Performance review – tips for writing your self assessment

Dear Joan:

My performance review is coming up in a few weeks and I would like to ask you a question about something that has me ill at ease. Last week my boss asked me if I would fill out a ‘self assessment,” which is basically filling out my own performance review. I have never done this before and I’m not sure what I should do.


What is the purpose? Isn’t my supervisor supposed to be doing my review? If I rate myself too low, do I risk getting a lower review and lower salary increase because I didn’t push for more? If I rate myself too high, do I look like I have an inflated opinion of myself? Please advise.



Self assessments have become very popular and with good reason. Managers can’t possibly remember—as well as you can—everything you accomplished throughout the year. By asking you to provide input into your own review, it reminds your boss about all the good things you achieved.


In addition, there are probably aspects of your job that you weren’t as happy about. By doing a self assessment, you beat your boss to the punch on those disappointments. It’s always easier to bring up those parts of your performance, than to have it brought up to you.


Finally, it gives you a chance to see if you have the same expectations as your manager about how you work and the results you get. If your rating does differ in some areas, it highlights the gaps and forces a discussion about how you can meet those expectations next time.


In the past, performance reviews were a one-way dialogue, where bosses told employees how they viewed their performance. Today, many employees work quite independently and are empowered to make decisions about how they work. As a result, the manager is not in touch with the day-to-day activities and needs to rely on the employee’s input. Performance reviews are more of a dialogue today and should be a comprehensive review of the year, as well as a planning meeting about where employees can grow in their jobs and/or their careers in the year ahead.


Another tactic that is very common is to solicit feedback from other people you work with. That might mean asking several coworkers, inside customers or even outside customers for their comments about your work. This is especially valuable data if your results are measured by how you work as a team member and by how you deliver results to people outside your department. This is one of the best ways your supervisor can determine a fair rating for your performance.


This is not a time for modesty. And when you are filling out your assessment, it’s important to be as factual as possible. In other words, don’t say, “I work well with my fellow team members.” Instead, say, “I am a team player. During the Maxwell Project, I stayed late for three evenings to help Janet get the delivery ready for shipment and I volunteered to cover for Pat when she went out for surgery. This meant coming in early and working additional hours during the two weeks she was out, which saved the unit money and kept a high level of service for our customers because we didn’t have to hire a temp.”


When you are checking a rating for yourself, be as objective as possible. It’s tempting to rate yourself based on your intentions, rather than your results. In other words, you may feel very dedicated to your company and to your job but what difference did you make? How much did you contribute to customer satisfaction? Do your team members value you? How did you contribute to the business goals? Did you take the lead on any change efforts? Showing up every day isn’t enough.


If you do rate yourself higher than your manager does, (and incidentally, research shows that most people rate themselves lower than their manager would) consider it an opportunity to discuss why and make adjustments for next year.


Your performance review is not meant to be an opportunity for negotiation and bargaining. You may have some information that will contribute to it but this is not the time to get into a fight over differing perceptions. Instead, strive for clarity and understanding.


For instance, if you are surprised by anything on your evaluation, say, “I wish you would have told me this before. If I had known, I certainly would have changed my actions.” This is a nice way of telling your boss he or she isn’t playing fair and it’s not helpful to tell you after the fact. As a result, your boss may even reconsider including the negative comment, since you were unaware of it before the review.


If you are in disagreement about the importance of one incident, or a recent incident, say, “If you step back and look at my total performance, what percentage does this incident represent?” Or, “Is this a pattern of behavior or a one-time incident?” These comments help your manager gain some perspective about your total performance.


A self assessment invites you to have a two-way discussion about expectations and some influence over what you are rated, which is a big step forward in the world of performance management.

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,, or 
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