Q: We just received a memo stating we have to write our own evaluations. It is not a loose assignment; we have to directly answer 10 questions on the form. Many questions involved, double questions asking us to describe what we think about our current job requirements and duties and the company itself. They've asked for our suggestions for management, procedures, policies and the way of doing business. They also want to know our thoughts on our business relationships in and outside the company, our personal activities outside the company, all future goals — business and personal, and our aspirations.
It's hard enough to write about my job, but I think all the questions involving personal lives and activities outside the company are invasive. I also worry that some questions are trick questions, as if management hopes to find information that can be used against us. I am also concerned about offering suggestions for management and our jobs because the bosses might see the information we give as proof of what we don't like.
I feel damned if I say too much or even say anything, and damned if I don't. It's an evaluation of the company, our positions, and ourselves, so nothing can be anonymous. What kind of trap is this and how do I get around it?
A: It does seem like management wants insight above and beyond what an employee would typically provide. And those who are unabashedly honest about the cons of their jobs and the company may eventually suffer the consequences of being too open. Stay alert and reflective as you write your descriptions, always being aware that your words and ultimately your message may be misinterpreted from what you intended.
The first rule: Never turn in such a sensitive document as this soon after writing it. Set it aside for several hours before reviewing it. Also email it to a respected friend who is not employed by your company to gain another viewpoint on your answers. The premise of writing your own evaluation is to focus on information you think the company will view as favorable. Honesty is not always best in this type of situation, especially if it contains any questionable or negative information. This doesn't mean to provide outright lies; it means you should describe positive, factual information. Your boss will be analyzing your memo, and surely he/she will recognize fantasy versus facts.
It will help you to first answer the personal information questions, so you can zero in on events and activities that are non-threatening. Don't include political involvement, if any, because as innocent as you think it may be, your boss may privately hold opposing views. Charitable work, and participation in athletic and healthy lifestyle activities are valued. Nightclubbing, pub-crawls, and odd social group memberships are not.
Then address the business information. Write about everything you like about the job in general and all that you specifically contribute to the company in your position. Do the same for the company brand and reputation, and its management — its members, management style, and HR representation. If you have suggestions for streamlining systems to increase production and profits, give them.
You are not going to change the company's management style or culture, so even if you have ideas you think would improve the company, remain silent. Remember, the opposite of a suggestion is a complaint, and your evaluation reflects on you and how you view yourself within that environment. Don't jeopardize your position thinking you will change things. If you like most things, announce it. If you don't, write a good evaluation and start a discreet job search.
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