Navigating appraisals

The end of the year is often a time where the words ‘review’ and ‘appraisal’ are thrown around, giving a sense of finality to a year of work. However, often we as workers may become introspective, stressed and fearful of the results of management scrutiny over performance. This may also be a time where we are forced to confront our inadequacies as employees and have to appraise feedback to grow into new roles and cover areas we have underperformed in. It is at this point though where accepting criticism and feedback can be particularly difficult, especially if we feel we have already done a job to our full capacity. In this article, we are going to give some of our pointers on how to accept criticism in a workplace review, how to convey your experience and opinions in a mindful manner, and how to best manage the stress and worry which is raised over appraisals and reviews.

When receiving feedback, its easy to see each sentence as a threat upon our efforts and value. From an anecdotal experience, I would always wince at the idea of receiving a review or feedback for fear of feeling undervalued and not appreciated. A natural reaction may be to respond with defensiveness, bat away the feedback or, with some individuals, react with anger and annoyance. Indeed, the scale of wisdom to be gained from an outside perspective on our performance is colossal, as we are permitted a chance to become more introspective – and when appraised correctly, can lead to personal revolution.

This feedback permits a more rounded sense of development, as we pursue a balance between our strengths and weaknesses, rather than polarising and specialising too much (being amazing at some tasks and poor at others). It’s worth reflecting that feedback should be sought from individuals we respect and value, otherwise we may find feedback given by those who do not consider or give us enough respect may not be taken constructively. Furthermore, feedback given with integrity actually holds the key to individuals realising and achieving their full potential by addressing areas of weakness. Finally, the feedback process should always be positive and informative – yet if you’re found without a good sense of direction and ask ‘where does this feedback come from?’, it may time to speak up and ask for further clarity on the information.

So, with such depth to be gained from getting feedback on our performance, how do we navigate the impulse to act defensively during reviews? There are some things you can do to become more mindful in receiving feedback – some immediately actionable, and some of which take time to refine.

· Listen with open ears – even if you have the temptation to interrupt with ‘but I did this’ or ‘I did that because’, try and sit with ears fully open to digest the information. When your co-worker is talking about your strengths, take these in pride and reinforce that sense that you can work well and perform as expected. Instead of viewing the negative feedback as a main takeaway from the dialogue, emphasise more your good performance and focus on the things your employer likes from you. This helps to lead to a better sense of self-worth and value, and makes you less likely to ruminate on the one negative thing they may have fed back to you.

· Get inquisitive – once they have finished their review or discussing your performance, take time to gather your thoughts and make mental notes of the talking points you want to initiate. If the appraisal has raised your inadequacies but you feel these are not accurate to the performance you have given, you must respectfully state that claim once your employer/manager has finished their sentence or dialogue about you. Apart from basic respect, this approach leans itself much more towards a positive appraisal and constructive criticism, but a back and forth rally of ‘ifs and buts’ is much more confrontational, which risks damaging work relationships and further hindering your progression.

· Understand at a greater depth – if you have received points for improvement, get as much detail as possible as to what tasks you may complete better, how to improve in an efficient manner, and ask if any training or further courses are available to develop your competence. This approach is particularly beneficial as you are demonstrating a desire to learn and improve, but also reflects the qualities of an employee who is truly invested in the company and ethos.

· Be graceful and thankful – always thank your employer, co-worker or manager for the feedback, no matter how bruised your ego may be. This is a good practice in mindful reception of criticism, and shows maturity. Furthermore, it may be a good idea to plan a time in the future by which to re-address issues, track their progress, and share how supported and nurtured you have been in the time since the issue.

· Pause and recentre – using similar focus to mindfulness, try to sit and be an observer in the conversation. Notice your impulse to react and simply let it pass and become a ‘passenger’ in the conversation. Instead of speaking to act out, attempt to become passive and shift your focus to your hearing and truly ‘drink-in’ the positive and negative appraisal coming your way. By doing this, we may actually hear and process the information we are receiving instead of batting it away when it concerns something we haven’t done as well as we could have.

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