post appraisal, many employees feel discontented that their skills and achievements have not been rightly recognized. In fact, many are of the opinion that the whole appraisal process is just eyewash. As Angela George*, who works in an MNC based out of Bangalore puts it, “Most often appraisal is considered just a mandatory process that employees need to do annually, like submitting claims/investment proofs… the primary objective of having appraisals is lost, as it does not help much in professional or personal development and neither does it play a role in salary hike or promotion which is very subjective these days.”

While this may vary from one organization to another, it is equally true that many employees do not treat their self-appraisals with due seriousness. Ideally, employees should set their goals at the beginning of the appraisal period and periodically review them with the manager. At the end of the appraisal period, it then becomes easier to have a review with the manager and receive one’s feedback and ranking. But as we don’t live in an ideal world, employees and even some managers are either too busy or just too bored to devote time and attention to performance appraisals. After repeated reminders from the HR team, I have seen people copy-paste from a friend’s submission or even their older appraisal documents, all of which may be irrelevant to the current situation.

So what can we do to make the appraisal process a fruitful and meaningful one? Here are a few pointers from people who have been there and done that:

Begin The Performance Review On The Right Note

Be sincere and positive while setting your goals. Do not state vague goals like “Improve my programming skills”- instead come up with something tangible and concrete such as “Get certified in J2EE”. Set at least a few goals which can be answered with a yes or no when the question arises, “Have you achieved it?”

Be realistic. Do not set yourself unrealistic goals in a spurt of ambitiousness. If they end up being unmet, your rating will plummet. On the other hand, do not set overtly simplistic goals either. Be aware of the skill-sets of your peers, understand your responsibilities and set competitive goals accordingly. Take into account your deadlines and project schedules.

Ask for help. Not all companies are proactive about training programmes. In such cases, it may help if employees themselves do some research and provide appropriate suggestions for the same.

A mid-way checkpoint for your performance review

Many companies have a mid-year appraisal, solely as a check-point to gauge where you stand in your journey towards your goals and for any corrections or modifications. Venu Vedre, a business analyst with an Insurance company based out of the US, advises, “Use this opportunity to take a step back and think about yourself. A little self-reflection is one of the best catalysts for growth and change.”

If you feel that there are any impediments that may prevent you from achieving your goals, speak to your manager about them. It does not help to keep mum till the last minute and then complain that you could not meet your targets. Even if it is a valid reason, your manager will simply assume that you are making excuses and it may affect your credibility.

In case your company does not have a scheduled mid-year appraisal, you could still approach your manager for a quick chat about your progress or concerns – and document the same.

End your performance review smoothly

Venu suggests approaching the self-appraisal by actively thinking about:

  • To what extent have I achieved the set objectives?
  • What did I do well? In what aspects of my work have I been most successful?
  • In what area of my work is there room for improvement and how can I improve them?

Give examples. During your self -appraisal, discuss how you performed in each of your essential job functions and give specific examples of how focused you were in achieving your goals.

Do not overstate or understate what you have done and do not evaluate and rate your competencies unrealistically as it may not match with your manager’s perception of your work.

Jayanthi Raman*, a project manager who has worked in several leading software companies in Chennai says, “If there are any activities other than the set goals that the person has been involved in, they should be clearly mentioned.” Do not be shy; boldly state what you have done during the appraisal period.

Discuss unmet goals. If there are some goals that you could not meet, talk about what you have learnt or what you will do differently during the new appraisal year. Sometimes, unexpected events (such as a natural disaster or a stock market crash) may derail targets and make them unachievable. Though not all managers may be open to re-assessing and changing goals, it would be helpful to at least document your point of view.

Stay open to feedback. When you have your feedback session with your manager, listen attentively with an open-mind to what is being communicated. Do not be weighed down by prejudices, thinking “Anyway he/she is only going to give me X rank”. If you are unhappy with the appraisal and think that your ranking is unfair, voice your opinion in a professional manner. Do not get angry and become judgmental or argumentative. Also, do not put down other members of your team saying “She/he did only this much but has got a higher rating”. Stick to discussing your work – demeaning others smacks of a lack of team-spirit.

Appraisals are an important tool that can impact future work assignments, opportunities for promotion and crucially, development of your own skills. Be actively involved in your appraisal process rather than just sitting back and letting your boss dictate your ratings, feedback, goals and development plans.

*Names changed on request.

Anne John plays with words for a living and would probably do the same even

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