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Self-evaluation

Do you get a self-evaluation form to fill out before your performance review? Do you actually fill it out?

The Real PC
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Yes. Just got it this week, actually, and it's not optional.

Thanks for reminding me...I need to get the darn thing done!

Ryan LaNeve
Saturday, June 07, 2003

How do you decide what to write? I guess the idea is to impress the boss with how good I am, while sounding modest.
I know someone will say "Just be honest and say what you really think of yourself." Well, that does not seem possible. What I really think of myself varies depending on what kind of mood I'm in, what's been going on, am I having a good day, etc.

The Real PC
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Those self-evaluation forms (and the forms that your manager uses) are WAY too vague.

More people (and businesses) need to get into the habit of setting measurable, concrete goals for themselves.  We'd do away with a lot of angst, a lot of salary disparities, and a lot of dead wood if setting, and meeting, measurable goals were the norm.

It's tricky though - Joel is right when he says that people will work the metrics if they can.  You have to be real creful about which metrics you choose.

Imagine if, instead of that lame self-evaluation form, you had concrete data that would simply TELL you what you had done, and how well you had done it.  No convoluted self-contemplation.  No procrastinating because you don't have time to think about what you're going to write.  Just data.

Of course, this is just MTCW...

Norrick
Saturday, June 07, 2003

You want to praise yourself as much as possible because it goes on your permenant record @ the company and future decisions involving you will be based on it - salary, bonus, position. You just don't want to go so far that your boss will have to say "no, not really" because that will look even worse.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, June 07, 2003

On mine: the beginning of the form is a self-evaluation; the middle is my supervisor's evaluation; the end is our "objectives" for next year.

When I did this for the 2nd time (i.e. the next year), my "self-evaluation" was about how I succeeded/failed in the objectives which were set at the end of previous year's review.

Christopher Wells
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Christopher - yeah that's what evaluations @ citi were like too... The strange thing is, the business model changed on a regular basis and your goals, at least in the lower echelons, changed several times throughout the year. If you're upper management you can just write "reduce costs, bring in more customers" and those goals pretty much never change.*

* I've never been in upper management so I'm just making that part up to sound clever & take a jab at upper management.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Mark - by the time I was filling in my 2nd evaluation, I knew that our office was being closed and my position was being terminated: 12 years after helping to found a startup; 1 year after my first official "employee evalation"; 2 years after getting ISO9000 certification; 3 years after being bought by a multi-national... I filled in the evaluation anyway, since they needed it: "I didn't accomplish objective A, which was learn to support product X, because just after you made that my objective you decided to move that product to India instead of to here. As for objective B, ...".

> "reduce costs, bring in more customers"

I can't help but think that terminating all the salespeople first, then terminating tech support the year after when there weren't any new customers, and finally terminating development the year after that, might not in fact have been the very best way to achieve both those objectives.

Christopher Wells
Saturday, June 07, 2003

In self-evaluations there is no need to sound modest. Praise yourself excessively. Try to write your self evaluation in such a way that your boss can cut and paste it into your real evaluation. (Send it to him in email if that makes it easier). Leave out bad things, it's just ammo that will make it easier to fire you with cause.

The whole performance evaluation system is a massive joke, it's like using leeches in medicine. I'm not just ranting, books have been written about this:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576752003

and of course anything ever written by Deming.

Best thing you can do is game the system, like you're meant to. Give yourself great reviews. If you're a manager, give all your employees great reviews unless you're trying to fire them.

Joel Spolsky
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Take all those status reports you've been emailing to your boss every Thursday afternoon, and that forms the basis for tasks completed.  All the work you've done since the last review - its there.

Then, describe how difficult the tasks were and the herculean effort required to complete the task set and how you completed each result on time and without bugs.

Additionally, be sure to document work that was beyond your typical scope: help with marketing, design/code/assistance outside your normal operations and predefined tasks.

Nat Ersoz
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Anyone else think that if you're going to do evaluations based on goals, twelve months is too long in the IT field? I can't think of any twelve months in my (admittedly short) career where there weren't a few curveballs that changed my direction, either based on tasking or technology.

BTW, allow me to set the bottom limit as far as evaluations - one company I worked at would gather all the management types (top three tiers of the hierarchy) and walked through the manager's evaluation of each of the employees in the bottom two tiers. After that, members of the "audience" could speak out with comments and anecdotes about the person, either agreeing with or contradicting the evaluation.
Some *very* dirty laundry was aired - it was the most embarrassing thing I think I've ever sat through. I'll be honest- the only reason I didnt' get up and walk out is that I was completely nonplused that it was even happening.

I left the company three weeks later.

Philo

Philo
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Philo,

12 months is way too long.  6 months is fine if goals remain relatively constant.  Goals vary way too much over 12 months.

Nat Ersoz
Saturday, June 07, 2003

Joel wrote "The whole performance evaluation system is a massive joke, it's like using leeches in medicine. "

I just had to point out that leeches are still used under some circumstances "in medicine" (mainly as a treatment for venous insufficiency). This is no joke.

A quick search on the Internet brought up the following: http://mednews.stanford.edu/stanmed/1999spring/leeches.html.

So, assuming that your discriminating readers are aware that leeches are useful in certain limited circumstances, the meaning conveyed by your sentence is quite different than what I believe you were trying to convey (based on your previous writings on the topic)

Phibian
Sunday, June 08, 2003

Joel,

Why should managers give all their employees great reviews (unless they're trying to fire them)? I would think a manager would want his boss to know what a difficult job he's doing. If all his employees are great, then his job has to be easy. And the great reviews can always be used as weapons if conflicts occur in the future.
I would think a manager would want to give realistic reviews.

The Real PC
Sunday, June 08, 2003

> Why should managers give all their employees great reviews (unless they're trying to fire them)?

Because of the metrics by which the manager's performance is measured: hiring good people, and keeping them.

Christopher Wells
Sunday, June 08, 2003

Unless the manager inhereted the people. I would expect that the manager's evauation of his employees would reflect someone in his own evaluation and in how well the project did.

So the employees become a scapegoat for a failing project. Otherwise, he has no reason not to praise them.

Anyone see that episode of friends where Rachel's boss doesn't want her to get promoted into a new job so she keeps putting rachel down in front of the review board?

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, June 08, 2003

No, no, no, ...

The value of reviews is precisely zero, but the EFFECT of reviews is that if you give an employee a review that's lower than their typically self-inflated opinion of their own worth, they'll mope around for a month feeling depressed and underappreciated, and THAT has a real effect on productivity. For productive teams you need happy teams, and if you're forced to go through a stupid charade of a review, might as well use it to cheer up your team.

Joel Spolsky
Sunday, June 08, 2003

Joel - not all managers are as enlightened as you are (hopefully Stephen Jones doesn't pop in on this thread and explain to us the meaning of enlightenment again). Most of them probably take the review process seriously, and go through it or have gone through it themselves as the employee. They sincerely take it as an opportunity to correct wrongs and so forth.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, June 08, 2003

I see you're still annoyed with me Mark.

I'm going to pop in anyway and say that I have never met  managers who "sincerely take it as an opportunity to correct wrongs and so forth."

I've had those who treat it as a joke, and those who treat it as a way to dispense favours or humiliate, but never have I seen the process taken seriously. Which considering how damaging it is is probably a good thing.

If the manager is OK those with the A's will be a combination of his favourites plus people who do do a good job, and the really hopeless will be down at the bottom with those the manager has had a spat with, while the middle order will be no better than random.

And if the manager isn't any good then the result will be disastrous.

You may have had other experiences of course.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, June 08, 2003

[if you give an employee a review that's lower than their typically self-inflated opinion of their own worth, they'll mope around for a month feeling depressed and underappreciated]

On the other hand, getting a good review means you're already trying hard enough. Negative comments and suggestions about areas that need improving might cause the employee to spend some of his free time studying.
Since I got a pretty good review last year, I did not feel I had to spend my free time studying.
Of course, an _unfair_ bad review would be demoralizing.
I think Joel may be a little too cynical. Honest reviews may be the most helpful to everyone involved.

The Real PC
Sunday, June 08, 2003

Real PC - if you word the evaluation right, you can get them to work harder because they want to live up to your lofty opinion of them. Let's take the example of the guy who spends his weekends programming minutae.

'John Doe is extremely dedicated to the project and wants to see it succeed."

After getting a review like that, wouldn't you want to be that guy?

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, June 08, 2003

---"'John Doe is extremely dedicated to the project and wants to see it succeed."

After getting a review like that, wouldn't you want to be that guy? "----

First evaluation I ever had in my life maybe. Come the second one I'd have seen through it and wouldn't give a monkey's toss.

My immediate boss wanted to initiate an employee of the month award like they have at Macdonalds. He only gave up on it when he found that all those he tried to give it to threatened to resign on the spot if he carried the idea through.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, June 08, 2003

You might be right. Programmers are more intelligent than most, but I think a lot of people still take those evaluations seriously.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, June 08, 2003

I took mine seriously last year. I figured that if my boss didn't like having me work for him, he wouldn't bother saying anything good about me. (On the other hand, it was his decision to hire me and he probably wanted his boss to think it wasn't a mistake. And also to make me feel good.)
But gosh, isn't there any possibility that I actually did a good job?
This year, if I get another good review I think I'll ask him for the mean and the SD (they give us grades on each project).
Another factor is that my boss seems to be an extremely blunt person who never says anything to make people feel good.

The Real PC
Sunday, June 08, 2003

I am confused , why would a sane person ever commit to writing anything but glowing praise for himself.  The bossman is looking for something negative to balance all the good he can come up with, why would you help him? If he does come up with negatives, make sure he can give you examples and of course make sure you can come up with examples of your greatness also.

Both sides know, or should know the entire "review" process is a method to take money away from some people and give it to others. Look out for yourself because no one else will.

moses whitecotton
Monday, June 09, 2003

Why would a sane person write anything but the truth about himself?
But we don't know the truth about ourselves without some measure of comparison with others doing a similar job.
I could write "I am the best programmer ever" but then nothing else I say about myself would be taken seriously.

The Real PC
Monday, June 09, 2003

Self evaluation, IMO, is just another little farce that companies put on in order to convince the outside world that they are meritocracies.

True story: my wife works in a kind of factory with complex production processes. She has had "perfect attendance" in certain evaluation periods, defined as absolutely no days missed and perfect punctuality. So this measurement is absolutely quantifiable.  Her manager rates her attendance as "8 out of 10", saying that "policy" is to never use the 10 rating for anyone anytime.  So, apparently, 10 means "above perfection". And self-evaluation is supposed to help in a situation like this?

Anyone who gets bent out of shape over stuff like this (in terms of 'best practices') needs to reevaluate their priorities. Companies are like forces of nature, they are so arbitrary that it's comical.

IE: put some bullshit down that you can plausibly defend, make yourself look perfect, and turn it in. Everyone else does. Nobody even appears to look at true performance so why care about something that is third-order at best?

Bored Bystander
Monday, June 09, 2003

I recently took to my sister's approach of giving myself glowing personal evaluations.  Seems to be working, and it certainly has for her. 

Bad stuff, if ever admitted to, is put down as having "a chance to learn and grow."

Contrary Mary
Monday, June 09, 2003

There's another solution.

Tell the truth.

Brent P. Newhall
Monday, June 09, 2003

The truth won't get you a raise or a promotion. Not when everyone else is lying their pants off and getting away with it.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 09, 2003

If you're working at a company where everyone else is lying their paints off, you need to move to another company.

If getting a raise or promotion is your highest priority, your choice should be obvious.

Note: I'm not suggesting that either of these apply to Mark.

Brent P. Newhall
Monday, June 09, 2003

Seriously , Brent  has "telling the truth" worked for you?

moses whitecotton
Tuesday, June 10, 2003

You nailed it Brent. If the place where you work practically forces you to compromise your ethics (ie, by *not* telling the truth), then it's not worth it to work there. Of course, they can't really *force* you to lie, then can just encourage it by their policies.

However, I wouldn't quit outright, I'd just be honest about the evaluations and let them do the cutting. Severance package anyone? That also gives you some lead time to start looking for another job.  And who knows, maybe they won't cut you... you can't know until you give them (manager/HR/whoever) the chance to redeem themselves.

My evals come up this month (which are self-evals with managerial input), as are another round of company layoffs, so I'm going to get a chance to put this advice into practice.

That almost begs another discussion on the topic of "Resumes Honesy"...

jbr
Tuesday, June 10, 2003

moses whitecotton: Yes, telling the truth has worked for me.

Whenever I had a performance evaluation in my previous jobs, I listed what I thought I'd done well on, and what I thought I could have done better.

During my post-evaluation meetings with my boss, he pretty much agreed with me, and went over what he thought (he pointed out a couple of my errors that I hadn't noticed).

As far as I could tell, my honesty didn't hurt me at all.  If anything, I expect my boss appreciated my straightforwardness.

Brent P. Newhall
Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Brent,
if you thought your manager was a bone head and he asked you what you thought of him during the review, would you tell the truth? 

moses whitecotton
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

> he pretty much agreed with me <

Could be because he doesn't have much between his ears. Is he really going to disagree with you if you point out your own flaws? He's not going to admit that he *didn't* notice what you were doing.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, June 11, 2003

«The State of Affairs»
I like being employed, and I appreciate being acknowledged for good work. However, I also seem to dread the annual (if I’m lucky) review. I don’t like overtly justifying my continued employment. Didn't I do that kind of self-puffing when I applied for the job? Lately I feel antagonized by the lack of punctual annual reviews for all employees; my review is about one year late. Management has now “gotten around to it.” Everyone received the same self-appraisal form to rate performance factors like Quality of Work, Productivity, Job Knowledge, Reliability, etc. Basically, it's a ready-to-use form, and I'm unhappy that this kind of document is preceding my Performance Review.

«Questions & [Guesses]»
Why am I evaluating my performance and reporting it to management? [Reduce management's time spent contemplating my evaluation] Isn't that a supervisory responsibility? [Yes; but I will “feel included in the process"] Isn't someone supposed to be getting paid to monitor my productivity and quality and ensure that I adhere to company policies? [Yes; management] So why am I evaluating myself? I already know I that I produce quality work, IMO.

«Do “No Wrong Answers” Tests Really Exist?»
I think the employee self-appraisal is unbeneficial if it immediately precedes a Performance Review. At this particular time, it is very much like a test to which I know the best answers—those that make me look critically essential to company continuance. There's too much at stake for me as an employee, while under evaluation as a company asset. Do I want to jeopardize my livelihood? No. So, I feel the strong urge to carefully craft my vocabulary, shining the best possible light on my attributes as a happy, productive employee, just in case my comments have any influence on the subsequent review.

«Is Employee Quality Control Important?»
If employers really want unbiased self-appraisals, they should distribute them midway between annual reviews. I agree that 365 days is now an extremely long time to work without meaningful performance feedback. If I am expected to complete, track, assess, and report on 12 to 15 projects per year, then I think two performance reviews during that period, one informational (?) and one evaluative ($), would be appropriate.

«Just three years ago...»
I was having quarterly performance reviews, with financial incentives for outstanding performance. I was very positive-minded and highly motivated in those days. What the hell happened?

Steve Roberts
Thursday, June 12, 2003


Another tip is to add your staffs comments on how you manage them. I did this on my 90 day evaluation and it looked good.

Betsy Ellerman
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I'm an independent contractor - so my "Self-Evals" are sitting in the bank..

But speaking from past experiences with this arduous process – I have a few comments and point of views on the subject..

This pertains to Non-management Self-Evaluations.

Question: Why?

Why have an employee (who has no control over the administration of the Business Model) rate themselves or establish goals.  I’ve never understood this process and to this day – don’t see a derived value.  It’s the Department Managers and above responsibility to evaluate and establish goals against the Business Model.

Question:  Where’s the Matrix/Benchmark?

Some have posted that the “forms” are vague – That (to me) is a classic indication of poor value.  If the questions are vague and the submitted answers are “all over the place”.  What matrix is being used to determine the value of the answers/responses? 

- Granted there are some ‘jobs’ that are almost impossible to measure – but most can be broken into ‘measurable” vectors.  If you’d like to post a job, I’m sure with a little effort we can break down the duties/responsibilities into a matrix that all employees can be measured against.

My suggestion to all Managers “Ask not what your meaningless

Charles Carter
Friday, February 13, 2004

My suggestion to all Managers “Ask not what your meaningless forms can do for you, but ask what can I do to bring meaning to your forms.”

Charles Carter
Friday, February 13, 2004

I am having a tough time I am supposed to say what a great job I did all year when I know my boss has been ragging on me all year for being such a screw-up. Seems self defeating to me to fill in the useless questions on these forms. Besides, it has nothing at all to do with wage increases or promo's. Seniority gets promoted and everyone gets the annual cost of living increase.

Donna Sumner
Wednesday, July 07, 2004

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