This time of year is appraisal season, bringing with it all the popularity of flying-ant day. Many employees find the process less than inspiring. Few appraisals come about as a result of people asking for them, instead they’re often seen as primarily benefitting the business. Try looking at yours in a different light. By reframing it, you can make sure your appraisal benefits you.
Your appraisal doesn’t have to be just a list of things you need to work on. Use it to your advantage. First, know what you want from your job. More recognition perhaps, maybe more responsibility. In thinking about how to get what you want from your role, you might find that you need advice from senior people, training in new skills or opportunities to develop existing abilities.
By keeping opportunities in mind, you can go into your appraisal knowing what’s in it for you. Of course, it’s a two-way process. Support, recognition and promotion at work come from the people around you. Their feedback can be regarded as constructive advice that you can transform into progress. In looking at your appraisal in a positive light, you can get more from it than you might have imagined. Here’s how to do more of the same.
5 ways to get the most out of your appraisal
Advice from Working Voices consultant trainer Jay Rhoderick
1. Do your homework
I make sure to go into the conversation having done my homework on myself, and on my recent accomplishments and (importantly!) challenges at work. Try to pull together any relevant information that supports your achievements and your ambitions. A record of what you’ve been doing will help you when you’re in the room. Before an appraisal, I think about the following: –
- What sort of worker I am?
- How do I like to be managed?
- How do I prefer to be critiqued?
2. Do an honest personal inventory
I try to think about the bigger picture. There are different parts to this. As well my objectives, there’s the way I operate at work, for example the way I tackle a project. There’s my personal brand, and my relationships with the people I work with. I try to think about:
- Professional goals
- Collaborative style
- Thinking/organisational process
3. Think about your reviewer
I have to consider these same things for my supervisor. I want to understand how she communicates, for example whether there are any unique or challenging ways that she expresses herself. Particularly, I should consider how straightforward and direct my reviewer may be, versus how subtle they may usually be. This is so I can “read” him or her as clearly as possible in the conversation. Ask yourself:
- Do they prefer to do most of the talking?
- Do they prefer to take lots of pauses before or during speaking?
- Do they prefer to ask (or be asked) “closed” (yes/no) versus “open” questions?
- Are they conversational in tone or more formal and interrogative?
- Do they like to tell and hear stories?
- How personal do they get in discussing their own work and lives?
4. Taking the reviewer’s lead
Next, I think about how the conversation is likely to go. What history and rapport do I have with my reviewer? Once in the room, I usually set about trying my best to “match their energy” by:
- Lots of eye contact
- Asking questions
- Telling stories
- Speaking less formally, or more so, depending on the tone they’ve set
- Give them room to relax by being as relaxed as possible myself
I give myself permission to ask them for clarification if I need it, to be truthful and candid, and to embrace discussing mistakes as a natural part of the review. The more relaxed and open I am, the more I can match the reviewers’ tone and energy in a collaborative way, the more ownership I’ll have of this important conversation.
5. How to receive positive or negative comments and issue during a review.
Unless any negative feedback is disrespectful or abusive, I try to receive feedback as a developmental gift. Not as a nagging reminder that I’m not perfect or infallible (which is not emotionally intelligent thinking in any case), but as a natural guide along the continuum of professional development. Rather than expecting or even desiring “brutal” feedback, I try to receive areas for improvement with optimism, valuing praise I receive. It’s an opportunity.
In managing a difficult conversation, negative feedback is not more valid or “serious” than positive feedback. If I am doing well, and my reviewer tells me so, then that best practice will tend to deepen and grow but only if I take in the good feedback as maturely and openly as I do the tougher feedback.
For me, it’s often harder to hear and accept the praise. Far from being virtuous modesty, this holds the danger of preventing me from growing. Beating myself up or hearing only the negative stuff in the review will likewise immobilize me and damage my morale, making overcoming the challenges far less likely. I’ve found that an open, optimistic attitude begets stronger reviews down the line, as well as greater respect from my reviewers during and after the conversation.
Accessing new opportunities
As Jay says, the appraisal process starts before you get into the room. Preparing in advance will help you be clear about what you want from the discussion. You might find there are issues that you want to discuss that perhaps aren’t easy for you or your reviewer. Warning your reviewer in advance will ensure they are prepared, or at least will make it harder for them to brush your concerns aside.
Throughout an appraisal, specifics will always help. Details of what you did, and when, will help you demonstrate your ability and see areas for improvement. Before you get into the room, practice what you want to say, out loud, so that your successes and challenges are clear in your mind. By talking from informed research, you’ll have a clearer idea about your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you remain clear-sighted during feedback.
If you’re being reviewed by someone you don’t know, or don’t particularly trust, it might help to bring examples of your work, along with feedback from other people who know what you have contributed. Whoever’s leading your review, whatever they say in the moment, it’s important to remain respectful and calm so that you can focus on the logic of what you want to say.
These days, many companies are switching to continuous feedback. In the performance management revolution, annual appraisals are being phased out in favour of regular coaching and support. This might benefit you soon, if it hasn’t already. In the meantime, treat your appraisal as an opportunity, and use it as a stepping stone towards developing your personal brand.