See it as an opportunity to “tell the truth about your performance,” one career coach said
We can’t all be a perfect 10.
Yet President Trump, asked by reporters Thursday to assess his handling of Puerto Rico relief efforts, replied, “I would give myself a 10” out of 10. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a fierce critic of Trump’s disaster response, retorted by awarding him a measly “one.” (About 80% of the U.S. territory is still without electricity and roughly 30% has no access to clean water.)
Workers are often tasked with self-appraisals, typically as part of performance reviews. Here’s how to channel the right mix of confidence and humility, according to experts:
See it as an opportunity. Instead of dreading the self-appraisal as a chore, career coach Maggie Mistal told Moneyish, view it as a chance to “tell the truth about your performance.” Don’t leave it until the last minute: “Read through all the questions … let it percolate in your subconscious,” she said.
Strike a balance between overconfident and hypercritical. “If you’re highlighting flaws in your performance, it may remind them of things that they either didn’t know about or were so minor that (they were) barely on their radar,” said Dorie Clark, a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. But “it’s also dangerous” to boast you can’t think of anything you’d do differently. “That’s almost taunting people to come up with counterexamples in their own mind, because you’re painting such a black-and-white scenario.”
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Avoid absolutes like “always,” “never” and “perfect” while touting your achievements, Mistal said, and frame shortcomings in forward-looking terms like “areas for improvement” or “what I’m looking to do better” — not “weaknesses” or “problem areas.”
Be specific. Generalities like “I always do super high-quality work” sound like gloating, Clark said. Highlighting specific successful projects — and the corresponding hours of effort from you and your team — can showcase your accomplishments more humbly, she said. Where possible, added Mistal, point to measurable results like sales and revenue numbers and client satisfaction scores. In account management, you might ask your client, ‘How am I doing? What specifically have I done that’s been of service or of value to you?’” she said. Results in a creative field like publishing, meanwhile, could take the form of ad dollars, ability to meet deadlines, or readership and subscriptions.
Similarly, steer clear of essentializing your case-by-case shortcomings: Instead of saying, “I just need to get more patient in general,” Clark said, provide specific examples in which you were a little brusque and say you’d like to work on being more patient going forward.
Track your successes. Maintain a document of your accomplishments and solicit LinkedIn recommendations, Mistal suggested. “You’ve gotta have some way of tracking what you’ve done, because even you’ll forget,” she added. “In the HR world, (documentation is) more important than what’s said.”
Seek feedback. Consult with a trusted colleague or two to provide a reality check, executive educator John Baldoni told Moneyish. “I think what happens very often in self-appraisals is you’re better than you think you are; you’re also not as bad as you think you are,” he said. “You may be overlooking some of your strengths and you may be overlooking some of your weaknesses.”
Ask the boss how you’re doing at least every six months, but ideally every three months, said Mistal. “Doing it quarterly will help you keep track of the stuff that’s going well, which is just as important as the things you need to work on.” Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything you could be doing differently, she added, and do it before that performance review rolls around: “It’s the hardest thing to do, but it will pay off.”
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