Surviving your first evaluation

Performance evaluations are one of the most nerve-wracking parts of a new job.

“In a performance evaluation, the employer comments on the employee’s work. The boss identifies the areas in which the employee needs to improve or to develop his or her knowledge,” explains Sylvie Lepage, President and Senior Consultant, Innovation RH Inc., a human resources and career management consulting firm. “The evaluation should be seen as a positive, since it helps employees become more productive at work. It also gives the boss an opportunity to recognize the employee’s strengths.”

The first evaluation generally takes place after the employee’s probationary period, i.e. three to six months after the hire date. This gives the employer an opportunity to get rid of employees who haven’t lived up to expectations.

Self-evaluate first

“The first thing to do is to evaluate yourself,” says Lepage. “Sometimes your boss will provide a list of job criteria and company values. If professional ethics, customer satisfaction and initiative are what your supervisor cares about, you’ll find it on the form.” Ideally, you’ll come up with specific examples to support your impression of your own work and help change the boss’ mind if you get a bad grade: “To highlight your decision-making abilities, for example, think of an instance in which you had to solve a problem when your boss wasn’t there.”

Don’t be afraid to ask

“Your boss might offer coaching to help you become more productive at work,” says Lepage. But don’t be shy to make your own suggestions on how you can improve. For example, if you think that a statistics, computer or management class could be helpful, ask your boss about it.

No evaluation planned? Take the initiative!

“Many employers don’t take the time to evaluate their employees,” says Lepage. Your boss hasn’t planned an evaluation? “Request a meeting,” she advises, “and ask your boss for an honest evaluation of your performance.” In this case, you decide for yourself which areas are most important. “This will show that you are taking responsibility.”