Be it in the corporate workplace or in the classroom, there often arise situations whereby employees and students are appraised by their supervisors and teachers. In the workplace, the objective of such appraisals is usually to recognise the contributions of the employees as well as to identify the areas for improvements for the respective employees. These appraisal sessions are usually conducted on an individual basis so that the focus on the employee is higher and it’s often seen as a sign of goodwill on the part of the organisation (read: employees are treated as distinct and unique individuals with their own strengths and talents as well as the fact that the organisation is willing to dedicate time to attend to their needs and feedback). In the classroom, students are often assessed by their teachers in terms of their class participation and their personalities. The objective in this case is somewhat similar to that in the workplace: Each student is unique and special in their own ways. Hence, it’s only right that teachers assess and appraise each individual student, identify their strengths and highlight areas for improvement.
Personally, I disagree with both the typical education appraisal system (whereby the teachers appraise their students at the end of the school term in their report cards) and the workplace appraisal system (whereby the supervisors meet their subordinates once/twice a year and attempt to assess the latter).
There are primarily two reasons for this, namely:
- Accuracy of appraisers is only high when the time spent with the person undergoing appraisal is substantial: The act of appraising someone is only possible when the appraisers have spent a considerable amount of time with the individuals being appraised. This is usually not being observed in the workplace. The times that the supervisor spent with the employees are usually minimal (since both supervisors and their subordinates usually tend to their own allocated work). The few times that supervisors spent with their subordinates are thus usually confined to within meeting, chance encounters in the workplace and organised/impromptu lunch outings, all of which are insufficient for accurate and proper assessment (since a person’s communication style and working style may differ in different situations). Moreover, in most cases, much of the subordinate’s contributions are not being recognised by their supervisors. Of course, the subordinates are able to produce a summary sheet of their work contributions, but how much do their supervisors know about the amount of work they put in? Which brings us to another point: Does supervisors value productivity over effort? There are many instances where supervisors promote a subordinate due to his/her high productivity while severely criticising subordinates who have put in much more effort (unknown to the supervisors) and have ended up with less fruitful results. Is this assessment even fair? Now, coming to the assessment process in a typical classroom, accuracy also runs low. The times that the teachers spent with the students in the classroom are not substantial enough to justify their assessments of the students. Coupled with the facts that each educator are merely teaching each students a specific subject for a few hours in a day and that they are caring for the students as a class, it’s not surprising that term-end assessment of individual students in the class are usually brief and general. There is one exception though: If educators are able to assess students individually on a daily basis (i.e. providing them with written comments either through an online school portal or individualised emails), then it will be very helpful to the students.
- Accuracy of appraisal is only high when the number of appraisers increases: In all endeavours that we excel in, the primary reason for our success can be attributed to the fact that we all practise till the point of perfection with repetition while making the effort not to make the same mistakes again. The concept of being assessed or appraised works somewhat in the same way. However, instead of being appraised by the same individual numerous times, we should be assessed or appraised by a large number of people from different walks of life, identify the commonly mentioned traits that needs commendation or improvement, and take note of them. Seen in this light, the practice of teachers being appraised by students seems a fair enough practice and I personally support it. This is because the appraisals on the teachers are conducted on a class level and if there’s a number of students who have highlighted several similar points, there are strong reasons to believe that these points are accurate, and thus true. To further improve themselves, educators should also take the initiative to ask their class for feedback constantly throughout the course of the semester (and not just at the end of the school term) to further improve themselves. Such is the trademark of great educators, commendable not only because of them taking the initiative to source for feedback on the quality of their teaching but also for their efforts to improve themselves as well.
However, the best practice is still that of self-appraisal.
Why is this so? This is because we understand ourselves best.
However, if we really want to know someone better, I feel that there’s no other way than to spend time with that person in person over a substantial period of time (although with the advancement of technology, this endeavour is getting more challenging). There is really no other way. This is especially so when we are trying to appraise or assess someone. We can try to communicate with them over email but in the absence of body language observation, we cannot determine if that person is sincere in his or her responses. The response may not even be sent by them, for that matter. This is probably the reason why social networking websites are still doubted by some as good portals for dating. Connectivity of the internet has indeed connected all of us, especially in terms of knowledge sharing. But when it comes to establishing and building rapport for friendships, the internet is still not globally accepted as a universal tool for relationship-building. But then there is the personality assessment test, you might say. Yes, I agree that we are also able to give someone we are appraising a personality assessment test. Nevertheless, while the content of the questions may be comprehensive and the questions carefully thought out, there’s still some possibility that the respondents may misinterpret the questions. Thus personality assessment tests do increase the accuracy of appraisal or assessment but it’s still not a hundred percent guarantee of a good benchmark.
Thus, self-appraisal is the most ideal when it comes to appraisals and assessment, with spending substantial time with the individual as the next best alternative.
Which brings us to another particular scenario: In both the workplaces and the classrooms, employees and students respectively are often asked to appraise themselves and submit their assessment report to their supervisors and teachers. This is a good practice but how much of the self-assesssments by the employees and students are taken into account by their supervisors and teachers at the end of the day? From experience, I feel that it’s very little. This is especially so in the workplace, where supervisors tend to give a much lower appraisal ratings than what their subordinates has given themselves. Not much has been said about this disparity in rating. Does this mean that a supervisor’s ratings will supersede his subordinates’ ratings? In this case, what’s the purpose of the subordinates giving their own appraisals? If not, how much impact does a subordinate’s ratings have on his appraisal report at the end of the day? In some organisations, this is never clearly explained in detail. I believe that a benchmark should be created to further improve on this “joint-appraisal” system, both in the corporate workplace and in the classrooms to ensure a fair appraisal of employees.
But let’s not digress. Let’s return to the point of self-appraisal. We should appraise ourselves not once in a year, not once in a month or even once in a week. We should appraise ourselves every day. All of us work in different ways but I feel that some record should be kept when we appraise or assess ourselves. I feel that the term “self-reflect” is a better word in this instance. Some recommendations when doing self-reflection includes the use of audio recorders, book journals or updated blogs (which I personally recommend since through our self-reflections online, we are able to enable others to learn from our learning experiences in life as well).
Some questions that we can ask ourselves are:
- What have I encountered today?
- What have I achieved today?
- Who have I conversed with today? Have the conversation gone well? If it has, why has it gone well? If not, what can I do to resolve this issue?
- Have I engaged in a conflict with someone? If so, what can I understand from this situation? What can I do better? Are they any steps that I can take to avoid similar situations in future?
- What have I learnt today?
- What have I read today? Can I make use of this knowledge to better the lives of someone or apply it in my life to improve the quality of my life?
If we do this often (preferably on a daily basis), we will realise that in no time at all, we will soon realise that we no longer need others to appraise us (which may be skewed anyway). We are our own best assessors. As long as we are strong in our observations in terms of our daily words and actions, strict in our assessment of our behaviours (and thoughts) and dedicated in our objectives to improve ourselves and to improve the lives of others, we will find ourselves getting better in the quality of our lives everyday.
Indeed, adopt an introspective approach to life, and the best assessors/appraisers are ourselves.