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Self Evaluations are Bullsh*t
Posted Nov 16, 2009 - 9:27:47

Justify Your Existence Comic So last week everyone in my department (and possibly the whole office, but I didn't ask) was told that we needed to fill out our annual "self evaluations" for the company. These self evaluations are a part of our annual review, and are used to determine quite a few things -- including whether or not any of us get raises this year. Now, let's think about this, one of the tools that determines whether Worker A gets a raise is how Worker A rates himself or herself.

The weaknesses in this system should be exceptionally clear.

For those of you who don't see this immediately (or at least have never been subjected to this humiliating process) allow me to explain the inherent problems in this process.

The vast majority of a self evaluation is what you would expect -- list what your strengths are, and whether or not you've reached your goals as an employee. Now no one in their right mind when faced with these things is going to rate themselves low on their "strengths," as they are, y'know, strengths. But your possibility of a raise is in question here, so a lot of people are going to exaggerate as to how good they are at their job.

I didn't, but I'm actually good at my job, and (contrary to popular belief) I don't like bragging about myself.

In this section though, you have to realize that just being capable of doing your job is reason enough to claim you are awesome. Sure, if you've actually gone above and beyond the call of duty you should list that, but apparently just being able to turn on your work station and not have the place catch on fire is a solid "business goal" to have met. Of course, any student of The Gervais Principle probably hasn't gone above and beyond the call of duty anyways... I'll admit it, I went above and beyond a little bit.

Just don't tell anyone I'm less of a slacker than I pretend to be on the internet, okay?

But back to the point: that entire "strengths and goals" section? Useless. The capable people will rate themselves well, but the incapable people will too. Actually, the capable people are more likely to be humble as they themselves have set higher standards than the incapable. The worst part though is the "weaknesses" section of any self evaluation.

Just think about this for a moment. You need to tell the people who decide whether or not you get a raise (and in the future possibly if you get promoted) what you are bad at. They are asking you to list what you are doing wrong. What the heck do they actually expect people to write in this section?

I know people (that were working other places than my company -- I want to make that clear -- these are general statements about Corporate America) who have trusted that their companies wanted genuine feedback, and listed actual faults. These people then had their own self evaluations bite them in the ass later on when it came to getting promoted and avoiding layoffs. The lesson here is, whether or not you think you can trust the company you work for, the safe thing to do is not list real weaknesses.

Most people will find something safe to type up, and then just move on. You will get no actual feedback from your workers because they are looking for a raise.

So in the end, you get a bunch of evaluations turned in where everyone says they are awesome, no one says they have any faults, and you in no way get an accurate picture of your workforce.

Oh, and you wasted the man-hours to have them fill the evaluations out, so there's lost production time too.

So you did a great job there Corporate America! You've managed to get absolutely nothing done beyond annoying the crap out of your workforce and generally made them all a bit more paranoid.

Way to waste our time on Bullsh*t.
- Traegorn

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