Closing the Gap Between a Self-Review and a Supervisor’s Review

Increasingly popular in today’s business world, a professional self-review is usually part of a broader evaluation process that encompasses other traditional forms of performance appraisal. Often, people writing their self-reviews tend to undersell themselves, as it can be difficult to talk positively about yourself without fear of sounding self-important. In many cases, a supervisor’s objective assessment will be much more ebullient.

However, there may be some distance between your own assessment of yourself and what your supervisor thinks and says about your work performance. You may be surprised when sitting down with your boss to learn that he or she had less positive things to say about your performance than you did.

If you do experience such a disconnect when comparing reviews, these tips can help to bridge that gap and make the process a constructive one that helps get you closer to your career goals:

  • Consider the source. Just because a supervisor writes something negative (or positive) about your performance doesn’t necessarily make it true. Jealousy, resentment, and other negative emotions are inevitable in the workplace and must be dealt with. If you don’t agree with someone’s assessment of your work, calmly and professionally voice your concerns. Remember to focus on the job duties and not the personalities. The more you can highlight a task, the less personal the discussion becomes.
  • Carefully examine the gaps. Sometimes there’s less distance between two points of view than you might think. In some cases, people use different language to say the same thing. Before you get upset by a boss’s appraisal, read between the lines and try to be objective. For example, if you notice that the responsibilities you describe are not the same as those set forth by your supervisor, look at the wording closely to determine if he or she is simply saying the same things differently.
  • Be open and flexible. This sounds easier than it is, but the more open you can be, the more chances you’ll have for success. Let’s say your boss remembered some circumstances — ones that hindered your performance — which you left out of your self-review. You may be surprised and taken aback by the inclusion of this information, but you can still learn from your supervisor’s assessment. It may be tempting to be defensive, but that kind of stance is unlikely to help you. Instead, consider his or her point of view. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You may recall the “offense” but not consider it worthy of inclusion in a review. After some discussion your boss might even agree to remove it.
  • Ask questions. Asking questions leads to clarity, knowledge, and sometimes better reviews. When you sit down with your supervisor to discuss the intersection of your self-review and his or her assessment of your performance, ask as many questions as you can. Here are a few to start with: What will help me to do a better job? Are the following goals [list them] appropriate for me to set for the next year? Are these actions [list them] ones that you can help me with to accomplish those goals? What can you do to help me do a better job? Are there other people in the department who you believe can help me achieve these goals?
  • Embrace your fear. That sounds a little like New Age self-help, but when it comes to self-reviews, we all can use some extra assistance, especially when we can find it within ourselves. First, prepare for the process. In other words, familiarize yourself with the review process so that you can minimize the surprises. Fear of the unknown often magnifies stress and worry. By educating yourself you can break down some of that performance review stage fright.
  • Assemble a paper trail. Electronic communication may be more common these days, but a true paper trail can come in handy. Keep records of all your reviews so that you have something concrete to refer to the next time around.
  • Live and learn. Once the review process has been completed, see what you can learn for the next time. This isn’t the first time you’ll be reviewed and it certainly won’t be the last. Be sure to read Learning from Performance Reviews for tips on how to benefit from this experience.
  • Stay the course. It is appropriate to agree to disagree about aspects of your performance you feel strongly about. This entails refuting employer evaluations with specific arguments and, ultimately, acknowledging the supervisor’s point of view while emphasizing your position with supporting facts.

For more information on this topic, read The Benefits of Employee Self-Reviews. See a sample Employee Appraisal Form on the Web site.