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Smart Actions for Your Appraisal Discussions

Suman was almost nervous. She did not know what to do. She spoke with her husband. He tried hard but still could not cool her down. Any major emergency? No. Suman had been invited by her Boss for an appraisal discussion at 3 p.m. on the next day. This being her first discussion, she did not know what to do. The fear of the unknown had gripped her very strongly.

For Abhinav, this came as an opportunity he had been waiting for. Throughout his chartered bus journey back home, he kept structuring his thoughts. He immediately, picked up his diary on reaching home to scan through all the good work he had done during the last one year. He jotted down all the points he thought he would take up during the meeting the next day at 11 am when his appraisal discussion would begin. More than his past glory, he was looking forward to the promises/support he can extract from his boss that will help consolidate his carrier during the times to come. He has been a good performer. He just wanted to become a better one. With excitement and expectancy, he said goodnight to his wife and kids.

Appraisal discussion. To some it is a nightmare and to others it is a much awaited opportunity. How do you react?
Does it cause you to feel fearful and anxious, or do you see it as a positive event- an opportunity to learn about yourself so you can grow and develop? Is the appraisal discussion a one way presentation by your Boss with you as a passive recipient, or is it a dialogue in which you are an active participant?
An appraisal discussion can be a very positive experience depending upon the attitude and mind-set you bring to it. Some bosses are more skilled in writing and delivering appraisals than others, but there are many things you can do to help make it a good experience.

The Purpose of an Appraisal discussion
The first thing to do is remind yourself the purpose of an appraisal discussion. It is not to slap your wrist and tell you what you have done wrong. A good appraisal  discussion will:

  • Provide a document, a record of your  past performance, that shows how you met your goals and objectives.
  • Give you insight into your strengths and uncover weaknesses and areas you need to improve.
  • Provide you with a plan for reaching more of your potential.

Preparing for an appraisal discussion
Prior to the discussion, it is important to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally by doing the following:

  • Remind yourself of the purpose of the discussion so you can go in with the right mind set.
  • Reflect on your performance over the past year and what you perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses. Write down your accomplishments (hopefully you kept a record of them throughout the year), your goals for the next year, and even areas you feel you need to work on. Give a copy to your boss a few days before the meeting.
  • Reaffirm your own self-worth and remind yourself that any criticism you may receive is only one piece of information from one person’s perspective.
  • Picture in your mind how you wish to conduct yourself during the discussion.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the evening before so you will be alert and fully present.

During the Discussion
Here are some things you can do during the discussion:

  • Make sure you understand the basis of your appraisal discussion from the start. For example, your Boss should review your job description with you and go over any goals and objectives which the two of you agreed upon at the beginning of the discussion period or at your last appraisal discussion.
  • Sit up straight in the chair and look your Boss in the eye. Your body language should convey openness and confidence.
  • Listen carefully without interrupting. Be open, flexible and willing to admit your short comings. Remember you don’t have to be perfect. Try to see things from your Boss’s perspective- in other words don’t get defensive. Being able to look at and accept your weaknesses is a sign of strength and maturity. Take notes so you won’t forget points you want to address when your Boss has finished talking.
  • If you don’t understand how your boss arrived at a particular evaluation, ask for further explanation or specific examples. Never put your boss on the defensive. Just ask questions with a goal of achieving a common understanding and view of your performance.
  • If you disagree with a comment your Boss makes, try to respond as objectively as possible. Speak from the facts about your performance and the results you have achieved.
  • Before the appraisal is over, make sure that you have a clear understanding of areas you need to improve and how you are going to do it. Discuss options with your Boss.
  • Finish on a positive note. An appraisal discussion is an opportunity for you and your boss to understand one another better and strengthen your relationship. Take advantage of that opportunity.

After the discussion
If you need time to think about something your Boss said, don’t feel like you have to respond immediately. You may want to ask for a follow up meeting after you have had time to mull over the appraisal and read the appraisal document.

If you don’t agree with the discussion, write down your thoughts and attach them to the appraisal document. Your human resources department probably has a procedure to follow if you disagree with your appraisal. Ask about it.

There is an old saying, “if you and the other person are in the same boat, he will not make a hole in it.” Remember that you and your Boss are on the same team working towards the same goals. Bosses want their employees to succeed, because when you are successful, they have done the job they were supposed to do. So give your Boss a chance. You won’t regret it.