Performance reviews – Self-evaluations

exceed_expectations My annual performance review at work is coming up shortly, and this year they’ve decided to do things a bit differently.  For the first time in my career, I’ve been asked to perform a self-evaluation.  There’s no form to fill out.  Overall, it’s very unstructured; we’re simply being asked to list out our strengths, weaknesses, and goals for the next 12 months.

Most people I’ve talked to about self-evals have pretty negative feelings towards the process. Some feel like it’s a waste of time, that it doesn’t mean anything.  And maybe it doesn’t in an official capacity, but I do think self-assessment is an important exercise from a personal standpoint.  In fact, in a way I already do this.  I periodically take mental stock of what areas I need to work on and create a plan to tackle them.  I enjoy setting goals for myself, raising the bar, and then holding myself accountable.

Sure, your manager probably sets goals for you in his/her review.  But oftentimes your manager is removed from all of the technical details and day to day aspects of your job.  He may not know exactly what skills are necessary for you to perform your job well, and what skills you lack.  Ultimately, you know best where your weaknesses lie and what you want or need to work on.  It just makes sense that you should be the one setting goals for yourself.

The only part of this process I don’t already do on a regular basis is evaluate my strengths.  I’m a pretty self-deprecating person, and listing out all of the wonderful things about me just doesn’t come naturally.  So having a process in place that forces me to appreciate what I do well is a good thing, if you ask me.

Other folks think self-evaluations actually have a negative impact, since we’re more likely to be harder on ourselves than other people would be.  And they may have a point.  I know I personally find it easier to enumerate my weaknesses than my strengths.  But again, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.  Whether you write them down or not, your weaknesses are still there.  And ignoring them isn’t going to make them disappear.  Why not confront them and come up with a plan to work on them.  Turn your weaknesses into goals.

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4 thoughts on “Performance reviews – Self-evaluations

  • Anonymous


    Personally I like self evaluations. However, evaluations are very situation dependent. There are a lot of factors.

    Ar job where I really liked the evaluations, I felt they had nothing to do with your advancement and increases. The review was between you and your boss, and sometimes your bosses boss or some other third party was present. You got a raise with your review, or a few weeks later retroactive to the date of your review, but I was pretty sure the raises were decided at the C-level.

    This review had a self evaluation as well, it was very structured with lots of rate yourself 1-5 questions, and a comment area for each of them. You filled out comments for all areas. You boss filled out the same form. The review involved comparing the forms question by question, and discussing why where was disagreement. As an employee, this really set clear expectations and helped me understand how my boss thought. Also, this is really good for self depreciating people. You tend to be more honest when asked more pointed questions.

    One example of the questions was attendance and timelessness. In my first iteration I was getting paid by the hour and doing shift work. I gave myself a 5 for coming into the office on time and leaving on time. My boss gave me a three and said “I expect you to do that.” it was established that there was no way to excel at that in my position even after I was put on salary (I was usually made to go home when I stayed late to work on side projects). That was ok, there were plenty of other areas for me to stand out.

    Fast forward a few years (and a 6 month stint at another company), I’m working 9-5 plus after hours on-call. I give myself a 2 because I know I show up very erratically at the office. My boss gives me a 5 because of the quantity of those erratic hours, and the fact that I’m available when I need to be. I understand my behavior is acceptable and don’t seek to adjust my behavior.

    Anyway, that was the best review process I ever had. It worked for me. A more open ended one without specific questions wouldn’t force employee and manager to understand each other’s values. I don’t want to fight for money and promotions as long as my rate stays competitive and my work stays interesting. I love being a developer, and it pays pretty good. The money just lets me feed myself, and is compensation for having to deal with clients and leave the house every day. For those with more competitive natures, perhaps a similar process that’s more linked to compensation and title would be better.

    • Colleen M. Morrow Post author

      Good point about direct vs open-ended questions. I thought this would be easy, but I found myself just kind of staring at the screen wondering what I should write. It will be interesting to see how the whole process goes when we discuss it.

  • Linda

    Great post and I am looking forward to hearing how your process goes, Colleen. I guess open ended vs direct questions depends on the company culture and the whole approach to performance management. If you sit down only once a year, you might want to address more areas for discussion to trigger peoples mind to review different areas, not only the recent ones that come into your head. Ratings are quick but so subjective (from manager to manager and employee to employee) and they suggest a scientific measurement that is skewed due to varying expectations, emotions and mind sets. The example from the previous comment shows that very clearly.
    On the other hand, if you follow a continuous approach with instant feedback, 360 degree reviews, regular one on one meetings and agile objective tracking, you have your ongoing communications that only need to be summarised every now and than. This allows for performance ‘check-in’ reviews that can have open questions as in ‘What did I do well’ and ‘What could I improve on’. We at Small Improvements have a developed a performance management tool based on the latter approach. It encourages asking a few open ended questions as well as ongoing feedback and comments throughout the year
    Would love to hear your thoughts on it and hear how your review went.

  • Frank

    In my experience, performance reviews have been utter bullshit. And this is at more than one company. (No, I’m not always a great employee, BUT I do my job, and often take on extra projects). 360 reviews are also bad. I NEVER gave bad feedback on a coworker, but who knows how many did bad ones one me?

    So, company 1 – did self reviews for several years. The first couple, they sort of affected my final review, but not much. The last couple more recent years, I gave multiple examples of where I went above and how I did great work. Came back, my boss gave me review scores that were midway or lower on the scale. And again, I won awards in my job and I had great feedback from customers and co workers. Result no raise one year due to company wide raise freeze, (except the CEO’s multi million bonus) and the last year no raise because of “performance”

    Company 2 – off to a rocky startanyways. The first month, my boss talked to me for being away from my desk too much, but I was in the bathroom so it was legit. Later, she nitpicked my work every other month, then finally didn’t mess with me for several months. I thought, “Great! I finally am doing great!” I gave myself a good self review because I do a decwnt job, I make deadline, my customers give me good feedback. All in all, a good review I should have had.


    My boss ripped me a new one at review time and for the third year in a row I didn’t get a raise. This year (if I’m not gone first!) I’m considering refusing a self review. But can I do so without getting fired or in more trouble?

    If you can, just don’t do it, tell your boss that its their job to assess you, not your job. That probly won’t work. If you absolutely have to, focus on the positives. Even the weaknesses, do a generic “weakness” that’s really a strength, like “I’m a perfectionist”.