Your Performance Appraisal: Is Your EI Working?

coffee-meetingIf ever there’s a time to work your emotional intelligence, it’s when you have your performance appraisal. After all, when was the last time you said to a friend or your partner, “Gee, I can’t wait until tomorrow — I have my performance appraisal.”

For most, PA triggers all sorts of anxieties and often the process promotes defensiveness peppered with anger with results of disappointment, dejection, and even depression, not the best for inspiring improvement. You can turn it around by using three components of your emotional intelligence — mood management, interpersonal expertise, and self-motivation. I’ll walk you through each.

Mood Management refers to many skills but here it is your ability to manage your emotions. Start by recognizing that emotions are a composite of your thoughts, physical arousal, and actions. Together, these factors form your emotional operating system, each influencing the other. Your goal is to make each work for you rather than against you.

Take your thoughts first. Do you cognitively appraise your performance appraisal as threatening? Telling yourself, “This performance appraisal is going to be terrible,” is apt to increase your heartbeat, promote defensive behavior and make it difficult for you to enter your manager’s office with a positive attitude. In effect, your thoughts are working against you.

Help yourself by taking control of your “thought talk” so you can tell yourself, “This is an opportunity to learn how I can be more effective.” This line of thinking will help you be receptive to the information being presented to you.   Tell yourself, “Don’t interrupt. Let the individual fully articulate their thoughts so I can understand what he or she is trying to communicate.” These thoughts will keep you receptive to the evaluation that is coming your way.

if you find yourself interrupting, making excuses, or raising your voice, you’re becoming defensive. Use these behaviors as a cue that your physical arousal is jacked up. The more aroused you become, the more defensive you will act. You can quickly regain control of your arousal by regulating your breathing. Do this by breathing slower and deeper. You’ll find yourself feeling cool, calm, and collected and allow you to listen better.

Managing your thoughts and physical arousal as suggested will help you manage your behavior so you don’t say things impulsively that will get you in trouble.

Interpersonal Expertise refers to your skills for relating well to others. Here, you want to listen and take criticism non-defensively. Most people appraise criticism as being told something negative about themselves so it is no wonder that most people respond defensively when criticized. This translates into not interrupting and making excuses.

Reminding yourself that your goal is to benefit from the appraisal will help you hear criticism as “information that can help you grow.” Your job is to get your boss/supervisor to fully articulate their thoughts so you can gain awareness into how you are perceived. Ask for suggestions that will help you improve so you can formulate an action plan. If you are not understanding what is being said, ask for more information, “Can you tell me more…it would help.” Refrain from making evaluations and debating issues. “I disagree, you are wrong.” Stay non-defensive by using productive thought-talk and regulating your breathing.

Self-Motivation is your ability to get started on your own, especially when you do not fancy the task at hand.  Here, self -motivation is important for helping you take action on what you have learned. To make it easier to self-motivate, take one improvement suggestion at a time — doing so will prevent you from being overwhelmed. Block off a specific time period each day (time lock) to do a specific improvement oriented task (focal lock) such as completing your paperwork so you can hand it on time. Monitor your progress and ask your boss for his or her observations on whether or not he or she thinks you are improving. Use their observations to work for you.

Performance appraisal does not have to be filled with anxiety and promote defensiveness and dejection. It can be a great opportunity, to learn about yourself, what is important to your boss, and improve your effectiveness. In effect, all you have to do is put your emotional intelligence to work!

I’d like to hear how you use your EI during your performance appraisals.

If you feel pressure giving or receiving a performance appraisal, you may find this useful:

Hendrie Weisinger

Hendrie Weisinger

Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D. is a celebrated and influential psychologist, pioneer in the field of pressure management, the originator of criticism training and the author of two New York Times bestselling books. He has consulted with and developed programs for dozens of Fortune 500 Companies and government agencies and has taught in Executive Education and Executive MBA programs at Wharton, UCLA, NYU, Cornell, Penn State, and MIT. His work has been featured several times in The New York Times Sunday Business Section, and numerous popular magazines. His article for The Wall Street Journal, So You’re Afraid To Criticize Your Boss, was selected as one of their 60 best management articles and reprinted in Dow Jones on Management. He has appeared on more than 500 radio and television shows including Oprah, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, and was the featured expert for 5 consecutive days on The Today Show for their anger management special. His newest book and NY Times Bestseller is Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most You can learn more about Dr. Weisinger and his new empowering E Workshop Experience, Performing Under Pressure at

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