It’s review time at the office and your boss has asked you to complete a self-assessment – those forms that ask you to rate yourself on your own work performance. Here’s where you’re going to have to walk the gauntlet like never before. After all, you’re being asked to step back and consider how your work on the product launch, or office reorg, “exceeded” or “met” expectations (or, God forbid, only met the “minimum” requirement) – no easy task. Here’s how to cope:
Who thinks up these forms, anyway? Is it me – or is there really anyone out there who is willing to admit on paper, in writing, for the world and your boss to see, that he or she performed at a “minimal” level? Let’s get real – when you know that this self-assessment stuff is going to be read by the boss, and may even help determine what kind of raise you’re going to get, most of us tend to be very generous with ourselves. Was I an outstanding team player? Why yes, I was. In fact, I’m a huge asset to this organization, which is why I’ll be checking off “exceeds expectations” across the board, thank you very much. I may sound pompous, but I’m not a complete idiot.

Remember, you’re being assessed on how you fill out your self-assessment, and no matter how great you are, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re stronger in some areas than others. The last thing you want to do is send the message to your boss that you lack, shall we say, a certain self-awareness, so eat a little humble pie. Even if you ‘tried really hard,’ you’re being evaluated on performance, not personality, so look at where you really did deliver the goods. Use hard data, if you can, to back up your assessment, so that you have numbers and quantifiable information to point to if needed.

Understand what the ratings mean. Some of us assume that “exceeds expectations” (or whatever equivalent your company uses) is like getting an A in school, and that any other rating we give ourselves represents a B, C or worse. But in most cases, the fact that you were able to meet expectations is an A, and exceeding them might be considered an A+. For instance, if you hold a senior level role in your company, the bar is already set very high for you – so the fact that you were able to meet the goals and objectives that were laid out for you (particularly in a tough economy) is no small thing. And, know that many companies consider the “exceeds expectations” rating for rare instances of brilliance that only a small percentage of employees will actually meet.

The bottom line: Give yourself lower marks than you really deserve, and you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Rate yourself as God’s greatest employee ever, and you look like a pompous jerk. Try this instead – take an honest shot at filling out your assessment. Once you’ve finished filling it out, take a second look at what you’ve written and wait a day or two before handing it in. Ask yourself how this form might look different if your manager had to fill it out, or if your customers or coworkers had to rate you. Make adjustments if needed, take a deep breath, and let it go. If nothing else, you’ve taken your best shot at evaluating yourself – which deserves an A+ in my book.

Author's Bio: 

Elizabeth Freedman is an expert in career and workplace issues. She is the author of Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself and The MBA Student’s Job-Seeking Bible, and was a 2005 finalist for College Speaker of the Year, awarded by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. Elizabeth runs a Boston-based career-development and coaching firm; clients include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Reuters and The Gillette Company. To bring Elizabeth to your next association event or workplace meeting, please visit