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How to impress at appraisals

Appraisals can be a nerve wrecking or uncomfortable experience for some people, as they may feel they are being thrown under the spotlight and evaluated against their company’s expectations.

It is a time where employees have to take stock of their performance as well as achievements and justify their next pay increment or promotion. Understandably, it requires more than just confidence to stand out at these appraisals. Here are some tips on how you can prepare and impress your boss at your appraisals.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

We cannot emphasise this enough. Although many people know that appraisals are important, time and again we see employees going in unprepared. Appraisals are not meant to be a session for sharing idle chat. It is a formal system to review, assess and record your work performance. This evaluation will ultimately lead to decisions that may have a long term impact on your career.

The appraisal process should provide a clear roadmap on where you want to go as well as the targets and goals you need to achieve by next year.

Ensure you have all the necessary facts and figures at your finger tips. Refer to your previous appraisal: Have you followed up on and resolved any issues that may have arisen then? Pay particular attention to any special projects or things you had committed to and provide a status report. If you have not achieved or completed the things that you were expected to, be prepared to give a good explanation, backing it up with reasons. Be careful not to sound defeatist or lay blame on anyone. Stick to the facts and offer your insights as professionally and objectively as possible.

Learn to listen

Often employees go into their appraisal with a list of things they want to say, but it is equally important to listen to what your appraiser is saying. Always let your appraiser set the tone and agenda of the appraisal. Pay close attention to the issues or points he/she raises and respond to them accordingly. At the end of the appraisal, bring up any points you would like to address that have not already been covered by your appraiser. By learning to listen first, you can better understand your appraiser’s line of thinking, which will help you focus your responses and deal with each issue or question as it comes up.

Stay professional

Appraisals can be emotionally taxing on both the appraiser and the person being appraised. The nature of such appraisals is such that both positive and negative issues will inevitably be raised, and judgements made. There may be uncomfortable moments where employees are pressured to give justifications for their work performance, behaviours and shortcomings. Typical reactions that we have observed in some employees during appraisals include denial, laying blame, anger, withdrawing into silence and even tears.

At all times, remain professional and refrain from any form of emotional outburst, especially if the appraisal does not go as well as you had hoped. It is important that you view constructive criticism as valuable feedback, and constantly focus on your desired solutions and outcomes. Ask for clarification or explanations on any contentious issues and try and address them on the spot. Share your challenges and insights with your appraiser and get him/her to work with you to set new benchmarks and expectations for the following year.

Mind your body language

Just like in an interview, body language plays a huge part in forming impressions. When you are in an appraisal setting, everything about you – work, behaviour, attitude, strengths, weaknesses etc. – will be evaluated and reviewed. Hence, the things you say, how you choose to say them and what you are doing whilst saying them, can have a dramatic effect on the messages that you are sending across to the receiver.

Collect testimonials

What others say or think about you always seem to carry a higher value than what you say of yourself. If a colleague, superior, customer or client has written something positive about you, gather these documents and use them in your appraisals.

You can also proactively seek testimonials from people that you have formed great working relationships with, and have them email or send their comments about your service/performance in writing. Leave it open for them to write anything they want, and be open to accept both positive and negative feedback. More often than not, people who have a strong relationship with you would be more than happy to offer words of encouragement and appreciation.

At the end of the appraisal, you should always ensure that you have an understanding of your appraiser’s expectations. If you are not sure, check with him/her again and follow up with an official confirmation in writing. Agree on timelines and commit to them, and record the progress and improvements you have made as you go along. This will provide the key points you will need for your next appraisal.

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