There are roughly 2,290,000 results for the words “annual performance review” on Google at the time of this writing. Personally, I never cared for annual performance reviews in most jobs that I had. Previous managers would say it is to make sure the company goals and my goals aligned, but I found that to be true in only certain circumstances.
My Disdain for Annual Performance Reviews
A few years ago, I received an annual performance review which absolutely baffled me since it made zero sense from any perspective. From the management of the performance review to the handling of collecting and providing feedback, it was like everyone waited until the night before to start rolling out something that was due in 48 hours. The absolute worst part is that the annual performance review didn’t even take account of my current job duties (at the time). At the time, the job I worked required closing support tickets. These tickets were arguably 90%+ of the job and day to day duties. On the annual performance review for this particular job, there were 3 main sections that determined the overall score: Shift Punctuality, Additional Certifications, and Meeting Attendance. Do you know what was not on the performance review? Ticket closures. 90% of my job wasn’t even accounted for. There were about 20 people on this team (spread around the US) and 33% of our individual annual performance review was based on being present in weekly and daily meetings….where we discussed issues with tickets and other issues. So whether I closed 1,000 tickets that year or 50, it wasn’t reflected in the review. Naturally, these performance reviews dictated raises (or the lack thereof) and since the majority of our work wasn’t accounted for, I had no words. I had to give respect where respect was due. It was such well-crafted cow poo that I couldn’t even be mad. So suffice to say I am a little leery of the implementation of most annual performance reviews.
An Example of Annual Performance Review
The following is a sample from MIT for a completed example annual performance review:
“Are there areas of exceptional performance that should be particularly noted? Provide specific examples.
As a new AO, Susan’s focus has been on developing her knowledge of the position and its complex responsibilities. She has been learning and absorbing both the concrete duties and the “political landscape” at a very fast pace. Her ability to assimilate new information is very high and extremely helpful in this position. She also has exceptional communication skills which she has demonstrated both with her Department Head and with others in her department and in the School. Susan has already demonstrated that she has extremely high standards for her own performance. Her follow-through on new tasks has been flawless.” – Completed Narrative Performance Review at MIT HR Performance Development
This is considered a great annual performance review and it is detailed without being overly vague. But it will not do for my purposes. I would add more concrete examples of where Susan stepped up. As time passes, the exact details regarding how Susan demonstrated “her exceptional communication skills” could easily be forgotten. I am sure for the manager, this is just a form that’s required by HR but for Susan, being able to recall exactly what she has done in that particular situation could be very useful in her career and/or personal life.
Of course, this was one section of a sample performance review and maybe I am reading too far into it. But I have noticed that the normal questions that are common in an annual career review will not fit my purpose. So for my personal review, I will incorporate a writing technique that has been passed down for millennia to capture my mood, performance, and results at this current time: letter writing.
My Annual Personal Accountability Review
For someone who despises some implementations of annual performance reviews, you might think I would stay far away from willingly putting something so soul-crushing into my private life. It is very important to me to have a written record of where I have been and what I was doing and I find this to be true since I can’t possibly remember every detail of my day to day life over 365 days or more. For me, it is the next logical step in my personal development. I have been keeping a daily journal of my projects and accomplishments and I have been tracking what I eat (along with calories, weight, and workouts). So adding another form of personal review wouldn’t be difficult for me.
Through writing a letter to myself for delivery in the future, I can capture my mindset at this point in time without having to filter my thoughts since no one else is reading it. To deliver the letter (technically an email), I will be using a website called FutureMe. FutureMe allows me to send an email to myself or to someone else for delivery at some point in the future. By choosing to write an email to myself and sending it through a separate party 1 year into the future, I can focus on my personal development day by day.
Here is the question that I am sending to FutureMe for delivery 1 year from now:
Are you living the lifestyle you want to live?
To support this question, I will include details about my life/mindset as it stands right now. The letter will include current projects and accomplishments, a snapshot of my health (weight, workouts, etc) and a selfie along with a description of what I am doing today. And once the letter is delivered, I will begin to write the next letter for delivery in 2019 using the snapshot of my life in 2018 as the base.
The only option remaining is to choose the delivery date of the letter. After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to choose the date that would resonate with me the most: my birthday (September 24). In this situation, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate day where I would be celebrating my life and what came before and what comes after. And because of that, I will be receptive to the message from my past self.
Compared to a normal annual performance review, the personal letter is freeform with one major question listed AND that the only one reading the review will be me. Honesty is required because I won’t be able to lie and expect change going forward. On the same token, I can’t change the words that were written more than a year ago.
“A year from now, you’ll be a year older. What are you going to do?” – Ramit Sethi