A reader writes:
I have to do my yearly self evaluation, which asks me to list my accomplishments with defined goals.
I do payroll processing for a large company. I have been with the company 36 years, and I do the same job day in and day out; there are no accomplishments or defined goals to write about. Our department processes payroll each week, and that is it. There are no special assignments or projects to write about. It is a structured job, same thing each week. What could I possibly write about on this evaluation?
I hate this yearly review process. It doesn’t get you any more money; the company already knows what they are going to give — a 3% raise. They have already told the long-time employees that they don’t know what they are going to do because were already overpaid for what we do. After hearing that, who wants to fill out a self-review?
That’s exactly the time to want to fill out a self evaluation, actually, because it’s an opportunity to demonstrate why you’re earning your salary. If you think that your company is wrong to consider you overpaid, this is a chance to explain what you’re doing that makes you valuable.
And keep in mind, too, that there’s a little bit of a contradiction in the way you’re looking at this: You’re expressing frustration that your company doesn’t value you at the same time that you’re saying that you can’t really demonstrate much about your performance. You can reasonably have one of those, but not both.
So, for your self-evaluation, look for ways to talk about what makes you good at what you do. Specifically, what’s the difference between the way you’re performing the job and the way someone mediocre would perform it? That’s what you want to capture in whatever you write. In your case, that might be about accuracy, speed, smoothly incorporating last-minute changes, institutional knowledge that lets you do things more efficiently, and/or being responsive to colleagues.
The other thing to be aware is that your company’s reluctance to increase your pay might actually be reasonable. Jobs have upper limits for what’s reasonable to pay, and if you’ve been doing the same job for 36 years and received regular raises during that time, it’s quite likely that you’re hitting that upper limit or already hit it some time ago. If your company could hire someone less experienced at a lower rate and get the same performance from them, it’s going to be hard to justify continuing to raise your salary. (And while it’s true that an employee with more experience is usually worth more, all else being equal, there are diminishing returns there; someone with 30+ years experience probably isn’t bringing drastically different value than someone with 20 years.)
In other words, it really might not make sense for them to increase your salary beyond cost of living increases, if that. If that’s the case, to get more money you’d need to change positions or take on new responsibilities.
But that’s no reason not to take the self-evaluation seriously. You might wonder why you should bother if you might not get a raise anyway, but it matters for all sorts of other reasons, like your professional reputation, how flexible your company might be willing to be for you when needed, whether you’re likely to be offered perks when they’re available, how much your manager might advocate for you if there are cuts to your team, and on and on.