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As team leader of 7 people, I'll have to run the evaluation process with each of them. For few of them, the past year was not really a good year (from my point of view) as I had to correct them multiple time. Most of these mistakes lead to a lot of wasted time as they had to re-do their entire work.

As it's always easier to see the "bad things" than the "good things", I wanted to take a step back and ask them to present me their summary of the year/why should they deserve a bad-good-very good evaluation. This would allow me to avoid forgetting the good things (as I suppose they'll focus on that :)). At the end, I'll still have to complete the evaluation form myself but with a more objective eye (I hope)

Do you consider it as a good (or bad) thing to ask them for their self-evaluation? What could be the (positives/negatives) drawbacks?

Note that this evaluation is directly linked with their (paid) bonus

Thanks!

  • what is the companies policy regarding reviews? Some have a very formal process, others no process for doing reviews. – mhoran_psprep Oct 16 '18 at 10:16
  • @mhoran_psprep, the policy is very formal and a process already exist but it's way too "closed" and doesn't let the opportunity to correctly judge it. – worms Oct 16 '18 at 11:04
  • @JoeStrazzere, it's the second evaluation review (so second year) and I'd like to improve my previous experience :). Besides, the team is young and new in the company so it'll be the first review for most of them. I did but my fear is to misjudge them by forgetting something. – worms Oct 16 '18 at 11:06
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Do you consider it as a good (or bad) thing to ask them for their self-evaluation? What could be the (positives/negatives) drawbacks?

Overall it's a good thing. But it does set some expectations. Make sure those expectations are clear and that you follow through completely.

Explain ahead of time what you are doing and why. Make sure you clearly communicate that you will be writing up the final review, but that you value their input. Make sure that you explain that it is your job to write the formal evaluation, not theirs, and that you are looking for their help.

Decide ahead of time if their self-evaluation will be filed along with your evaluation. And decide ahead of time if they will be allowed to formally comment on your final evaluation or not.

Some employees will welcome the chance to help you consider all the details of the past year as you prepare your evaluation. Unfortunately, these will likely be the employees who will be getting a "good" evaluation and a good raise.

Other employees will take this as sign that you don't really understand or value the work that they do and will attempt to use this self-evaluation as a counter to your critical evaluation or as a way to blunt the negative aspects of their work This group will include those employees who had "not really a good year".

Hopefully, you have a one-on-one meeting to review their self-evaluation in which you go over their points, ask for any needed clarification, thank them for their input, and remind them how the rest of the process will go.

And hopefully, you have another one-on-one meeting to review your final evaluation report. In it you can review the year including both what went well and what needs improvement. If their self-evaluation was very rosy and your evaluation wasn't here is where you need to be able to be open and honest with your feedback. This can be a difficult conversation - be very prepared.

Encourage your team members to keep track of their accomplishments throughout the upcoming year, to use as input into next year's evaluation.

Since at least parts of this process appears to be new, you may want to talk to HR about it before you start. They would likely have some guidance on how to do this effectively in your shop. They may even have some requirements regarding what you will be permitted to do and what you will not be permitted to do. Many companies have a standard evaluation process and wouldn't permit deviations.

You may also want to run this past your boss. Some bosses wouldn't want part of their team evaluated one way while the rest are evaluated a different way.

Think it all through completely before you start. And make sure everyone understands what you are doing and why.

  • Thanks! It is indeed one-on-one meeting. Even if everything is already set by HR, we're free (and even encouraged) to discuss such things outside of the very formal process – worms Oct 17 '18 at 14:06
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If you offer them a self-appraisal, they will expect a self-appraisal. They will also likely spend a fair amount of time on it.

I would suggest that you advertise this as a collaborative assessment, book a meeting and ask them to prepare for it. Let them know that you expect them to make a case for a good review, and that you will discuss the final appraisal result.

Doing this means they are more likely to prepare properly, and it will not erode trust in you when you have critiques after they submit their own self-evaluation.

  • Thanks for your answer, it is indeed more collaborative than presentative – worms Oct 17 '18 at 14:05
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A performance evaluation should never be a surprise.

It's not clear what feedback you give to your team outside of this annual review, but if you think they have had a "bad year", they should already know this - you should already have told them as part of regular, targeted feedback. They cannot possibly improve if they don't know they need to (until up to 12 months later).

If this has not already happened, make the most of it in this review, but you need to do better next year.

Genuinely honest self-assessment is difficult when it's tied to your pay-rise.

Who among us would truly say "I've pretty much slacked off this year, I don't deserve a rise"? Not many, I suspect; even if we might privately admit that, we'll try to highlight the good bits if we know our next year's salary depends on it. Even if you have kept them informed of your opinion (as above), many people would use a self-assessment to try to justify why they've done better than you think, because if they accept it without dispute, they're guaranteed to get no rise (and might even lose their job). Worst of all, the ones with a least accurate self-image are most likely to claim they've done brilliantly and paint a picture of themselves as amazing high-performers.

Basically, you are implicitly asking them to stake out a position as having done well, when you already know in advance you are going to tell them they have not done well. You are creating the conditions for a confrontational meeting where they have a vested financial interest in arguing with you... and even if they accept you are right, the difference between their expectations and your judgement will be damaging to their morale.

A performance evaluation should be a conversation, for which you are well prepared.

With all the above said, it is reasonable to open the performance evaluation by asking "so, how do you think you've done this year?". It's just not a good idea to ask them to write it out formally in advance. The trick is to steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go.

For example, if they open by saying "I did lots of hours on project X", you might respond with "you did, but do you remember problems A, B, and C that happened on that project? Do you think you could have prevented them?". Listen carefully, acknowledge the good things they have done, be fair at all times; but use open questions to lead them to an understanding (and, hopefully, agreement, even if it's uncomfortable) that your evaluation is that they have not done well.

To explicitly answer the question though - this should be a dynamic conversation, not a report they prepare in their own time. If someone writes down everything they've done well all at once, in a self-assessment, they can easily convince themselves they have done well overall, and then you will have to work very hard to make them realize that's not the case. If during a conversation you can provide examples, one at a time, of things that show they have not done well, there is at least the chance that they will be left with no choice but to agree with you.

A poor evaluation can be difficult to hear, and difficult to deliver.

It might be uncomfortable and awkward to have to tell someone you think they have done badly. They might get upset, or angry. Remain calm, stick to your position (as long as you are able to justify it - provide evidence whenever possible), speak slowly and firmly but quietly. Be prepared to take a break from the discussion if the exchange becomes heated. Record the outcome on paper, and ask them to add any further comments of their own, then sign the document to indicate their understanding and acceptance of the review.

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Another thing to be aware of is to consider not only how you are going to use the self-evaluation, but whether or not the fact that you did so will be evident to your workers. Are you ready to take what they have written and truly consider it, synthesize it with your own observations, and come up with a final evaluation that represents the "best of both worlds", showing your staff that their viewpoints were considered seriously, or are you likely to produce a "This is why you are wrong" final review? You might not intend to do it, but the appearance of it can be as demoralizing as actually disregarding their input.

One way to help facilitate this is to provide clear guidance on how to do the self-evaluation. If you use a quantitative scale (e.g. rate yourself from 1-5), explain and provide details as to what each number means. I once dealt with an organization in which a rating of "5" was essentially godhood, and it existed on the forms only to "deliver a message" to workers that there was always something to improve. If you rated yourself a "5" on your self-evaluation, you got a lecture from your supervisor as to why that was the wrong choice, rather than a dialogue about why you might or might not be a "5". In other organizations, a "5" was the expectation - any lower number more or less indicated how serious of a "problem" you had and how long you had to fix it (e.g. a "4" meant "I made a mistake last month but I can avoid doing it again with a little mentoring." while a "1" meant "I am not only completely incompetent but also incapable of ever gaining basic competency in my job. Fire me now."). If you use one of these techniques, make it clear so that the worker is not startled or broadsided by your response. If you use narrative or qualitative questions, provide context. Tell them what matters and what doesn't, and how an ideal worker "should" behave and produce. For example,

For the purposes of this review, Appropriate Attire and Appearance means following the specific professional dress code on Page 43 of the Employee Handbook, obeying applicable safety regulations such as utilizing protective eye-wear or chemical protection gowns, following basic personal hygiene, and otherwise not blatantly violating general professional mores of the workplace. It also includes following any more specific dress code which is explicitly described in your official job description. Appropriate Attire and Appearance does not include having an "eye for fashion", wearing designer clothes, eliminating personal expression, removing religious attire that does not violate health or safety rules, or obscuring the presence of a disability.

Be aware of how the Dunning-Kruger effect affects both you and the worker. Don't browbeat them for portraying themselves as either more competent or less competent than you think they "should have" - use that as a sign that further exploration is needed. Be a servant leader, not an evil overlord.

Although hopefully it should be obvious by this point, only use self-evaluations when they are likely to give you truly actionable information. If an employee's performance is either so high or so low that there there is essentially nothing you could hear that would sway your evaluation, don't put them through the rigamarole of writing a "worthless" self-evaluation. Just give them their evaluation and move on. Similarly, don't retaliate. If you ask an employee for an honest self-evaluation, you have to be ready to accept it as their opinion. If there's something you don't want to hear - say, you don't want to hear any excuses on lateness - don't ask the employee to evaluate their punctuality.

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