Writing a good self evaluation requires some reflection. / Credit: Man reflection image via Shutterstock
While many bosses may frown upon employees who boast about their accomplishments in the workplace, there is a time and place for that type of bragging. Self-evaluations, which are typically one component of the performance-review process, give employees the opportunity to make sure their employer knows all they have done in the last six months or year. Since many bosses typically have numerous employees reporting to them, self-evaluations — also known as self-assessments — are the perfect time for employees to remind bosses about the projects they completed and the goals they met.
Although self-evaluations aren't the sole measure of how employees performed and whether they deserve a promotion or raise — or even be let go — self-evaluations should be taken seriously because they do play a role in the process. Laura Kerekes, chief knowledge officer at ThinkHR. said self-evaluations are an opportunity for employees to provide their boss with a balanced assessment of their contributions to the organization's success throughout the entire review period.
"It is your time to make sure that your manager is aware of the accomplishments you are most proud of and to give you an opportunity to have a discussion with him or her about your career goals and job progression path within the company," Kerekes told BusinessNewsDaily."So don't just reflect on how you think you are doing on the job, but use it as an opportunity to reflect on where you are going with your career." [Self-Assessment: Tips for Employees Writing Performance Reviews]
Sharlyn Lauby, president of ITM Group Inc.. a consulting firm focused on developing training solutions that engage and retain talent in the workplace, said managers spend a lot of time preparing performance evaluations and that employees should be doing the same.
"Self-evaluations aren't some time-wasting activity trumped up by management," Lauby said. "The self-evaluation allows all stakeholders to have a performance discussion after significant thought."
While all employees want to present themselves in the best light possible, Lauby believes it's critical that they don't overembellish what they accomplished during the review period.
"If you do, the company will not take your comments seriously," Lauby said. "Objectively think about the things that you've done well and the things you'd do differently."
Because many bosses have multiple employees reporting to them, it can often be difficult to keep track of who did what. Peter Cappelli, an HR expert and professor of management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. said self-evaluations are a safety valve to deal with supervisors who aren't always in touch with what's happening with their staff or who aren't privy to how or why things happened they way they did.
"Outlining constraints on your ability to get work done, for example, or reasons why performance was hampered, is always a good idea," Cappelli said.
Though employees should do their best to trumpet all of their accomplishments, it is also important that they come off confident, rather than arrogant, to their bosses. Kerekes said employees need to take a balanced approached when completing their self-evaluations.
"Provide your feedback regarding your performance with hard data and facts — those speak for themselves — and then you won't have to brag," she said.
Additionally, employees should include some of their weaknesses in a self-evaluation in order
to show they are being objective. Kerekes said that not acknowledging areas that need improvement can diminish even the greatest accomplishments in management's view.
When describing areas for improvement, Kerekes advises employees to exhibit a strong desire for critical feedback and an interest in turning those weaknesses into strengths. She said it is important that employees take responsibility for the projects that didn't get finished or goals that weren't met, rather than blaming someone else in the office.
"Most importantly, don't blame others for your work that was not up to standard," Kerekes said. "Nothing turns managers off more than employees who make excuses for their missteps or take the opportunity to point out the weaknesses of project leaders, bosses, co-workers or other key stakeholders involved in the work."
Lauby said it is key for employees to present their shortcomings not as weaknesses, but as opportunities for improvement. "Present it as an opportunity to learn," she said. "Be prepared to discuss how learning that new skill or improving it would benefit their job and the company."
Kerekes said employees should also use their self-evaluations to ask some pointed questions to their bosses as a way to show them that they are concerned not only with their own performance, but also the company's growth. Questions she encourages employees to ask in their self-assessment include the following:
- Where do you see the biggest opportunities for the company to grow during the upcoming year?
- What are our major priorities?
- Am I on track to participate in those projects?
- What would you (management) like to see me work on?
- Do I have my priorities set properly?
- Am I spending time on the right things?
- How could I make your job easier and free you up for more important things?
Cappelli said employees shouldn't use clichés just because they think that's what their bosses want to hear.
"I don't see that any [specific words or phrases] are particularly useful unless your supervisor is a big fan of buzzwords," Cappelli said.
While the written part of the self-evaluation is essential, Lauby said the discussion that occurs after it's written may be even more valuable. She said it is important that employees not only present their perspective, but also listen to what their manager is saying.
"It's an important time for making sure you and your manager view your performance in the same way," Lauby said. "Staying objective and really listening will demonstrate a positive outlook and enthusiasm about work."
In the end, Kerekes said employees should keep the focus of their self-evaluations on their accomplishments as well as their career path and development.
"When you emphasize your willingness to take direction and critical feedback, it demonstrates your desire to become a better employee," she said. "Ask for training or coaching, and exhibit your desire to learn."
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter .