Looking Back on Your Job Performance: Year-End Self-Review
Make your year-end self-review work for you to get the evaluation you deserve from your manager. Whether your year was successful or not, a self-review gives you time to share your wins, opportunities, and reflect.
The dreaded year-end performance review: the process that pretty much everyone loathes, so much so that an influx of HR research supports the ineffectiveness of the review process. Companies big and small are blowing up their performance reviews. But that’s not what this article is about. If you find yourself in an organization where the performance review lives on, and your company and manager are interested in your personal perspective, you’ll likely be asked to complete a self-review.
We typically dread the task since we are unsure how to promote our own achievements. If that’s not the case, we feel it’s a total waste of time; no matter what we say, we never seem to be on the same page as our managers. We don’t get an assessment we feel is fair, so why put in all the effort? This is because of the bias that permeates the performance review process. In one study, only 15% of female managers felt confident in the performance evaluation process; most thought it extremely subjective and ambiguous.
With a quick internet search, you can find an overwhelming amount of research agreeing with this. Despite the dwindling support of the traditional performance review the and overwhelming consensus on the bias it contains, many companies aren’t doing a whole lot to mitigate these biases because that typically requires a massive process and technology overhaul, entailing money, time and resources that companies don’t want to or can’t invest.
So how much does your self-review matter? It matters quite a bit, presuming it’s well-written, concise, fact-based, and specific. If you can hit the mark on important items, you have a strong chance of mitigating the biases your manager might have and influencing a fair as possible performance assessment. In turn, you’ll increase your chances for deserved recognition, constructive feedback, and, hopefully, other positive outcomes like compensation through merit increases or bonuses, promotions, and other career and personal development opportunities. So, let’s think about what you can do to leverage your self-review to mitigate some of these biases, so you get the review you deserve.
Making your self-review work for you
The biggest problem with performance reviews is their lack of consistency in how managers rate and assess employees. Even with a well-defined and valid rating scale, it’s tough not to let bias take over. The folks at Culture Amp explain all the potential biases your manager might have when doing your review. What should you emphasize the most in your self-review to mitigate as much bias when it comes time for your evaluation?
At a bare minimum, start with making sure you highlight the results you achieved all year long, not just those that happened in the last month or quarter. Remind your manager of the things you accomplished at the beginning of the year, the middle, and at the end. Go back to the dashboards, metrics, and notes of praise sent to you. Your manager will not remember it all, so feel free to shamelessly remind what a bad ass you’ve been all year by speaking to the full breadth of your performance and numerous contributions.
Remember to be specific. One of the easiest ways to articulate this clearly is by using the Center for Creative Leadership’s Situation, Behavior, Impact (SBI) model. This model was designed for structuring feedback conversations, and it works well for that use. I have also used it repeatedly throughout the years when talking about my own performance. The model is simple to understand and apply to how you should speak to your results.
Breaking down the use of SBI for your self-review
First comes the situation. It’s not enough to just talk what you accomplished – you could just be viewed as one who executes what they are told. You need to talk about the specific problems you were trying to solve, the scope of the work, and the desired outcomes.
Next is your behaviors. Performance assessments should be a balance of the “what” and the “how”. It’s not just what you accomplished, but how you did it. Did you collaborate and build relationships with others in the company that helped you understand the customer needs and made for a more successful outcome? Did you provide good communication and guidance to others, while holding them accountable, so THEY could achieve results? Humbly talk about the impact of your leadership on others. Achieving results through others is a must to call out in your self-review.
Behaviors must be observable. Don’t assume your boss has seen how you have approached your work. He or she is never with you 24/7, nor inside your head as you thought strategically about the pros and cons to make a tough decision. Continue to be specific in the how and consider gathering feedback and input for a more balanced and valid perspective you can offer to your boss. This can be as simple as sending an email to a few colleagues, asking them to give you feedback on when they saw in the past year or on the impact you had on their work.
A few cautionary tips – be careful not to over ask or badger people for feedback; keep it simple. Everyone is busy, so make sure you only reach out to people who have a legit experience of your work and not just those with whom you are most friendly or are close to at work. Gathering a bunch of generalities will do you no good; get some meaty examples of how you showed up for others. Feel free to put that in your review!
Impact is last and arguably the most important. It doesn’t matter what the situation was or how you approached the work if there was no relevancy or impact. Tie your self-assessment back to the work or goals set in front of you at the beginning of the year. Hopefully, if they were SMART goals, you’ll easily know how to measure them. Regardless, you have a job to do in your self-review, and that is to tie what you achieved to those tangible outcomes cared about by your boss or your company. Whether its money saved or earned, or capability created, you’ve got to show what you did mattered. Dedication, hard work and long hours are not enough.
If you didn’t achieve something great, get in front of it in your self-review. No one can do everything fantastically all the time. If you didn’t hit a goal, talk about what got in the way. Take It as a learning or development lesson to carry into the following year.
What else is important in a self-review
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that while keeping my suggestions in mind, as you write your self-review, do so in a clear and simple way. Do not, I repeat, do not write paragraph after paragraph of text. Your boss is does not have the time to read a long, personal essay of your performance. Bullet points are best. Think of the number of self-reviews that will need to be read by your manager. Believe me, he or she will thank you if you keep it results-oriented, clear, and easy to assess.
Perhaps the most important reminder when it comes to a self-review is not to let your self-worth get consumed by the process. If you had a great year, speak to your excellent performance and celebrate it – you want it to get noticed! If you had a tougher year, own it, but don’t let it define you. We all have tough times, and perhaps the work climate or economy was against you. Perhaps you made some mistakes or had leadership lessons to learn. A year of under-par performance is never easy but value the review for the growth it provides. Whether it’s building resilience, getting tough feedback never given before, or doing your best wasn’t enough, think about how you want to show up in those moments of success or failure, and the shadow you want to cast upon others around you. Remember that you may define your work, but your work doesn’t need to define you.