If you've been employed for any length of time, chances are you've had a work appraisal or two. How you feel about appraisals will probably depend on what sort of experience you've had with them in the past. But it's safe to say that most people don't particularly look forward to them.
While work appraisals may not be everyone's cup of tea, they can be very helpful and even good for your career. It all depends on how you approach them.
Here are some tips on making your annual work appraisal work for you, rather than seeing it as something to dread:
Your employer's appraisal system may include a written appraisal that you complete yourself beforehand. If so, give yourself plenty of time to fill it in – don't leave it until the last minute. Don't forget to highlight the things you did well since your last appraisal. But at the same time be honest about areas that you feel you haven't achieved in. Then once you've finished it, ask a friend or colleague to check your responses for grammar and spelling.
As well as completing your self-appraisal, it's essential to prepare well for your appraisal meeting. This means reminding yourself about your job description and measuring your performance against it and - if applicable - reviewing your notes from your last appraisal. If you've received letters or emails of praise from colleagues or clients - or any other documents that suggest you're doing a good job - gather them together and take them to the meeting. If you have issues you'd like to raise at your appraisal, write them down - don't try to keep them in your head. And think carefully about how you'll answer the inevitable tricky questions such as 'How would you rate your performance this year?' or 'What's been your best achievement?'
Be positive and enthusiastic at your appraisal meeting. Maintain good eye contact with your employer and make sure your posture is positive. Above all, act professional, even when negative issues are raised. Listen carefully and take notes, and make your employer realise you understand what's being discussed.
Unless you've been the perfect employee, your employer may bring up areas where they feel you haven't been performing as well as expected. Instead of reacting by being defensive or angry, stay calm. Remind yourself that criticism is an opportunity to learn and develop. If you disagree with your employer, ask for examples, or give your own examples that show your point of view. Then discuss how you could have performed better.
As well as talking about your strengths, a work appraisal is also a good opportunity to discuss things that you find difficult about your job. Perhaps there are parts of your job that you feel need to be changed - if so, now's your chance to explain why. And if you feel you must bring up any grievances, make sure that you approach a discussion about them in a constructive, rather than negative, way.
A work appraisal shouldn't be a one-way process. It's also your chance to find out more about your employer - especially if you're relatively new to your job - which may help you decide if you want to stay on and build your career there. You may, for instance, want to know if your firm has plans for expansion or whether there may be new opportunities in your department.
While a work appraisal looks at your past performance, it should also focus on what's going to happen in the future. See it as an opportunity to drive your career forward, and discuss any new projects you feel you should take on, or whether there are any training courses you'd like to go on. Your employer may use your appraisal to set new goals for you for the next year. If so, make sure you get all the information you need about them - or if your employer doesn't talk about new goals, you could show initiative and bring up some yourself.
If you feel you have performed well over the last year and you deserve a raise, should you bring it up in your appraisal? Experts are undecided about this, with some claiming salary isn't a subject for appraisals while others suggesting it's the perfect time to talk about money. Before you do anything, find out how things work at your company. Have other employees tackled the subject of their salaries successfully at appraisals in the past? If in doubt, ask if you can have another meeting or a salary review outside of your appraisal.