Don’t end your appraisal discussion without asking these two questions 


For all the literature and scientific studies on millennials and Gen Z that say we are hyper-clued in to what we want out of our careers, my personal experience has been slightly different. Having worked with people across several generations in the last ten years, I have noticed that when it comes to an interactive, fruitful, two-way appraisal discussion, age and generation matter very little. Culture and gender probably do. But that is an article for another day.

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I am not sure if it is the lack of training and awareness about what an appraisal discussion really is or it is our hierarchy driven culture, but I rarely hear those being reviewed ask pointed, relevant questions, outline their own expectations, or give feedback to the employer when it is due. An appraisal discussion is a way to facilitate these conversations in a structured, periodic manner, but a lot of us seem to let go of the one institutionalised opportunity we have to engage in an adult conversation with our employers.

A lot of one’s questions and feedback can depend on their particular situation, role, and industry. But as far as a generic approach to using appraisal for mutual benefit is concerned, I have found two questions to really shape the outcome as well as shape one’s reputation as an engaged, proactive employee.

In the last one year, what did I do well and what specific development needs do I have?

Just like most of us, even years after joining the workforce, are still learning the ropes of how to have fruitful appraisal discussions, many new managers or even experienced ones are not trained to give comprehensive, actionable, and objective performance feedback. This question helps shape the conversation by forcing your manager to think about specific improvement areas and accomplishments instead of painting a picture with blunt strokes of generic or subjective opinions and often, convenient jargons. This question is the start of a conversation that needs you to be clued in and ask the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’. Don’t step out without getting the answers you need in order to work towards your next long- and short-term career milestones.

In your opinion, what are the two objectives you want me to have achieved by next year?

This leaves no room for doubt. While most organisations are moving towards goals that employees set for themselves, it is also important that you align yours with your manager’s goals. This is an open discussion that will most likely see your manager outline objectives for you that are aligned to her own performance goals and larger objectives of the organisations. It articulates a shared vision and opens an opportunity to build a two-way relationship between your manager and yourself, where she is more likely to help you prioritise and achieve the objectives she outlined because they benefit her too.

Teamwork is not only about everyone getting their hands dirty in a large, critical project. It is about common successes and achievements, and nothing opens up opportunities to be more transparent through the year than an honest, two-way appraisal discussion. It is time we gave it a try this year and not expect appraisal cycles to singularly be a time when the organisation is obliged to reward you for past performance. Make it about deeper, more engaged relationships with your teammates and see how it brings you one step closer to being one of your team’s most valued employees.

Here are some more interesting reads that you might find useful ahead of this year’s appraisal cycle:

  1. It’s appraisal time, and the entrepreneur isn’t exempted
  2. Is your employee worth that appraisal?
  3. The worst mistakes you can make in a salary negotiation
  4. 8 sure shot ways to make a negotiation successful
  5. 5 things you should start doing to earn that promotion