Reality Check: Evaluation time

At some point in our lives, most of us are evaluated. Evaluation may be a rare, stress-filled event or a routine, near-constant process.

Evaluation occurs at school, when a teacher assigns a grade. As adults, we are often evaluated in the workplace, when our employer assesses our performance. In less-formal, but no less significant contexts, actors, artists, and writers are reviewed and critiqued whenever they create.

So whether it’s by way of a formal mark, a performance review, or an off-hand comment by a friend, we are evaluated.

An evaluation can be stressful, especially when the evaluation matters. For example, a review at your workplace is typically formal, scheduled, and could lead to a raise (or less desirable results.) It matters.

Choice theory suggests that every one of us has some need for power and recognition, (some folks with a greater need than others.) If you perceive that your evaluator is in a position of control over your life: your wages, your position, your very future, the evaluation process (including the anticipation of the process) can be nerve-racking.

No matter how friendly the environment, having someone assess your performance can be stressful. So if you feel powerless, responding with anxiety is not surprising.

What could you do to regain some sense of your own personal power and have a more effective, less stressful, process? Here are a few suggestions for a workplace evaluation situation.

  • Prepare. Know yourself, and know what you have done. Look back over your evaluation period. What were your highlights? (And your low points, although I’m not necessarily suggesting that you point them out.)
  • Self-evaluate. Choice theory encourages self-evaluation in general, so take this time as an opportunity to evaluate yourself. Look at what you do with clear eyes. If you were doing your own performance review, what would you say about your performance? Why? How might you improve?
  • Maintain perspective. Remember that what other people can offer to you is information. Information is just that—information. Perhaps it’s correct, perhaps not. Either way, you are likely to learn something—about yourself or, at the very least, about your evaluator’s perception of you.
  • Question. Evaluation time is a great opportunity to learn. Get feedback on how you are perceived. Perhaps you are not confident about your work, but you may actually be perceived as very competent. Here’s your chance to find out.
  • Ask what you can do to improve, and what you should be working on. What are your goals? No matter how positive the feedback, we can all find something that we can improve.  
  • And, if you haven’t already been doing this, start keeping records so you’ll be prepared for future evaluations. In a year’s time, it’s easy to forget the brilliant solutions you provided 11 months ago unless you have them written down.

Evaluation and feedback can have truly positive benefits. Our own perceptions of our performance may be quite different from those of the people around us. Input from other people is important. Think of it as a reality check, so to speak.

Have you had helpful, (or non-helpful) evaluation experiences?

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