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Performance Reviews:List 3 "areas for improvement"

What do you do when you are forced to list 3 areas for improvement (either during the self-evaluation phase or for someone you manage)?  I like Joel's idea of just giving everyone gushing reviews, but at every company I've worked at, the performance appraisal template always has the dreaded "3 (or however many) Areas Where Improvement is Needed" section and it can't be ignored.  This seems to undermine all the work you just did with the gushing review.

How do you guys handle this? 

Saturday, January 3, 2004

List three things that aren't relevant to your job. Example: "become better at Unix".

I *hate* those *stupid* questions. That's one reason why contracting is better.

Saturday, January 3, 2004

I always thought this was the easy part of the review process.

First, take a look at your current projects that will be completed during the next review cycle and other upcoming projects that you know about. Are there things that you need to learn to do those projects? Are there things with which you will become more adept just by doing them?

Next, think of any job-related books that you'd like to buy. Since I'm always buying books this is an easy one for me. If any of the book topics are ones that I would be highly likely to buy and could put to use in the coming year, they're game for self-improvement subjects.

Lastly, there's always the suck-up option.  That is, plan to improve on whatever your boss' hot buttons are. This isn't really a suck-up option. Sometimes there are things coming down the pike that you know you're going to have to deal with anyway, so you might as well put them down. One year I had something like "Improve my knowledge of ISO 9000 practices and implement procedures and work instructions to ... blah, blah, blah." as you can guess, I had no choice on the ISO thing

Saturday, January 3, 2004

1. Spend more time with the family - been neglecting them due to long hours and weekends.
2. Take that vacation time that's accruing - if you don't use it you lose it.
3. Spend more time outdoors - seem to be getting out of shape due to long hours and weekends spent on projects.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, January 3, 2004

Read 'Working With Emotional Intelligence' and the light bulb will go off and you'll understand all the areas that you could improve on to become more effective in the modern workplace.

Saturday, January 3, 2004

You can never go wrong with these. They are general enough and true enough plus they apply to any technical field for any designation under any business atmosphere.

1) Improve my ability to say "No" firmly.

2) Improve my technical skill sets to meet future challenges.

3) Improve my ability to surpass budgetary constraints.

Supersets of the above include

1) Communication

2) Functional area of operations

3) Finance

Indian Developer in India
Saturday, January 3, 2004

Learn to play golf
Go to more company events
Make short stories long

Tom Vu
Saturday, January 3, 2004

I'm amazed that you all are so very perfect. I know quite a few areas I could use improvement.

Now as to which ones I put down, it depends on how well I know/trust my manager. :-)


Saturday, January 3, 2004

Philo, I agree. Perfection isn't required. Even though my answer was detailed, I spend no more than 2 minutes on the whole process.  Key point, I put down things I'd be working on regardless of the review.

I've never had a manager give any thought to last year's list when doing a review. And, as a manager myself, I have my mind made up about the employee long before I scan the previous years list of improvements.

Saturday, January 3, 2004

*Improve my marketability so that I can get a promotion
*Improve my marketability so that I can get a raise
*Improve my marketability so that I can move on to another company that doesn't ask 3 stupid a$$ questions

Smitty Werbenmanjansen
Sunday, January 4, 2004

Suggested response:

1 - Spend less time reading online forums
2 - Learn to count to three

Jimmy Jo-jo
Sunday, January 4, 2004

And for the folks who think it's a stupid question - one of the key things *I* look for in subordinates is awareness of their own limitations.

Those of you who think this is a silly question need to sit down with a mirror. If you were a manager, which would you rather hear from an employee?

- "Yeah, boss, I'll get it done in four days and it'll have no bugs because I write flawless code!"
-"It'll probably take about two weeks, plus testing, and I'll need some help on the UI because my graphic design skills aren't the greatest."



Sunday, January 4, 2004

The ability to understand one's limitations is quite distinct from "areas for improvement". No-one is perfect... but this type of management-prompted self-improvement measure is generally misapplied, fundamentally flawed and inevitably boils down into needless expense for a company's bottomline.

The question is negative in nature, not self-enlightening. I'd opt for a better ongoing dialogue between manager and employee, with real feedback, not a dose of micro-management from people who can no longer see the ground.

We are told to focus on why we are so weak, instead of what makes us strong.

Sunday, January 4, 2004

You have to take into account that these things go on your "permenant record" and if your manager moves on for any reason, when next year's review time comes up, your new manager may take a look at these, and I've known at least one manager who asked me if I actually accomplished my goals.

I think the best answer are things that you would have to do anyway. It will show that you're really thinking about the job, and of course you don't want to point out weaknesses because those CAN be used against you. If you're the only one on your team who has weaknesses, and your boss needs to lay someone off you don't want to give him paper trail to backup his decision if it comes down to you and one other guy.

Full name:
Monday, January 5, 2004

My wild stab would be to not look at this as a "revealing" excercise. I'd guess the company already has an image (wether correct or not is irrelevant) of your weak spots. Their hope is that you have that same idea, so they can at least expect some improvement there.
Be truthfull in listing your best guesses of their foregone conclusions.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, January 5, 2004

Awareness of your limitations is good. Writing them down so they appear to be flaws and weaknesses and putting them in a file in human resources is the same as handing a pistol to upper management and saying "Don't pull the trigger too hard when you shoot me."

The 'exercise' of documenting your weaknesses for the personnell file is an idiotic game that serves no purpose except to put the worker in a vulnerable position while acquiring no concessions from management.

I advise that no one play the game and if management is too pig-headed to realize that the exercise does nothing to help you, you're better off moving on to a real company and do some real development work.

Believe me, this test is a symptom of underlying problems in an organization.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, January 5, 2004

The underlying principle here is that the company, if asked the purpose of this exercise, will state that they are interested in the workers improving themselves.

Therefore, it is an exceptionally fine idea to ask the boss about the purpose of this exercise and give him an opportunity to make this statement.

Once you have his commitment that the company is interested in your technical improvement, then it is reasonable to ask if the company is actually *investing*, even modestly in this goal which they have just testified is so important to them. For in is a certainty that if the company is not willing to invests in something, it is not really something they value after all.

A company that was REALLY interested in the workers improving their weak areas would have a fund for training that workers could use to attend training conferences of their own choosing. And of course have a certain number of days, at minimum two weeks a year, during which workers are allowed to attend these conferences.

Once you have the companies assurances that they place high value on your ability to identify weak areas and spend time to improve them, then you are ready to propose that the company put their money where their mouth is if they are really serious. If you do chose to provide them with a list, it should be a list of conferences and seminars you need to attend to improve, books the company needs to provide you with in order for you to improve, and night classes the company needs to fund in order for you to improve in the ways that will benefit them.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, January 5, 2004

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