A performance appraisal is a kind of evaluation of an employee’s work performance and contribution during a period of time as defined by the organisations. Usually, these evaluations or reviews of performance are based on criteria valued by the Organisation with certain aspects being assessed addressing specific functions required for the role. Parameters usually assessed during reviews include individual skills, achievements, productivity and efficiency, collaboration, innovation, work ethic, attitude, and potential.
Appraisals usually are conducted as 360 reviews, wherein feedback is collated from managers, peers and subordinates as well as the individual themselves.
Appraisals are also conducted at fixed intervals and may be even conducted in a staggered consistent fashion during the year.
Let’s face it, usually such evaluations tend to be nerve wrecking, and can impact our mental health and wellbeing adversely, particularly if one is not confident in one’s own abilities, is unclear on the KRA’s that will be assessed, has not had feedback during the year, struggles with socialization at work, has had repeated negative feedback or if one shares a strained relationship with one’s manager. In such a situation, one may experience varying levels of stress and anxiety, much before the appraisal meeting begins. This period can be stressful and bring in apprehension for employees with caregiving responsibilities or people experiencing financial strain. A person returning to work after maternity leave once shared that appraisals period made them experience heightened levels of anxiety, stress and insecurity fearing that they would not be seen as equally valuable resource as their younger unattached peers and hence lose out on an opportunity.
It’s important to remember that both the period of before and after the review meeting can bring in emotions that are sometimes positive or preferred, like excitement, joy, fulfilment and a sense of accomplishment. However, more often than not, we may experience those feelings that are not preferred like uncertainty, sadness, disappointment, envy, anger, confusion, worry and a sense of insecurity.
How then, can we make sense of the strain, stress and churning emotions, to stay cool under the pressure of performance appraisals?
Here are 5 simple things to keep in mind to protect your mental health:
1) Acknowledge your emotions: It is absolutely normal to experience intense emotions around stressful situations. Don’t bury or ignore these emotions. Emotions are usually messengers indicating unmet needs or what one values, so paying attention to these emotions, identifying and naming what is dominant amongst your emotional experience will support you immensely to take stock of what you want to work towards.
Remember it’s okay to feel what you are feeling, be compassionate to yourself as you move through the uncertainty of the appraisal period.
2) Seek feedback consistently and proactively: It can also be helpful to take proactive action, much before the period of appraisal, by consciously requesting time to review progress with your manager. These regular meetings can support to renew focus, redirect energy towards priority tasks, understanding what is working and what aspects of skills need upgrade and can even clue you in regards those steps you can take to make any behavioural shifts that may
come into view. This may also create more channels to access support or navigate any challenges.
This will help to ensure that the things to work on are more manageable and workable, you and your manager may feel more in sync and you yourself will feel more confident; that will take away some of the strain that shows up during professional evaluations.
3) Celebrate your own wins! It becomes important to organise your information, by collating data around all the wins you have achieved through the year, significant contributions made by you that positively impacted the business, and even those moments you were able to overcome challenges with your unique skillset.
A client mentioned that keeping a tab of all the appreciation mails that she received at work in a separate folder supported her, to recall significant moments during the year and replenish her sense of confidence in her own capabilities. This further enabled her to articulate those in cogent manner in her self-appraisal form and during the meeting, with confidence and minimized use of tentative language.
Some people, especially women find it hard to talk about and celebrate their wins. This is often because of the socio-cultural conditioning that equates such celebration to bragging. It’s important to remember that self-awareness requires us to not only understand the gaps and areas of development, but also those aspects of who we are that shine. And a review meeting is one of those spaces, where both sides of your story are important to highlight and hold on to.
4) Pause those spirals: Sometimes, the emotions we experience may feel so intense and overwhelming, that they may lead to a constant loop of emotions, negative thoughts and self-talk and unsupportive action – things like getting angry with co-workers or loved ones or unhealthy coping strategies like binge eating, or other risky behaviour. This in turn further generates unpleasant emotions.
These negative spirals can really impact people and put them in a space of despondency,hopelessness and lower sense of self-esteem.
It’s important during these times to be able to pause. You can do this by taking a few deep, conscious breaths and grounding yourself in the present moment, staying off the uncertain future moments.
Journalling and doodling, movement can also be supportive to pause the negative spiral. Hitting the brakes on the negative spiral, by separating the anxious thoughts between facts and assumptions, can create space to notice the positive glimmers outside the spiral, which in turn will foster positive emotions.
5) Seek support! Sometimes, we alone may not be able to withstand the sheer weight of the intense emotions that we may be feeling. We may need to access support in our environment and that is absolutely okay.
With regard to performance appraisals here are two spaces that we should consider when looking for supportive:
a. Mentors: In a professional space being able to access one’s mentor, to navigate the interactions, expectations and insecurities related to appraisals may be extremely supportive. It is especially helpful to learn from one’s mentor’s journey and adopt smart strategies to respond to workplace conversation and conflict.
b. Therapy: if you do not have access to your mentor, or are uncomfortable sharing with them, and even if you are okay with it, consider connecting with a therapist to help you make sense of what is coming up for you under the pressure of the appraisal process.
Your therapist is trained to support you to recognise the emotions showing up, the coping strategies we are employing and whether they are working for us or not. The therapeutic process will also support you to develops strategies that support you and your wellbeing by working on patterns that need the personal work.
Remember, it takes courage to access support.
You got this!
If you have any thoughts or questions, or you would like to reach out to us, write in to [email protected]