If you’ve worked at an organisation, you will already be familiar with annual appraisals. You may be reading this now because perhaps you are preparing for an upcoming appraisal. An appraisal is a meeting with your manager about your progress, successes, and struggles in your role over the past year. Appraisals help you to become a better team player and are an opportunity to speak with your manager about your goals and setbacks.
The most important part of preparing for your appraisal involves a shift in mindset. If you are the type of person who takes pride in your work and chooses to be an optimist, you could be blindsided if you don’t mentally prepare for what your appraisal may entail. Remember that the purpose of an appraisal is not only to praise your strengths and successes over the past year, but also to point out areas that need improvement.
Choose to have an open mind. Remind yourself that your manager will discuss both your strengths and weaknesses, and weaknesses are human! Only by learning about your weaknesses will you be able to grow. When your manager brings up a weakness, the human response is to get defensive. Fight the urge to defend yourself. Hear them out first, and be open to what they have to say.
After you have placed yourself in the right frame of mind, take some time to reflect on your past year. Grab a piece of paper or open up your laptop and detail some points that answer the following questions: What have you done well over the past year? What did you struggle with? How can you improve? This exercise can prepare you for what your manager has to say, and it could help you draw attention to specific points you want to discuss in your appraisal.
As you reflect on your past year, be careful not to confuse effort with impact. You may have put in a lot of effort for a project, but there may be nothing to show for it, and you should be accepting of this. It is fair to discuss your effort with your manager, but be honest about the outcome or lack thereof.
In order for an appraisal and rating of your work to be fair, it must be based on what you did, not what you intend to do. It is common for people to think that great effort warrants great reward. But if there is nothing to show for the effort, then it would be difficult to argue for a reward. However, telling your boss about your effort may help them be sympathetic towards your effort, regardless of the outcome.
Ask yourself what you would have done differently over the past year. Everyone makes mistakes, but those who learn from their mistakes are the ones who become even better. It is your choice to humble yourself, accept your mistakes, and find a way to improve.
If you are able to articulate what you have learned from your mistakes over the past year, your boss will have a much more positive opinion of you. This shows your manager that you care about your actions and are taking initiative to improve for the following year. Because of this, your manager will be more confident that you can be tasked with working on bigger and better things.
During reflection over the past year, some may try to intentionally find examples of how they have demonstrated company values. The truth is, if you are only thinking about the values now, then it is unlikely that you have actually exhibited them in your work. The purpose of company values is for them to become a day-to-day habit. It should naturally be part of daily conversations with your colleagues, and they should be mentioned during regular meetings. The easiest way for it to become part of your regular conversation is for the values to become habitual.
Although you could try, it would be difficult to make a checklist of what you should be doing to display these values. For example, if one of your values is empathy, how can you pinpoint concrete examples of how you showed empathy to a colleague or a customer? Your manager would’ve been able to pick up if you have demonstrated this value over the year.
Rather than analysing as many actions as you can remember over the past year, brainstorm ways to invite your company values into your daily life. Adopt these values to make you a better human being, and it may eventually lead to a promotion.
There is often a common misconception that an appraisal is the same as rating. If you think that you are walking into a rating, but it is actually an appraisal, then you may tune out valuable points and only wait to hear about how your manager rates you. Don’t let this become a lost opportunity where you could have learned about where you excelled and where you need to improve.
Some companies have delineated these discussions into two meetings: appraisal and rating. An appraisal is a broad discussion about you as a person, what you could have done better, evident strengths and weaknesses, and how you can improve. A rating is more straightforward and reveals how you are doing based on an evaluation of specific actions or targets.
Most people are obsessed with their rating. They want to quantifiably know how their manager feels about their work thus far. But if your company only has one discussion that includes both the appraisal and rating, be sure to pay attention to more than just your rating. Your appraisal gives you valuable feedback about your success and struggles over the past year.
It is easiest to manage your expectations when you go into the meeting with an open mind. Some people instinctively prepare for a debate with the manager even before they have said anything. They anticipate what their manager would say and then prepare counterpoints. This will do more harm than good because you cannot change your manager’s mind during the meeting.
The purpose of the appraisal is for your manager to inform you of how you have performed over the past year. It is not a debate or an opportunity for you to change your manager’s mind. If you try to prove your manager wrong, you are more likely to show that your manager’s judgment of you was accurate. You will only come across as a close-minded person, and you will inevitably end up reinforcing the negative feedback you have received.
Instead, go into your appraisal with an open mind and assume that your manager will add value to your life. There is always room to grow, and the more willing you are to grow, the better you will become. This is an opportunity for you to show humility and an understanding that there is always room for improvement.
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Head - Partners Marketing, Americas | Former Head of Media and Entertainment, India