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Pull off a savvy self-assessment

by on
in Career Management,Workplace Communication

Whether it comes annually, biennially or quarterly, most employees don’t look forward to re­­view time. Even many experts aren’t fully convinced of the value of this staple of the American workplace, writes Harvard Business Review contributing editor Amy Gallo.

Valuable or not, self-assessments seem here to stay, so you need to figure out how to do them well in a way that’s honest without appearing arrogant or getting yourself in trouble. Gallo compiled expert advice on how to do just that:

  1. Ask your boss what she plans to do with what you write. “Many lazy bosses see it as an easy way to shuffle off the difficult task of writing a review,” says Dick Grote, author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals. If that sounds like your manager, Grote says, write your appraisal in a way that allows him to copy and paste from your form to his, replacing every ‘I’ and ‘my’ with ‘she’ and ‘her.’”
  2. Focus on what you’ve accomplished. Be clear about what you’ve done well without being arrogant. And “Be very clear about what contributions you’ve made to the business unit,” says Timothy Butler, a senior fellow and the director of Career Development Programs at Harvard Business School.  
  3. Address your mistakes carefully. You want to do so in a positive way. Say ‘Here’s an area I want to work on. This is what I’ve learned. This is what we should do going forward,’” Butler suggests.
  4. Keep it focused on you. “Don’t use defensive language or criticize other parties. That doesn’t move things forward,” Butler says. “If you’re having a significant problem with a co-worker, talk to your manager long before the review—with the door closed, not in a written document.”
  5. Solicit appropriate assistance. Review time is a good time to lobby for career-development opportunities. Explain what you most enjoy and which you’d like to learn more about. Ask to get involved with projects that interest you or for funding to take a course. Just make sure your requests fit with the business’ needs.

— Adapted from “How to Write the Dreaded Self-Appraisal,” Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review’s HBR Blog Network.

Online resource: For more help on writing a self-appraisal, download this free self-evaluation form.

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