Full Self-Appraisal

Arguably, one of the most patriarchal and controlling rituals in which organizations engage is the annual performance appraisal, typically written by the manager and then hesitantly signed by the employee. One major step organizations can take to increase the levels of personal accountability and partnership is to institute full self-appraisal. Here’s how it works. The individual simply writes a letter, two to three pages, to his/her manager reflecting on his/her performance and behavior over the past year. Below are several recommended questions, which may help structure the letter. If the letter seems reasonable, i.e. is not completely out of touch, and it is clear that the individual has sincerely reflected on the year, then the manager should simply sign the letter as a gesture of approval. This letter then becomes the performance appraisal. Full self-appraisal lessens the manager’s workload; fosters more employee commitment to the development process; reduces fear of judgment; puts more emphasis on learning; and enables the employee to give the manager advice, which does not happen often enough in most organizations.

Of course, if the letter is completely out of touch with reality, then the manager should dialogue with the employee, ask follow-up questions to understand his/her point of view, and determine if there are not other issues (e.g. basic honesty, insecurity, fear, etc.) that need to be addressed. Most of the time, however, people will evaluate themselves more critically than would their manager.

Give this approach a try and see for yourself how well it works for you and your team.

Appraisal Letter Questions:
1. What do I believe I have done well this year? What were some of the successes and achievements of which I am proud?

2. What could I have done better? What were some of my frustrations and disappointments in terms of my performance?

3. From both the success and frustration experiences, what did I learn (or confirm) from last year?

4. What are a few areas I will focus on for improvement in the coming year?

5. What learning or development programs or experiences would help me become more effective in my role and in my professional relationships?

6. In order for me to become more effective in my work, what do I recommend to my manager:

  • Start doing
  • Stop doing
  • Continue doing

© Seth Silver, 585-241-3038, Rochester, NY, 14618. 1999.

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