First, follow your company’s policy. Many organizations request that all employees complete a self-appraisal as part of the organization’s performance management system. If your company does have such a requirement, ask each individual to complete the self-appraisal as policy dictates.
If there is no requirement for self-appraisal, it’s still a good idea. The hour that the person spends reflecting on just how well she performed in the last twelve months may be far more valuable than anything you say as the supervisor during the appraisal discussion.
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To begin, self-appraisal should always be a voluntary process. People should be invited/requested/permitted to complete a self-appraisal as part of the performance management process, but they should never be required/coerced/compelled to do so. Compelling self-appraisal will defeat the benefit of having people think carefully about how they have performed over the year. It will likely bring resentment (‘‘That’s your job, not mine!’’). It may even provoke a refusal. What is the manager to do when the employee says, ‘‘I really don’t feel comfortable with doing a self-appraisal . . . I would prefer not to?’’ Will the manager make the self-appraisal a condition of employment and insist that the individual complete the form on pain of termination? And what possible value will that self-appraisal have?
A better approach is simply to point out that self-appraisal has some benefits and ask informally that the individual complete one.
Another important issue involves the timing of the employee’s delivery of her self-appraisal to the manager. Should the individual bring it to the performance appraisal review meeting so that she and the manager can look at what each other has written at the same time, or should the individual send the self-appraisal to the manager well in advance so that the manager can use the employee’s self-appraisal as a data source for constructing the official appraisal?
Both approaches have benefits and disadvantages. The most important thing is clear communication with the individual about the purpose of the self-appraisal and the mechanics of delivering it. The manager can say, ‘‘Sam, as part of our process we ask every person to complete a self-appraisal of his own performance. Here’s a blank copy of the form. I’d like you to complete it and send me a copy by next Thursday so I can take your insights into consideration as I’m writing the official appraisal.’’ The manager could just as easily say, ‘‘Sam, we routinely ask every employee to write a self-appraisal as part of our performance management process. Here’s a copy of the form for you to use. Give it some thought, write a self-appraisal, and bring it with you when we get together next week to review the official appraisal I’m writing.’’
Asking for an accomplishments list and requesting self-appraisals are appropriate only when the individual’s performance is at least meeting the organization’s standards. If the individual’s performance is below standard, or if there is a specific performance issue that could jeopardize continued employment if it is not immediately corrected, avoid asking for a self-appraisal or an accomplishments list. The reason is that in the case of a marginal performer, it’s important for the manager to have great control over the situation. Inviting a self-appraisal or an accomplishments list provokes discussion of the way the employee sees the situation and the way the manager sees it. With people whose performance is fully successful, that’s appropriate. With a marginal performer, it’s not. The manager needs to be in charge of the meeting and explain that there must be an immediate correction of the situation or significantly unhappy consequences will follow.