What's the current thinking on filling out a self-assessment for work?
January 17, 2022 5:55 AM   Subscribe

As part of the usual dog-and-pony show, we worker bees are, once again, being forced to jump through the self-assessment hoop to justify our continued existence (and potential bumps in compensation) to our employer. How are people completing these things these days?

Of course the higher-ups picked the absolute busiest time to dump this on us. And they want the forms completed ASAP.

We're to rank everything pretty much from how we breathe on up, using a scale of 1-5 sliding from "the best thing since sliced bread" to "horribly incompetent." (Okay, those aren't the exact terms, but I'm obfuscating in case my boss ever comes wandering this way.)

I think the last time I did this, I just gave myself a middle-of-the-road response--not because I think that's what I deserve--but because I think this whole thing is some game that isn't fair to make employees play.

There are things I genuinely overachieve at performing. There are things that I think I could be better at (and am working to improve them), but I don't think I'm doing them badly. I just really don't know what frame of reference other people use. I do know that I am absolutely and positively my own worst critic and I take any "failure" (i.e. a situation that isn't absolutely perfect--or ideally, better than perfect) personally, and assume it's all my fault.

If asked, I genuinely believe that I am doing more than my fair share (especially when I compare it to my colleague at the same level) and I truly believe I deserve the extra cash. That's not in question. I know any employer I work for gets the full value (and then some) out of me, and I believe I deserve to benefit for my efforts.

I just don't know how to reflect all that, or if I should even bother. A big part of me thinks it's bloody stupid to point out (what I see as) weak spots, especially if I don't know if the employer has a similar view of my weaknesses. I know they have never said anything to me about them.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
i've had to do these every year for the past ten years. i give myself all fours and at least one five. in the open section i focus on a few big things i did this year. then i stop thinking about it and accept that i'll probably get the same 2-3% raise like i always do.

(although if they want to keep people they really should being give substantially larger raises this year due to the job market and inflation)
posted by noloveforned at 6:03 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]

As a supervisor, it's an absolute relief and delight when someone is self-perceptive on one of these. It's a headache to sit down with a below-average performer who's given themselves all '5s', and it's also a pain in the ass when your best performer gives themselves all '2s'. It's not super important and it almost certainly won't affect your raise much, but if you do want to have a chance of a genuine conversation with your manager, just be honest on the thing. There isn't any downside, really.

One thing that *IS* very useful is using the comments to point out any accomplishments during the past year. Often as a supervisor I forget praiseworthy things that happened earlier in the year (I'm trying to get better at this by keeping my own notes, but with multiple reportees, it can be hard). Sometimes I see something someone put down and think, 'Oh, right, I absolutely should recommend this person for a bigger raise this year', when I would have considered it an 'average' year without the prompt.
posted by Ausamor at 6:25 AM on January 17 [14 favorites]

I have to fill these out for myself, and review them for the people who report to me. I try for having 2-3 top-rated categories (because those require justification and it isn't realistic for someone to be uniformly amazing), mostly good, and with just one or maybe two categories needing improvement. I think of it as creating a narrative: you want to be saying "I am a high performer who has a realistic view of my performance and am aware of the things that I need to do better."

At least in my anecdotal experience, there is a huge difference in how women fill these out vs men -- as you might expect given socialization, the dudes tend to rate themselves as overall excellent, while women tend to use the categories in more self-critical ways. If these forms have real meaning in your organization (like, leading to higher or lower raises), then I would suggest taking that into account and possibly being less self-critical, if that is your style.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:07 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]

We do performance reviews twice each year, in January and July. The idea of people self-evaluating is kind of a farce. Rather, I ask the people I support as a manager to enumerate their goals and what they did to meet or exceed them. The ideal self-review for me is a couple pages listing this out with little reflection. As a manager, I’m the one who turns this into a rating by comparing different people and seeking peer feedback. Use a comment section if provided to exhaustively remind your manager in detail of all the things you worked on because they might not know half of it.

For the 1-5 stuff, just put all 4s and 5s. It’s stupid to ask staff to self-assess in this way; that’s the manager’s job. Conversations about areas of improvement should be happening year-round.
posted by migurski at 7:21 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]

Completely agree with noloveforned.

The existence of evaluations are twofold - convince employees they don't deserve a large raise, and begin the firing process for those truly underperforming.

Fill out 4s, nod and smile, try not to let your soul leave your body when you get a 3% raise when inflation is 9%.
posted by bbqturtle at 7:32 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]

Oh man, quite a few years ago I filled out one of these and was way too honest about my flaws and way too modest about my accomplishments and it totally bit me in the ass. Please do not write down anything that you don't want quoted to higher ups in a negative way. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 8:03 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]

Agreed - straight 4s, except for one 3 (3.5 if you can!) and two to three 5s.
posted by slidell at 1:40 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

I give myself rave reviews, with project highlights and client feedback, and let my boss do the work to figure out where I need improvement. If I feel like there's a business need for me to learn a new skill I mention that. My male colleagues certainly aren't dinging themselves all over the place in their evaluations.
posted by Stoof at 3:05 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]

The best solution is to work someplace that employs managers that actually, you know, manage. That means they collect information on the performance of their direct-reports by talking to customers, coworkers, and, you know, managing.

Unfortunately, you may find yourself at a place with a toxic management culture but where you love the work and your coworkers. I had this experience for a couple of decades before retiring, and the yearly “performance management” process was always a trial to me. So, let’s see, I have to describe myself in some buzzword-laden dimensions created by a bunch of C students that hate me? Siiiigh.

Usually I would list what accomplishments I remembered at the time (because I was too busy actually doing stuff to be accurate) and completely stonewall the “what is your biggest deficiency.”

Another thing I learned is that when I was asked for the corporate-standard “coworker feedback” I NEVER reported anything but fulsome praise, because I learned that any actual feedback would be ignored unless management wanted to crucify the coworker. And it wouldn’t be because they were a bad employee—it was always something orthogonal to their actual job performance.

I think my short observation is that this isn’t the moral hill to die on, it’s only affecting you—they want you to teach you to lie, so lie. If your manager has to deal with you giving yourself all A grades, that’s too bad. They can complain about it on *their* PMF.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:09 PM on January 17

5s down the board, unless something doesn't apply. Not up to me to tell you where I need improvement, and is a dumb exercise. I'm certainly not going to give you any ammunition to use against me (Booze even admits in his self assessment that he needs to do better at x). Sure, not taking the assessment seriously is its red flag, but whatever. Other people have better advice, and it comes down to knowing the system.

Story time: was once handed a one page self-assessment, looked like they expected short answers on that form, so that's what I handed in. Bossmang comes back with "I'm gonna to give you another chance to put some time into your assessment", so I typed up five pages along with a two page addendum that put dollar values on the value I provided. He admitted to not reading it when we had our in-person review. No surprise.
posted by booooooze at 8:12 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Agree, all 5s, let your manager reduce these, if need be.

Be grateful they're not essay questions (as those in higher pay grades must endure).

Screw 'em. They need you; don't stress over this. You may get some dirty looks, and you may have to sit through an uncomfortable conference; wait it out, these things too shall pass.
posted by Rash at 3:25 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

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