There is a common misconception that self-appraisals exist to cause employees to quake with fear. In truth, an employee self-appraisal is a win-win tool for you if you embrace it. In writing it, you remind your manager of all your accomplishments -- some with which your manager may not be familiar -- and make a preemptive strike against anything negative. It puts you in the position of director. If you find writing your self-appraisal daunting, the right methods will allow you to reap the rewards.
Step into your manager’s shoes for a moment. He has the responsibility of writing your performance review and, perhaps, a dozen more. Who is more qualified to list all of your accomplishments in this case -- you or him? Rather than think of writing your self-appraisal as something management requires to put you on the hot seat, remember that the actual purpose is for you to help him and, in doing so, take control of framing the performance review he will eventually write.
Don’t wait until the last minute to write your self-appraisal. Your employer should give you advanced notice, so it is to your benefit to use it. Ideally, keep a file throughout the year of your accomplishments, complimentary emails and other items you might like to address with your manager when the time comes. Use your job description and previous review as guides for what to track. If your last review cited a goal, document your progress on it throughout the year.
Write your self-appraisal with clear and simple specifics, and claim ownership when due. This is your time to shine and highlight your strengths -- especially those not documented on your previous review or with which your manager may not be familiar. For instance, if you stepped in to help another manager’s team on a last-minute project, list it so that your manager is aware. Rather than generally listing “Helped other employees when needed,” specifically state: “I worked 25 additional hours assisting sales department with presentations for Hamilton deadline. This fostered interdepartmental teamwork, allowed the company to meet its deadline and maintain valuable relationship with client.”
Even if you’re the reigning employee of the year, there is likely something negative you fear might come out in your review. This is one of the advantages of a self-appraisal; take responsibility, and frame it in a positive light with your self-improvement. For example, if you failed to meet a deadline, don’t ignore it or blame someone else. Instead, write “Though I submitted the Davis proposal two days late, I worked with the client on an agreeable extension and followed up with a proposal-writing course. Since then, I have submitted all 10 subsequent proposals three to five days early.” This approach shows your responsibility and, though it will be documented in your self-appraisal, it is overall more positive than being documented in your performance review; your manager may not even include it on his end. Don’t go overboard though; there is no reason to acknowledge anything negative no one else knows about except you.