I hope it’s not just me that gets incredibly anxious when your manager schedules in your annual appraisal. I try to forget they exist as must as possible – but that’s not what you should be doing to make the most of them.
In general, it can feel like an appraisal is just a way to point out all your wrongdoings and make you feel bad about yourself until everyone has forgotten they’ve happened. However, a work-based appraisal should be something that points out areas of improvement, as well as receiving feedback for what you’ve done well.
Approaching the Appraisal
I’ve taken the “dentist approach” to previous appraisals. In the 10 minutes before your appointment, you clean your teeth a hundred times. However, you should really be working towards your next appraisal from the second the first one finishes by taking care of yourself and putting in the work daily.
It’s important to take ownership of your daily to-do list, get things done efficiently and done well every day because your managers aren’t going to see the 10 minutes or the morning before your appointment (and when they do see those 10 minutes, it’ll be too little too late).
From the second your appraisal ends, you should make note of the suggested improvements even if they feel like a stab in the chest right now. Keep them written down where you can see them every day so you’re reminded of what you need to work on before your next appraisal.
Break everything down into manageable chunks. What is the overall aim, and how can you work towards achieving that this week? What can you do today specifically as a part of that? And then tomorrow, what’s your plan? Breaking things down into smaller pieces can make the overall goal less scary and hurt less.
I would suggest this approach is less the “dentist approach” and more of a “OKR approach”. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. At an agency I previously worked for we were all set regular OKRs to work towards as part of our appraisals.
It’s kind of like setting a New Years Resolution, but at a random point in the year and for your job rather than yourself as a person.
The Appraisal Itself
During the appraisal, be sure to listen carefully to what your manager has to say and make note of anything they suggest or ask of you. You can use these to put towards your personal OKRs (post-appraisal goals) and hopefully impress your manager next time.
Make sure you also remember the good things they say as focusing only on the negatives can bring you down and make you less motivated to work towards improvement.
If you have any questions or suggestions for your manager, share these too and get the answers you need. Finding the right time to pin down your busy manager can be difficult during the average working day, so use the time provided to get the answers you’re looking for.
Finally, during the appraisal, make sure you breathe. They can be highly anxiety driven situations and can bring people to tears often so make sure you’re breathing and staying calm. It’s okay to feel stressed, worried, and anxious and of course it’s OK to cry but it can make you feel worse in the moment (from experience!) and make you take in less information.
After the Appraisal
As mentioned previously, make sure to take your notes and suggested improvements and turn these into actionable goals.
Try not to dwell on the negativity too much, and focus on the improvements you can make to ace your next appraisal. Taking this advice can make this upcoming appraisal potentially one of the last anxiety inducing appraisals you ever have – because if you’re acing the working day, you’ll have nothing to worry about in your next meeting.