Anxious about your appraisal conversation? You can now prepare for it

If you find your annual appraisal conversation stressful, a bit of preparation and awareness can help you manage it better.

Appraisal season can bring about anxiety in many of us - worry about how we will be rated for our work performance over the last year, and anxious about having conversations around performance and money with higher-ups. If the economy is in bad shape, there could also be fears about job security. Are these concerns normal? How can you be better prepared?

Sriranjitha Jeurkar spoke to Maullika Sharma, global clinical manager at Workplace Options about how to manage this stress and have the appraisal conversation with greater confidence.

Is it normal to feel anxiety or stress during the appraisal period? What may these anxieties be related to?

An appraisal period is viewed not so much as an assessment of the past year, but as a foreteller of what the future path holds. Because of self-doubt, we predict that our future path would be downhill. We see the appraisal process as an external assessment as an external assessment of our future path, whereas it is actually an external assessment of our past performance. And because we predict doom in our mind, we assume that the external world also predicts doom for us. After all, our environment generally reflects back to us what we ourselves believe. We also allow the result of our appraisal to be a measure of our worth. We believe that we are as good or as worthy as our appraisal says we are.

The truth is that the results of the appraisal are only partly dependent on our worth. They are also influenced by our manager, our manager’s sense of their worth, organizational politics, organizational goals, competitive and market forces among other things. They are not an absolute and indisputable measure of our worth.

We need to ask ourselves:

  • We are not fortune-tellers and so cannot predict what the future holds. Why do we choose to predict doom?

  • Why do we assume that if one appraisal cycle does not go well, it is a predictor for our entire future going forward, and it is an irrecoverable failure on our part, something we will not be able to recover from?

  • Why do we regard our work appraisal as a benchmark for our entire self-worth?

There could also be anxiety about having a conversation about our performance with our manager or supervisor. How can this be managed?

First, think of the long-term. This appraisal is only one in a lifetime of maybe 30 such appraisals. This one is not going to define your life. Remember, that life should be treated like a marathon (with the objective of completing it successfully) rather than a series of 100-meter sprints one after the other (with the objective of winning).

Second, remember your strengths. Take stock of them and see how they have helped you get to where you are, and how they will help you get to where you want to be in the future.

And third, ask yourself the question – what is the worst that can happen? And if you answer that honestly, you will realize that even if the worst were to come true you could survive and thrive based on your mindset.

How can someone prepare for their appraisal so as to feel less anxious?

  • Be prepared ahead of time by taking realistic stock of what you have achieved and what you haven’t. Be aware of the reasons for your success in achieving a few goals and your failure to achieve a few others

  • Understand the challenges you faced and the ones you will encounter in the future, so that you could discuss them

  • Think about your goals for the period ahead

  • Be in control of the conversation and lead the conversation proactively, rather than be passive and a follower in the conversation

  • Believe in yourself and your worth. Know your strengths and your weaknesses

If necessary, think about all the topics you would like to discuss during the meeting, and write all these down in a little cheat sheet so that you don’t forget what you need to say and ask.

What is the right time to seek help for appraisal anxiety?

You can reach out for help at any time, even if it is just to clear your head. But if you are feeling anxious, are unable to sleep, have a sinking feeling in your stomach, are having any of the physical symptoms of stress, or are not able to focus – definitely reach out and seek help. It is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, asking for help requires courage and is a sign of great strength and understanding of one’s limitations.