If you think people are uncomfortable with sitting face-to-face during a performance appraisal-whether you’re the reviewee or the reviewer-imagine your employees’ dismay and discomfort at having to appraise themselves on paper, also known as a self-evaluation. The first question I would ask myself is simply, “What do I say?” At first, I would have no idea what to write about myself and I’d be nervous that perhaps I’d leave out something fabulous, something important that changed everything for the good. I’d also worry that maybe, if I did write about a weakness or two, well, maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea.
What´s important is how much thought you put into a self-review. Managers are looking for that, but how do you train people to write effectively (and fairly) about themselves-their attitudes, work outputs, enthusiasm, etc? One of the problems with self-reviews is that we don´t always know who´s going to be reading the finished piece. Will it be someone in human resources? Another manager, maybe, who´s interested in hiring you away to his or her department? Really, we don´t always know where those reviews are going to end up. It´s a little like posting something on the Internet, like what a blogger might do, and never knowing if a reader cuts and pastes a certain post to his cousin half-way around the world.
Conducting a self-review requires time and patience, maybe even a little soul searching. If you write a self-review in about ten minutes flat, chances are you probably haven´t given it much thought. And you don´t have to put everything down in one sitting. If you want to give your staff some pointers, start with these:
* Accentuate the positive. This old adage can come in handy when you´re conducting a self-review. Obviously, you want your staff to write about the times they did a good job, but it can also be effective when raising issues about improvement. Ask them how improving in a specific area will help them succeed. Show them how to frame a weakness as simply an opportunity for growth. Implore them to demonstrate how that growth will help them as individuals and enhance the company´s performance, too.
* Don´t rush. With any good piece of writing you want to let the text simmer a little. Once a staffer has written a self-review have that person go back to it a few days later and do a little editing. Emphasize the importance of first, second, and even third drafts.
* Ask questions. Well, first you need to provide the questions, but the idea here is to get your staff to ask themselves some hard questions like what would they do differently over the year if they could go back? What skills do they wish they had, etc.
Next time: more strategies for self-reviews.