We've been tasked with writing employee goals for the upcoming year. Our goals will be reviewed and approved by our manager. At the end of the year we'll be asked to explain, in writing, how we met or exceeded each goal. I'm a software engineer. The goals will need to span both technical and non-technical areas. I always work hard, and I produce a lot of value, but work does not consume my life. I know that places certain limits on my career, and I'm fine with that.
I've noticed in this company that nobody ever admits, at least to superiors, to ever being less than perfect, even in trivial matters. I think it's absurd, because of course nobody is perfect. It's just office politics. Personally, I'm bad at navigating them.
For example, someone accidentally left their USB keyboard/mouse adapter at a desk that was supposed to be kept clear at all times and it disappeared, so a mistake was noticed. They now use their laptop for keyboard/mouse because if they'd asked if it was found, or requested a new one, they'd know who made the mistake. Someone broke their chair. An office-wide email was sent asking who left a broken chair in a common area. Nobody responded. This even extends to things like work assignments, where I'm still trying to get a bad assignment changed, because changing it would mean my manager admitting he made a mistake.
Thus, these goals concern me, because I suspect they will not ultimately be viewed as goals, but as firm commitments, and if I miss them, I'll look bad. With a goal, there is a potential that the goal was too lofty and despite my best efforts I might not succeed. I think making and accomplishing goals is important, but I also need to protect myself.
I will not lie about accomplishing a goal. So, I need to be careful and make sure that whatever goals I set, I will achieve, no matter what. However, I'll need to make it look like I'm challenging myself and that the goals are useful and apply to me, otherwise my goals will be rejected and I might be forced to modify them in some way that adds a lot of risk. For example, I might be forced to give a specific number, which obviously is super risky.
What's the best way to write my goals to avoid risk? What types of goals should I offer up and which should I avoid? If I end up having to modify a goal to be more specific, how can I minimize risk as much as possible?
Note: Besides the politics, I enjoy my work and the pay is good. I've never been in a workplace without politics. Let's consider quitting as off-topic.