In today’s overly connected world, everybody has an opinion on almost every topic. In order to not let our own voice drown in the crowd and other’s perceptions to not affect how we measure ourselves, we have to learn to hold our own. However, there are three people in our lives whose opinion really does matter! Because their perceptions have a direct impact on the most critical aspects of our lives – parents, partner, and boss.
Needless to say, a bad appraisal at work, attacks us fundamentally at our core. It makes us feel unworthy, labels our entire year of blood-sweat-toil a lost cause and of course punches our growth options like a Mike Tyson punch straight in the gut.
But as is with all key aspects of life, it is not what we feel or think but what we do in that situation, that finally matters.
Here are some tips to help you swim through these troubled waters:
WHY ask questions
It’s human nature to either attack or withdraw when we feel threatened. Hold on, do neither!
ideally, after working together a year with your boss, you should have anticipated which way the appraisal would go. If you are unhappy with the results of the appraisal, it indicates a Perception Gap. This is the time to understand what drove her/him to perceive your performance the way she/he did.
If you have no questions, you will get no answers.
Remember, your boss’s perception translates into your appraisal rating.
WHAT questions to as
- To assess the Expectation Gap - Between what he expected from you and what you expected from yourself. Use this opportunity, to re-visit your initial goal-setting exercise, understand if your objectives fulfilled the SMART criteria, and how you fared overall against each one.
- To get onto the same team - Appraisal is a process of reviewing an individual’s performance against goals set for the organization. Your boss is the facilitator, not the enemy. Ask him questions such as “How do you think I faulted?”, “Where would you say I missed the mark?”, “What do you think I should have done better?” Get his skin-in-the-game, so that you are both committed to your personal growth.
- To drill down to the details - this is not the time to be shy. Keep the discussion relaxed and candid, open and honest. Avoid asking close-ended questions, which essentially become judgmental. Instead, ask leading questions that help you get to the root of the issues - “What were your expectations for XYZ task?”, “Where do you think I fell short in delivering that?” “What do you think I could have done better at that time in that situation?” What possible tactics would you suggest I adopt for improvement?”
- To share your self-assessment - let him know your concerns and viewpoint. If you don’t stand up for yourself, nobody will. You need to share your point of view, sufficiently backed up with empirical data. Specifically, share both your high points as well as low light - neither gloat about the highs nor make excuses for the lows. Being honest in your self-assessment, demonstrates your objectivity, willingness to accept areas of improvement and capacity to learn & grow.
- To develop a common way ahead - create an opportunity for yourself. It’s imperative that you come out of the discussion with a joint-consensus on the way ahead.
- Use this not as a show-stopper but instead an opportunity to show you that you have potential and can grow.
- Ensure that your boss too perceives the current situation as ‘the glass is half-full’.
- Set an Action Plan on the improvement areas and ask specifically, “May I share a progress update on a weekly basis?” And “When should we next meet up again?”.
The key is to have the communication lines open, clear and consistent, always.
HOW to ask the questions
This is undoubtedly a tricky and stressful situation. Hence, take care of a few aspects whilst conversing:
- Act, but don’t react: it demonstrates maturity.
- State, but don’t debate: it signals professionalism.
- Respect, but continue to shine: it re-asserts your true potential.
At the end of the day, remember, as long as you are alive-n-kickin’ your heart beat will never be a straight line. Your career graph is no different. Stay true to yourself, commit to growth, and be honest with all your stakeholders.
Success and failure don’t define who you are. It’s how you deal with them that sets in motion who you are going to become.