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Should I Ask the Individual Whose Performance Appraisal I Am Preparing to Make Up A List of Accomplishments?

Yes. Requesting a list of their accomplishments and achievements from each individual over the course of the year is one of the most effective ways to begin the performance assessment process.

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The best way to start the performance assessment phase of the process is for the manager to request an accomplishments list from each person she’ll be evaluating. The manager might say something like this:

Sam, over the next few weeks I’ll be writing your annual performance appraisal. Before I even begin thinking about your appraisal, though, I’d like you to send me a list of all of the things you’ve done this year that you really feel good about . . . all of your achievements and accomplishments. It doesn’t have to be formal—just send me an e-mail or write it on the back of an envelope.

And by the way—if there’s anything that you did over the past twelve months that didn’t turn out as well as you would have liked, don’t include that. I am not interested in getting a balanced summary. I only want to know about the things you’ve done this year that you are really proud of.

To begin, a request like this one puts a very appropriate and positive spin on the whole performance appraisal process. Too often people feel that the purpose of performance appraisal is to point out all of their faults, flaws, and failings over the course of the year (and the way some managers conduct performance appraisal discussions, it’s no wonder people feel this way.) A request for an accomplishments list, particularly when the manager specifically asks the individual not to include anything that is not a genuine source of pride, convinces the people receiving the request that the manager genuinely wants to focus on people’s strengths and successes in doing a performance review.

Here, though, is the more important reason for asking for an accomplishments list. For a manager, there are few things more embarrassing than giving Sally her performance review in early December, watching her read it, and hearing her wail, ‘‘But you didn’t even mention the Thompson project I did last February!’’ You then realize that you had forgotten all about one of her most important contributions to the company in the entire twelve months. That’s a managerial gaffe that will never be forgotten.

Asking for an accomplishments list removes the possibility of getting caught in that embarrassing trap. Now the manager will receive Sally’s list of accomplishments, discover the forgotten Thompson project at the top of her list, and say to himself, ‘‘Oh, dear! I forgot all about it. It’s a good thing I asked for this list.’’ The manager may forget about some of the individual’s accomplishments; the individual won’t.

Hot Tip

Another reason for asking for the accomplishments list is that it will give you a good perspective on how the individual looks at her own performance. Is her accomplishments list reasonable, demonstrating a mature view of genuine achievements over the course of the year? Or is it filled with any possible positive actions, most so minor that they are hardly worth mentioning? Is the list remarkable for how short it is, and how trivial the accomplishments listed? Asking for the accomplishments list will give the supervisor a good heads-up for what he might expect in the appraisal discussion, particularly if his judgments about the value of the individual’s accomplishments are not as stellar as she sees them to be.