Honest self-assessment is a valuable part of performance review

Dear Joan:
I always enjoy your column and online newsletter. About a month ago I read your column about evaluations and it gave some very good tips. I have a boss who absolutely hates doing these things. He makes me evaluate myself on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is outstanding). The way the criteria reads for the 5’s it’s hard to rate myself. Sometimes I could be a 4 and sometimes a 5. A fellow worker said I should always rate myself a 5 but I don’t want to sound like I think I am the greatest.

Should a person always rate themselves higher? I always feel that my boss may think I just have a big head. One time my boss did give me a 5 when I rated myself a 4. Maybe Human Resources should revise the criteria more effectively. Your comments are always appreciated.

Your manager has the right idea. Asking an employee to complete a self-evaluation is a good way to make the performance review process a valuable discussion tool. There are several reasons most managers ask employees to complete one. Your manager can’t remember everything you do during the year and this helps you get credit for things they forgot or underestimated. It’s also a way to beat your manager to the punch on things you know you have to improve.

Completing a self-assessment is a healthy thing to do for you, too. It forces you to analyze the past year and reevaluate your job and your career.

I disagree with your co-worker, however. I don’t think rating yourself all "5’s" is a good idea. I think your co-worker is looking at this as a negotiation process (start high and then be willing to take less). It doesn’t work that way. Ultimately, your manager is evaluating you. He or she has asked for your input as a way to give you a complete and fair assessment. If your self-assessment is an inflated opinion of yourself, it will likely backfire. Your manager will expect a fight on his hands and it will create a negative atmosphere for the performance review. In fact, studies show that most people who do self-assessments, tend to rate themselves lower than their manager does.

The best strategy is to be honest in your self-assessment. If you take an objective look at your performance, you will look mature and responsible. Make sure that you list specific results and accomplishments to substantiate each rating. Your manager will perceive you as coachable and look forward to the review as an opportunity to discuss your performance openly and honestly.

Dear Joan:
In my last position, I was a Plant Manager of a food/beverage manufacturing company. I was downsized five months ago, along with some of my peers and my boss. Since that time my wife became critically ill and had a relapse, which forced me to discontinue my search. Now she is doing better, back to work and feeling great. How do I explain the long period of being unemployed. What do I say when I’m asked, "What have you been doing?" or "Why haven’t you received an offer?" Please help.

Employers’ main concerns are that there is something wrong with you (or someone would have hired you by now), or that you are lazy (living off of a severance package you may have received). One response is to say, "My position was eliminated, along with several others. I was forced to discontinue my job search because my wife became critically ill. Things are great now and she is back to work and feeling great. We’re happy to put it all behind us." It will explain the time lapse and will reveal your compassion for a loved one. You can also put this in your cover letter and be sure to use positive, upbeat wording and emphasize that the health crisis is over.

Other hidden fears of employers are that you could potentially miss a lot of work, be distracted or have heavy health insurance costs. Some employers may use these unfounded (and potentially discriminatory) reasons to disqualify you; but I’m sure you’re aware that these perceptions can and do exist. As long as she’s back to work, it’s an opportunity to allay their hidden fears and convince them that you are a talented, dependable person who’s ready to jump back into the work world with new motivation. Good luck!

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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