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Self-Assessment: 5 Tips for Writing Your Performance Evaluation

mentatdgt/Shutterstock
mentatdgt/Shutterstock / Credit: mentatdgt/Shutterstock

A performance evaluation is an important tool for keeping communication flowing between teams. Periodic evaluation is a chance for managers and employees to review the recent past and discuss expectations moving forward. An evaluation also serves as an opportunity to set goals, both as individuals and teams.

Along with the performance evaluation often comes the self-assessment. An opportunity for employees to self-reflect and consider what their strengths and weaknesses are, self-assessments are not only important to growth as a worker but as a person. By critiquing their own work and behavior, employees can gain insight that helps them improve.

For managers, self-assessments offer several benefits. They illuminate how the employee sees themselves in the context of the team and the organization at large. It also highlights any disagreements or misunderstandings between the manager and the employee. And, of course, self-assessments offer an opportunity for feedback to managers about what motivates and incentivizes an employee to do their best work.

"Modern employees are intrinsically motivated to work autonomously and by opportunities to learn and grow. So, from a management perspective, self-assessments  – which contribute to autonomy and development – are incredibly valuable," said David Hassell, founder and CEO of 15Five. "Work product from employees who are intrinsically motivated tends to be more impactful and sustainable than work derived from extrinsic motivators, such as bonuses or fear tactics."

Despite its importance, writing a self-assessment is no easy task. Analyzing oneself can be immensely difficult, especially when that analysis is submitted to a supervisor for review. If you're having trouble getting started, these five tips will help you learn how to write a self-assessment. [Learn more about performance management.] 

One major goal of the self-evaluation is to highlight your accomplishments and recollect milestones in your professional development. A good self-assessment should point to specific tasks and projects that highlight your best work. When describing those accomplishments, employees should emphasize the impact those achievements had on the whole business to emphasize their value to the company.

Julie Rieken, CEO of Applied Training Systems Inc., said you should strive to connect your actions with a manager's goals. This type of alignment is encouraging to any manager and conveys that you understand your role within the larger context of the company. 

"If your manager needs to hit a certain number, share how you played a role in hitting the number," said Rieken. "Accomplishments you list should connect with business objectives."

Self-assessments aren't just about highlighting triumphs. You should also critically assess the times you came up short. Being honest means pointing out weaknesses that could be improved upon or past failures that taught you a valuable lesson. Recognizing your own flaws is important to demonstrating your ability to learn and grow.

Still, it's important to not be self-deprecating in your assessment. Timothy Butler, a senior fellow and director of career development programs at Harvard Business School, advised employees to use developmental language when critiquing the areas in which they need to improve. 

"You don't want to say, 'Here's where I really fall down,'" Butler told the Harvard Business Review. "Instead, say, 'Here's an area I want to work on. This is what I've learned. This is what we should do going forward.'"

It's important during self-assessments to never stagnate; humans are constantly adapting, learning and changing. Whether you've had a great year or fallen short of your own expectations, it's important to remain committed to improving and educating yourself. Taking a moment to list your goals and objectives for the coming year during a self-assessment demonstrates that you are not content to settle.

"The first step is to adopt a growth mindset and understand that adult human potential is not fixed. We are always in a state of becoming, and our potential increases or decreases based on many factors, including the environments where we live and work," Hassel said. "Adopting that framework prevents people from becoming too transfixed on their perceived failures and from becoming too attached to their triumphs."

Managers will also see a willingness to improve and take on new things as a sort of coachability. If an employee has been struggling, making room for growth could improve their performance. On the other hand, an employee thriving in their position requires growth opportunities to prevent boredom or stagnation.

When it's time to discuss your accomplishments in your self-assessment, providing hard data to show what you've done throughout the year is highly beneficial. Employees and managers generally know how you have performed, but having concrete numbers to back up any assertion strengthens the validity of your self-assessment.

"If employees ... spend 10 seconds a day writing down their one biggest accomplishment, success, metric hit, feedback received for that day, they'd have 10 times more data than they'd ever need for self-assessment," said Mike Mannon, president of WD Communications

Hank Yuloff, owner of Yuloff Creative Marketing Solutions, agreed: "We teach our clients to keep a list of daily and weekly accomplishments so that when it is time for the self-assessment, there is very little guesswork as to how valuable they are to the company." 

Employees should always be professional when writing self-assessments. This means not bashing the boss for poor leadership skills or criticizing co-workers for making their lives more difficult. It also means not gushing in an overly personal way about a co-worker or manager you really like. Whether you are providing critical or positive feedback, it's important to remain professional. 

Being professional means giving the appraisal its due attention, like any other important project that crosses your desk. Dominique Jones, chief operating officer at BetterU Education Corporation, advised treating your self-evaluation like a work of art that builds over time. You'll be much happier with the result if you give yourself time to reflect and carefully support your self-assessment, she said. 

"Use examples to support your assertions, and … make sure that you spell and grammar check your documents," Jones wrote in a blog post. "These are all signs of how seriously you take the process and its importance to you."

While keeping these tips in mind can help you with writing a self-evaluation, few things improve the process like seeing an example firsthand. To that end, we've created a sample self-assessment to help guide you as you create your own. 

  • I am a dedicated employee who understands not only my role and responsibilities, but the larger mission of our business. I don't simply strive to do my job, but to help make this company a success.
  • I am a good communicator who stays on task and helps rally the team when cooperation is needed to meet a deadline or solve a problem.
  • I am a creative thinker who can come up with novel solutions and improve upon conventional ways of doing things. 
  • I am somewhat disorganized, which often impacts my productivity. I have been learning how to better manage my time and intentionally direct my efforts. While it remains a challenge, I have seen some progress and look forward to continually improving.
  • Sometimes I do not ask for help when I could benefit from assistance. I am always willing to help my teammates, and I know they feel the same way, so I will try to be more vocal about when I need a helping hand moving forward. 
  • I believe in teamwork and cooperation to overcome any obstacle.
  • I value respect and transparency between employees and managers.
  • I value friendship and building warm relationships within the workplace.
  • I strive to be a welcoming and helpful presence to my co-workers. 
  • I never missed a deadline in the past year and, in fact, often submitted my work early.
  • I've gone above and beyond my job description to ensure our team operates at an optimal level, staying late and helping others whenever it could contribute to our collective goal.
  • I created and delivered a presentation, stepping outside my comfort zone to do so. It was well received and bolstered my confidence regarding public speaking. 
  • I would like to continue developing my presentation and public speaking skills. As a weakness that I listed on previous self-assessments, it is gratifying to see that I have made some progress on this skill set and I would like to double down on the growth.
  • In terms of professional growth, I aspire to enter a managerial role. I enjoy working closely with my teammates and considering the bigger picture, and I often help direct resources in an efficient way. I could see myself as a manager who helps facilitate teamwork and encourages workers to do their best. 
  • My manager is pleasant and transparent. I never have to guess where I stand. I appreciate the openness and direct communication so that I know what is expected of me and how well I am meeting those expectations.
  • I would like to be more involved in decision-making at the team level. I believe each team member has unique insights that supervisors cannot fully understand since their perspective is different, and I believe involving staff members in strategic planning could greatly improve results. 

Keeping things simple and using short declarative bullet points is key to writing an effective self-assessment. While the exact nature of your self-assessment might vary depending on your industry or your job description, this basic model can help guide you when writing a self-evaluation. 

Performance evaluations help everyone know where they stand and how they're performing, including in relation to the goals of the organization. Often, workplaces engage in performance evaluations annually, but they should become an ongoing process to fairly and accurately evaluate employees and create a culture of constant communication and feedback.

"[S]elf-assessments cannot merely be an annual event. They are part of an ongoing and regular practice of reflection," Hassell said. "If you look at a snapshot of performance, you are never going to see the truth. It's too easy to focus on a particular experience or event and then create an overarching story around performance."

Doing so will avoid "recency bias," or a type of tunnel vision that centers around recent events, rather than the big picture. It also creates an inclusive, give-and-take culture where employees are invited to participate in offering feedback to their managers as much as their managers offer them feedback. Overall, an inclusive and communicative workplace has a greater chance of succeeding.

"Managers who adopt a coaching or mentorship role can provide external reflections and much-needed perspective so employees can see failures as learning opportunities," Hassell said. "They can also enjoy the praise of a job well done but not dwell on past triumphs, because every company has a continued need for peak employee performance over time."

Additional reporting by Katherine Arline, Marci Martin and Jennifer Post.

Adam C. Uzialko

Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in political science and journalism and media studies. He reviews healthcare information technology, call centers, document management software and employee monitoring software. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and Business.com, Adam freelances for several outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.