I used to think status updates and performance reviews were a waste of time. My thinking was: “In the time that I’m writing down the things that I did, I could be getting even more work done!” So I would spend the minimal amount of effort on updates and reviews. After all, the people with whom I work know the quality of my results. As long as they’re happy, everything will be fine.
Early this year, we had our performance reviews at work. I think this is the first time I’ve really come to appreciate the purpose of performance reviews. In the past, I thought about them from a negative perspective: Is this employee underperforming? Does the quality of his work hold up to that of his peers? Side note: Thinking back, this type of thinking may be a relic of my Asian American upbringing, during which my work was always under heavy scrutiny.
I now realize that performance reviews are a way of measuring progress throughout the year. What have I accomplished? How have I grown as a software engineer? And as the saying goes, if you don’t measure something, you can’t improve it. So ultimately, performance reviews are about improvement. What did you do right? What did you do wrong? How can you reach the next level?
It also helps your manager build the case for rewarding you for your good work. Most managers are not the ones making decisions about raises and promotions. However, they are the ones who have the most relevant input for those decisions. The VP of Engineering is not going to be familiar with very engineer’s work output and has to rely on information from team managers to issue raises and promotions. Your manager isn’t going to be able to give a glowing recommendation if all you write is, “I was awesome!” on your self-review.
I used to think that if you’re judged by merit, then your work should speak for itself. The reality is closer to: you may be judged by merit, but if nobody knows what work you did, it doesn’t matter. This is why the advertising industry exists.
In the past month, I’ve been keeping an Evernote notebook titled “Work Journal”, in which I jot down a few lines describing the work I do everyday, assuming I remember. (I’m still working on the remembering part.) I’m approaching status updates and performance reviews from a new perspective, and I think it’s going to make a big difference in 2014.