October is the new fiscal year in government. And, assuming our new budget is approved (or at least gets a continuing resolution CR) it can feel like a fresh start. It’s also performance appraisal season. Almost like the changing of the guards, performance appraisals are closed out for the prior year and the new year begun. If you are like most, this is when you will be asked to submit your input on your accomplishments.

Whether anyone admits it, performance appraisal season is a period of high anxiety for both supervisors and non-supervisors. For that reason, we’ll be focusing on performance appraisals this month from both the perspective of the supervisor and the employee.

One aspect of the performance appraisal process can be controversial. It is whether employees should write and submit their own performance accomplishments to their supervisors.

It’s controversial for different reasons, for different people. Here I’ll offer some reasons people argue against writing their own accomplishments for the performance appraisal. And, then I’ll counter those perspectives.

Reasons not to write accomplishments for performance appraisals are:

  • Shouldn’t my supervisor already know what I’m doing?
  • What if my input actually lowers my rating?
  • My rating is already decided. What’s the point?
  • Isn’t this just making it easier for my supervisor? Basically, I’m doing their job.

Reasons to write your accomplishments for your performance appraisal anyway:

  • My supervisor should know what I’m doing. It is improbable that your supervisor could know everything you and everyone else in the work unit has accomplished in great detail. Do you know what your child accomplishes all day at school? I realize this might seem an odd comparison. But the point is that unless you sit with that child all day, aside from seeing their grades you don’t really know what they accomplished…unless you ask them. So, writing your performance accomplishments is similar to answering the questions: How was your day (or year)? or What did you do today (or this year)?
  • It might lower my rating. This is such an odd concern to me. How could your writing of accomplishments actually lower your rating? In your write up, do you plan to tell them about what you didn’t accomplish? This seems to be one of those urban myths that sustains without any evidence. However, if you know of an example of this happening, please share it in the comments.
  • It won’t actually change my rating. Fair enough. The reality is this is possible. It is possible that your supervisor has already mentally assigned you a rating. And, it’s possible that your input won’t change it. If you’re not familiar with confirmation bias, it’s the idea that people only accept information that confirms what they believe already. So, your supervisor may not take your input in making their final rating. BUT, do it anyway. You can’t REALLY be sure it won’t help. And, if it doesn’t…well, you now have some bullets written up for your resume.
  • It’s my supervisor’s job. Maybe you are doing their job. I don’t believe this entirely, but for the sake of argument, let’s say you are. Think about the last time someone didn’t help you. Or, that they made your job harder. Did you think more positively about them, or less? I presume you want your supervisor to think positively of you. Right? So help them out. It’s in your best interest.

If you’re interested in this topic, check out a previous post on getting the feedback you need – beyond just during the performance appraisal period.