Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reasons why you should submit a self-evaluation at work

I have conceptualized this as a two part posting.  In this post, I plan to explain why it is in your best interest to submit a self-evaluation as part of your employee evaluation.  In a future post, I plan to discuss the “how to” of writing a winning self-evaluation.

I recall my first experience in a position where a self-evaluation was requested as part of the annual review process as part of the annual review process.  Myself and a colleague, let’s call her Oscarette (yes she was a crabby lady), had recently been promoted to the Provider Relations department of a very large organization.  Sure, I had experienced various degrees of being asked for input on my performance evaluation, but this was my first encounter with being asked for a written document.  From this first experience and in many experiences since that time, I have become a strong advocate for the importance or preparing and submitting a high quality self-evaluation.

The most obvious reason for spending time on preparing a strong self-evaluation is money.  In many organizations a bonus or raise may be based directly from your score on a performance evaluation.  Such was the case with my Provider Relations position and I received a decent raise based on my performance evaluation.  Oscarette, who expressed displeasure with the extra tasking of having the write a self-evaluation didn’t fare as well.  Entirely in line with her character, the first statement I recall hearing from Oscarette was, “why do I need to write a self-evaluation; it’s his (the boss’s) job to do my evaluation.”  In this position, our boss was split between New York City and Albany, New York.  Moreover, the position was a professional level position in which there is an expectation that you perform much work independently, with little or no supervision.  Given these factors, the benefit of an opportunity for me to express my achievements in a positive manner was self-evident; I would have been shocked if my boss knew and / or could recall everything that I did.

One of the most frequent complaints that I hear in the workplace from employees is that their boss does not know or appreciate all of the hard work that they do.  A good written self-evaluation can be a conversation starter.  If you are wallowing in misery in your job, the self-evaluation is an opportunity to not only educate your boss on the many challenges of your position, but perhaps may also be an opportunity to point the boss toward assignments that may be more personally gratifying.
Since my first exposure to a formal self-evaluation requirement, I have encountered new twists on the age old Oscarette perspective.  More recently, I have been in positions where I have heard colleagues respond, “What’s the difference, we all get the same bonus anyway (or there isn't any money anyways).”  I continue to be mystified by this attitude.  I know of few people who stay in the same position their entire working career.  If you are hopeful of a promotion or a better job, your performance review should matter to you.  Opportunities are not attracted to mediocrity.  In every instance that I have provided a written self-assessment, it has become part of the official record.  A formal self-assessment is an excellent way for you to ensure that your interests and your proudest accomplishments are well touted.  It is important to note that along with career successes, there will also be some set-backs and failures as well.  Perhaps you have one of those bosses that I haven’t met yet, but when it comes to putting a spin on a flop, I’d much rather have the opportunity to paint my disaster in a positive light than leave it to my boss who may not be as diplomatic.  The ability of being able to express learning from your mistakes not only acknowledges the set-back during the assessed year, but also speaks to your character and will make you more attractive to new opportunities.  I have participated in many hiring decisions and when reviewing volumes of application documents I always read the self-evaluations while I often skim documents that appear canned and verbose.

I have encountered some extreme Oscarettes who have expressed sentiments that their annual review doesn't matter because everyone gets about the same and that they aren't looking to change jobs either so it doesn't make sense to put much effort into a self-evaluation.  Well here’s a news flash – change will happen with you or without you.  Private companies get bought, sold and “right sized”; supervisors turnover.  As these changes occur, decisions as to future assignments (or perhaps retention) will be made and the most obvious data source of your track record is your written evaluations.  It is important that you consistently advocate for your best interest; writing a solid self-evaluation is one of the best forms of self-advocacy that you can perform in the workplace.
In anticipation of my follow up post relating to actually doing a self-assessment, I will briefly remark that self-assessment is not the place for self-flagellation.  Save your low self-esteem issues for your therapist; don’t degrade yourself in a public record.  For anyone on the career treadmill, this is definitely an instance where you want to Lean In.