Magazine article Personnel

Your Performance: Appraise It Yourself!

Magazine article Personnel

Your Performance: Appraise It Yourself!

Article excerpt

Your Performance: Appraise It Yourself! Anyone in your organization can use this self-appraisal system to get timely, focused feedback on his or her job performance.

People who have a strong need for professional achievement also need a particular type of feedback on their job performance. They do not function well when this feedback is ambiguous or when it comes to them only in a formalized annual (or semiannual) review; they need feedback that is frequently--and clearly--administered.

When feedback is ambiguous or is given only once a year, employees and managers alike may have trouble grasping how their efforts are perceived by the organization. Almost everyone who has worked at a job can remember times when they were unclear on how their performance was being judged.

This situation, which we can call "performance ambiguity," creates concern and sometimes real anxiety both for employees who are "happy where they are" and for those who want to move up the organizational ladder. All employees need to know how they're doing, particularly in job areas that have strong current priorities.

The Stock Answer--an answer? The stock answer to the problem of performance ambiguity is the people learn how they're doing and what they can improve from their organization's formal performance appraisal system. But this stock answer is not necessarily valid. Any annual, formalized performance evaluation system tends to serve a wide variety of human resources functions, such as salary administration, affirmative action, promotion, training, and succession planning. These multiple purposes of once-a-year formal appraisal systems can dilute or weaken the clarity--and therefore the current validity--of any appraisal system. The annual system simply has to serve too many masters.

Furthermore, because formal appraisals become part of the permanent organizational record--and can be tied directly to salary increases--they are by their nature psychologically "charged." This "charge" can also work to decrease their validity.

But the most vulnerable aspect of long-term appraisals is that they can create a situation in which the employee avoids the most powerful source of data on his performance: himself. In other words, if employees systematically work to assess their own performance, they are likely (1) to believe the assessment and (2) to take a proactive, responsible stance toward their work instead of allowing "the system" to psychologically put them into situation where they're being semiannually "graded" by the boss. Hence self-assessment can help to reduce the assessee's feeling of reactive dependency.

Thus a strong argument can be made for self-appraisal because:

1. It motivates the job incumbent to take more responsibility for his or her own performance and growth.

2. It can be performed as often as necessary because it can be initiated by the person being assessed.

3. It can be clearly and specifically focused on job behavior and therefore not confused by other issues such as compensation, promotion, and so forth.

4. For these reasons "performance ambiguity" is decreased, creating the possibility for more timely and more focused change in job behavior.

The Mechanics of Self-Appraisal The mechanics of self-appraisal utilize the standard approach to performance appraisal, but they also increase the care (and the validity) with which such appraisals are conducted.

1. Self-Appraisal: The process begins, naturally, with the person who is doing the appraising. Each appraisee is asked to analyze his or her "core job duties" and to write down how he or she handled each of these key duties over the last three months. Appraisees have a choice of three categories: "outstanding," "adequate," and "not adequate."

For example, an important job duty for a departmental supervisor might be "appraising employees. …

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