It’s that time of year at my work: annual reviews. Each year, every employee is sent a self-evaluation document to assess how well the year went as far as meeting goals and performance quality. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy looking back on a year’s worth of work and trying to summarize it in a two-three page document. There seem to be too many things that have happened over the course of a year for such a short document to adequately cover, but on the other hand, I also can appreciate the reflection exercise. In this blog, I’d like to walk through my annual review experience and also touch on a few difficulties related to the whole process.
My annual review form was broken down into three sections: key responsibilities specific to my job, core competencies, and an evaluation summary. For the key responsibilities, I had to rank myself from 1 (lowest ranking = low performance) to 5 (highest ranking = high performance). Examples of responsibilities related to my position included items like communication, organization, planning, and quality of work.
The second section, “Core Competencies,” was also a section to rank me from 1-5 on factors like problem-solving, collaboration, inclusiveness, and accountability.
The final, third section had me list out my areas of strength, areas for improvement, and my plans for professional development.
How I handled my self-evaluation
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that self-evaluation is difficult. I find that I’m often squirming inside as I try to find the balance between humility, honesty, judgment, and self-forgiveness. I want to highlight the great things about my past year, but I want to be realistic and truthful about the areas that I need to improve in. The moral dilemma expands when salary is thrown into the equation: an annual review is frequently tied to a conversation about raises and/or bonuses. It’s such a conflicting pull to present yourself in a positive light and at the same time shed light on your shortcomings. (COVID-19 might have spared you this tension if your place of work put a salary freeze in place, but it’s a situation worth considering for future annual reviews).
How I handled feedback during my review
After I completed my annual review form, I had a virtual meeting with my supervisor and my supervisor’s supervisor to do a video conference and address my annual review in real-time. It can be intimidating to sit with others and critically evaluate your own work, not to mention when the “others” are your superiors. In the virtual conference, I had a much higher awareness of what I said and how I presented myself. I wanted to be professional and taken seriously. We walked through the document over the course of 45 minutes, and my last year’s efforts were both affirmed and critiqued. I listened, took notes, and said “thanks” at the conclusion of the meeting.
Personally, I find it hard to digest feedback given to me at the moment, and I have to wait until some time has passed in order to process everything. It wasn’t until a day or two after my annual review meeting that I looked at my notes and made a game plan for the upcoming year, and I wrote down ways that I could improve my current work practices based on the suggestions of my superiors. I guess you could say that I had a mini annual review of my annual review (confusing, no?) Basically, I re-evaluated my self-review to incorporate what others saw from my work in order to create a more holistic picture.
Evaluating My Supervisor
Not only did I have to complete a self-evaluation, but I also had to complete an annual feedback form for my supervisor. My team leader’s feedback form included a column for “what’s working,” “what’s not working,” and “recommendations.” Once again, I found myself in a tenuous place: Do I only share the good things, since my supervisor will be reading this? Do I sugar-coat things that I believe should be improved? How do I bring up difficult topics without sounding like I’m complaining or blaming or exaggerating the problem? What if my negative feedback drowns out all the good things that my supervisor and team do?
The first time I filled out my supervisor’s feedback form, I literally just jotted down a bullet point list of anything and everything that came to mind for each category (“what’s working,” “what’s not working,” and “recommendations”). Then I came back to the list the following day to revise it, make it coherent, and offer many tangible ways in which we as a team could improve our workplace. Finally, I went through my feedback form with a trusted person who had no connection to my work team or my supervisor: an impartial voice to help me communicate my praise, critiques, and suggestions. If you also have to complete a form like this, I would highly recommend having a trusted individual proofread your form before submitting it. They can help you find the right words to communicate the right information with the proper tone. Another set of eyes is invaluable in circumstances like these.
Reflecting back on the past year, I think one of the most important things to recognize is that COVID-19 was (and still is) an extremely difficult hurdle for everyone. At my place of work, we had to figure out how to operate remotely, return to seeing patients safely, and utilize many modes of communication to stay connected as a team. Some of my personal work goals were missed completely, and I had to adjust the expectations of my work environment due to the dramatic shift in society caused by the pandemic. While I hope that this next year will be much different (and better) than 2020, my reflection on this past year has opened my eyes to how much I have grown (and how much I have yet to grow) in my career as a nurse.