DARE: A four step approach to make appraisals a happy journey
It is that time of the year when a million memes are floated on the web, cursing and mocking managers and the whole appraisal process. With many companies following the trend of doing away with bell curves, the frustrations associated with this yearly custom might grow or lessen in intensity, depending on which alternative is chosen for performance assessment.
The alternatives to the bell curve that companies are following are not easier either, and people will start to wear off just with the thought of giving frequent feedback, or justifying their ratings, depending on the role they play. Hence, as an employee, rather than analyzing how the performance assessment could work in our favor, we must have a different mindset towards appraisals and our performance, to turn this into a happy journey.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who had just completed his appraisal process and received a 3 sentence feedback summary from his boss. This was frustrating him. On the other hand, another friend of mine was so casual about the whole process that he had forgotten to submit his self-appraisal and peer-feedback. With a range of emotions and attitudes towards appraisals and conversations with managers, here is my four step approach that can help anyone get value out of this system.
To begin with, it is important to acknowledge and understand what the appraisal process should not be looked as. It is better if we neither look at it as a system that imposes restrictions on our paycheck nor consider it as just another process amongst the thousands we do without understanding the purpose of their existence. It is equally boring and dangerous when we look upon it as paperwork to be filled in at the last minute to simply get it out of our to-do list. And most importantly, starting the process with a belief that this is a medium used by managers to showcase their favoritisms, defeats the whole purpose. Instead, looking at the appraisals as a process, emphasizing the importance of reflection on our work life has helped me craft the right approach and mindset towards this to derive the most favorable results.
Looking at the appraisal process as a reflection of the work we did or did not do during a given time frame, pushes us to learn from our own mistakes and improve. Here is what we could do continuously over the year to make this yearly/quarterly event, a happy journey.
Every week or every other week, block your calendar for 15mins to reflect. Detach yourself from the role and look at your performance objectively and scribble down the top 3 things you did right and the top 3 you could improve on. Make sure you also factor in and think about the relationships you have fostered or shunned during this time frame. Make a list and keep this a rolling list.
When you have the list, put it up on your desk. Rather than analyze it at one shot, keep observing the list and internalizing the things you want to continue doing, and the things you want to change. This approach lets the analysis permeate our brains to internalize our strengths and weaknesses.
Rinse & Repeat
It is not often that we get an opportunity to undo things in life. But with this approach and with the list in front of your eyes, you are constantly reiterating the right things and avoiding the wrong. Make every effort to be mindful of each situation and go back to your list frequently. By doing this on a regular basis, you provide yourself many chances to correct your course of action before letting anyone tell you where you are lacking. This, I promise, will not change you overnight, but sure will lead you down the right path.
When you have done this, it is critical to position this as an ongoing conversation with your manager. You might not want to share all that you wrote, but it is important for you to share the constant reflection you are subjecting yourself to, and the steps you are taking to improve yourself. Educate your boss on what motivates you and what doesn’t. By being more open with your manager, you are giving space for him/her to help you in your endeavor. At the end of the day, remember that bosses prefer one who can take their place, for this helps them move up the ladder.
With this approach we can turn our appraisals into a year-long learning process, rather than a once-a-year ritual. Taking ownership in this way not only gives us a sense of accomplishment, but also eliminates anxiety by helping us set realistic expectations and communicating the same with our managers.
Wish you a happy appraisals journey!