how can I have accomplishments when I do the same thing every day?

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.

{ 69 comments… read them below }

  1. Snarkus Aurelius*

    How is doing your job in a timely, accurately, and effective fashion NOT an accomplishment in and of itself?  

    You perform a very important and necessary job here.  Just because you’re not “disrupting” and “thinking outside the box” doesn’t mean you’re not valuable.  You very much are.

    Think of the converse here.  If you didn’t do those repetitive tasks, how much trouble would your company be in?  If you got fired or died tomorrow, how fast would your employer be looking for your replacement?  

    Not every job as to be inventing Facebook or coming up with ways to fight global warming.

    1. Miss Betty*

      I think it’s because if it’s just the normal expectation – and doing one’s job in a timely, accurate, and effective fashion is generally a normal expectation – it’s not usually considered an accomplishment. I feel a personal sense of accomplishment when I’m on time to work more than I’m a few minutes late – but I’d never put that on a self-evaluation because it’s just what’s expected from most people in most jobs. I sympathize with the OP because with some jobs it truly is hard to tell accomplishments from just meeting the normal expectations. Accomplishment suggest something above and beyond, and with some jobs that’s really, really hard to do. Being timely, accurate, and effective (and on time to work every day!) is just meeting expectations, that’s all.

      1. nofelix*

        Occasional mistakes and delays may be a normal and expected part of doing ones job, so if someone has a very high level of accuracy and timeliness this is worth mentioning. Two employees with 99% accuracy and 99.9% are both very good, but the second one has 1/10th the errors and the savings to the business from this may be significant. It may be worth finding out what typical accuracy is achieved by others in similar companies/systems.

      2. Koko*

        There are different contexts for the word “accomplishment,” I think, and that might help OP here.

        Most people will only list their most impressive accomplishments so the word starts to become associated with really impressive things, but the definition is just “something that has been achieved successfully, the successful achievement of a task, or an activity that a person can do well, typically as a result of study or practice.”

        If you get rid of the associations that an accomplishment has to really WOW people and just let it be a list of tasks you successfully completed during the year, you’ll find that you have many things to put on the list.

    2. new reader*

      I agree that doing a job well is an accomplishment in and of itself. Also, pay attention to any obstacles or barriers that you overcame while you maintained the status quo of quality work. At a previous position I held as a manager, I had to justify my employees’ pay raises by detailing their meritorious efforts. For one employee, that was just listing that he maintained normal work standards and quality while we were short-staffed and the work volume had increased. He may have thought he was just doing his job, but I saw it as extremely valuable to uphold quality and deadlines under less than ideal conditions. He didn’t have time to do anything outside of his job description, but did ensure the work all got done.

  2. knitcrazybooknut*

    This is where metrics can really become valuable. I was feeling the same way about my previous job in payroll (satisfying but boring doing it right every time), but then I did some research into acceptable levels of error in the payroll field, and found that my team was performing at .01% error rate, instead of the industry standard of 1%. That was something that I’m still proud of today. It takes some work to track your own metrics, but it might be a nice project that will give some variety to your day.

    1. AMG*

      This–metrics are important. Resolve discrepancies consistently in X turnaround time, percent error rate as mentioned above, Y volume of dollars or employee pay successfully managed every week, that kind of thing.

  3. KarenD*

    Particularly in payroll — which is being increasingly outsourced — the OP really needs to make the case for having someone highly experienced and accurate on-site. Our payroll department used to have eight people in it. Now there’s one employee spending about 5 hours of her workweek on payroll — and I work in a company where payroll is typically pretty complex.

    This is your chance to make the case to your company that they aren’t better served by going to an online payroll service for a fraction of the cost of your salary. I’d jump on it with both feet.

  4. ECH*

    Is there anything you can take ownership of here? Ways to be more efficient or improve processes or experience? You sound like you view your job as just being a cog in a machine, but a job like that is easily replaced with technology.

    1. Grapey*

      I want to add in that it isn’t always the best idea for someone doing only that process to improve said process. They absolutely should bring up to a supervisor a problem that exists and any improvements they think they have. In my experience, someone ‘improving’ a process without notifying their supervisor only creates more problems for people upstream since the person was focused on local inefficiencies instead of global ones.

      Example – a team in my building does chemical reactions in plates. One reaction takes 2 hours. They figured that by spending 10 minutes combining three different input plates into one output, they could reduce time spent on a machine by 2/3rds! Great! Except there was no automated capability to separate out the three initial chemicals at the very end of the process, and project managers were spending time asking the lab which wells were in what initial plate! PM’s were spending a LOT more time doing this than was spent doing three chemical reactions, so customers ended up getting results a month later instead of one week later.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I do much the same thing all the time–but I am always tweaking how I do it. I create a macro for a single key; I redesign a form so that the slots other people fill in are in a more efficient order for me.

      These are small, but they are accomplishments.

  5. Angela*

    I also do payroll. Here are some of the things I speak to. My error percentage (we have a goal of 1.5%, I usually run around 0.5% for hours and 0% for bonuses). My focus on “customers”. I don’t know how you are set up, but working every Monday/Tuesday (LONG hours) are non-negotiable here outside of pre-approved vacation (and we still avoid payroll processing times if at all possible). Excellent attention to detail – did a manager not submit hours for an entire team? Or submit double hours for everyone? Did you catch that? I’m betting there are things like this that you do on a regular basis. It’s “normal” for you, but one of the HUGE things that payroll does to help with employee satisfaction. Don’t sell yourself short – a timely paid staff is one of the most important parts of the business!

    1. OriginalYup*

      I’ll bet you also have to manage a huge amount of changing data and procedures, right? I don’t work in payroll, but you probably have to handle, or at least be involved in handling:
      – Increasing volumes over time (if staffing levels go up significantly or the company starts awards bonuses, etc.)
      – Properly implementing anything related to local/state/federal tax law changes
      – Dealing with people’s individual items: direct deposit account changes, adjusted withholding amounts, wage garnishments
      – Using new/updated software and technology over time

      1. Navy Vet*

        You might want to add any payroll changes or updates that needed to be made due to company changing benefits or the Affordable health act implementation.

        Do you deal with the employees in any capacity? If so highlight customer service skills too. Pay can be a prickly topic for employees when errors are made.

        Don’t sell yourself short! It might be the same day in and out for you, but believe me your role in the company is important.

        While they may be able to automate your tasks, they can’t take away

      2. F.*

        Updating the how-to manual. After this many years, I imagine you have a lot of institutional knowledge that colleagues with less tenure may not have.

  6. Ann Furthermore*

    Focus on the soft skills that can’t be quantified with metrics. Are you good at calming people down when they think there’s a mistake on their paycheck? Are you skilled at discussing embarrassing or sensitive things with people that affect their paychecks, like garnishment orders? If you work for a large company, maybe you are knowledgeable about payroll rules in many states instead of just the state where your company is headquartered (assuming you’re in the US).

    I’ve done payroll. It’s a tough job, much harder than most people think it is. If you do something (either correctly or incorrectly) that affects the money going directly someone’s pocket, they may get pretty agitated and be looking to shoot the messenger. And it’s understandable — people rely on their paychecks to support themselves and their families. If you open your paycheck (or check your bank balance) on payday and see less than you were expecting, it’s upsetting, especially if you don’t make much money and budget down to the penny. Not everyone can manage difficult situations like that. If you can, it’s a huge strength and you need to really play that up.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I like the metrics others have mentioned and these soft skills. Teamwork, integrity, and confidentiality are all worth mentioning in the evaluation, especially if there are specific cases from the year that show these skills.

    2. GOG11*

      I’m not sure if this would be considered a soft skill or not, but acting as a liaison or point-person between payroll and other areas or departments is also an example of a valuable but not necessarily a quantifiable thing.

      For example, I facilitate contracts for a program that runs on a timeline that’s much shorter and more variable than the majority of programs (ex. most programs have a quarterly timeline and ours has a 3-week turnover). That it’s different from the norm, on an odd rotation, and highly condensed means there’s little room for error (time wise) and it can be difficult to determine what needs to be where when. One of our payroll processors has acted as my go-to person for determining appropriate timelines and has been a big help in getting everything aligned so people get paid when they’re supposed to. She’s a crucial part of the planning process, not just the person who processes everything once it lands on her desk (though she does that really well, too).

  7. grasshopper*

    I think that this feeling is really common in many administrative positions. When you are doing your job really well, everything runs so smoothly and no one notices, even though you did put a lot of work that went into it. Sort of like a swimming swan where people see it gliding across the water, but don’t see the legs furiously paddling underneath. When you are doing your job poorly, something goes off the rails or small issues escalate, then everyone knows about it and is quick to jump all over it. If people weren’t getting paid correctly or on time (or if the break room runs out of coffee, or the copy machine runs out of toner, or the meeting room schedule gets double booked or petty cash isn’t available) you had better believe that everyone would know about it. For admin type positions, doing your job well without errors is a great achievement.

    1. the gold digger*

      When you are doing your job really well, everything runs so smoothly and no one notices

      I gave a reference for my department’s admin at my last job. My biggest point about M was that at our annual conference, I didn’t notice a thing: The meeting rooms always had water and coffee. We had food at mealtimes. Everyone knew where to go.

      I didn’t have to think about anything – and that means that M had done a great job organizing and running things.

      1. Tammy*

        A former manager of mine liked to say that, for those in support roles (admins, IT, payroll, etc.) the true hallmark of a job well done was that nobody knew who they were – those truly successful in these kinds of roles were invisible because everything just worked. I think this may be a bit of a stretch, but as I’ve moved out of such a role (I used to be a database administrator, and have now moved into a management role) I believe it’s not much of a stretch.

    2. Ama*

      I spent a lot of my early admin career in companies/divisions that were relatively new and experienced a lot of growth in my first years there, so there were always new projects or a big jump in workload to talk about. I didn’t get it until a moved to a place where my job is relatively stable from year to year and one of my bosses actually told me “getting these processes done smoothly is a big accomplishment in itself — because I know you are on it, I don’t have to worry about it and can focus on other things.”

    3. NK*

      Completely agree with this. I used to work in compliance, which is the ultimate in “no one cares if things are going well, and s#!t hits the fan if it doesn’t!” work. I had a really hard time coming up with accomplishments, and I had to start thinking about it in a “what didn’t go wrong that could have?” context. I talked about reduced error rates, efficiency, customer service when things did go wrong, etc.

    4. mina*

      I’m an admin. How true that is! I get frustrated sometimes because no one seems to notice anything until I make a mistake; the sheer volume of details I am required to handle every week means that occasionally something will go wrong. And then, yeah, it’s “how can you be so stupid?”

      1. J.B.*

        Oh I’m so sorry you get that attitude! Our admin is fabulous (and we previously had a nice but not fabulous person in that role so we see the difference! ) She is totally on top of things and keeps us on track.

  8. TCO*

    Lots of great advice here. Other accomplishments you might be able to point to (or could consider seeking for next year):
    – Do you train or mentor new staff? Are you to go-to person in your department when other people have questions? Could you offer a “lunch and learn” to teach others in your company about the payroll process and how it affects their department?
    – Have you improved processes to be more efficient or accurate? Do you ever research, learn, or teach new technologies that make your work better?
    – Are you involved in any other company initiatives like a volunteer committee, employee advisory group, something like that?
    – Have you created documentation for your department? If so, have you digitized it (like putting it on an intranet), updated it, etc.? Have you helped develop a “hit by a bus” plan so that someone else could step in should you or another key department member be unexpectedly absent?

  9. Interviewer*

    I manage the payroll function for my company, and agree that it can seem invisible & routine if everything’s going smoothly. But when there are issues – boy, howdy, there’s a line at your door. I bet you’ve seen a few lines in your 36 years!

    So how did you rescue things when it went south? Responsive customer service is key.
    Are you the go-to person for reporting data, headcount, OT, etc.?
    Have you set up checks & balances recently with your team or other departments? Are you responsible for working with auditors?
    Are you the only one who can get answers when there are difficult software problems?

    Self evaluations are tough to do anyway, and setting goals for yourself can be difficult if you can’t see past the routine tasks. Save notes & emails throughout the year that remind you of your accomplishments. That way, when you’re doing your self-evaluation, you can say, “Oh yeah, remember that time I …?” And whenever anyone says, “I wish we could …” – put that in the file, too. Maybe that’s something you could set as a goal.

    Good luck. And congrats on 36 years. That is a LOT of paychecks. :)

    1. TootsNYC*

      even better, how did you keep it from GOING south? the “What didn’t go wrong that could have?” someone mentioned higher up on the page.

  10. Yep*

    As someone is also overpaid for doing very little I really appreciate this question and answer.

    I’d be willing to bet there’s more you can bring up than you realize in terms of accomplishments. Really stretch your mind here. Off the top of my head a couple things:

    -If you didn’t do your job, employees would not get paid. That’s pretty important.
    -You’re doing the same thing day after day. That must be really tedious and I bet it’s something not everyone would be able to do/be willing to do.
    -Talk about a time when you faced a challenge you overcame – payroll being late, or an issue with a direct deposit not going through – and how you handled it.
    -Have you trained new hires? (Mentioned by someone else here.)
    -Have you done anything outside your responsibility, such as coordinating an office luncheon or birthday party for an employee, or participated in a charity event within the company?

    I’m rushed at the moment but will comment back if I think of any more!

    1. Green*

      I agree with the sentiment, but the third and fourth ones here are actually the only ones I’d mention.

      1. Yep*

        Yeah, 1 and 2 are more of a, hopefully that will spark an idea in you to go off of, kind of thing. :) 5 I think is doable though.

        I’m not going to add anymore because I think others brought up some really good suggestions and you should hopefully have a few things to go off at this point.

        But I also wanted to mention – I’m sure your manager realizes there is only so much you can put on this report, and she takes that into consideration. That’s how it was for me when I had one similar – mine wasn’t so much a goals related thing, but more of a series of questions, many of which were just not applicable for me. When I went in for the meeting I had things prepared for those, but my manager basically just skipped right over them.

        Do what you can to be as prepared as possible, but at the same time I wouldn’t worry about this too much.

  11. Michelle*

    I’m an admin assistant and feel very much like the OP, however we do not get an automatic raise at eval time. In fact, we just got our first raise in 4 years, which is about normal for my company. Also, if a raise is given, it’s across the board, with the only difference being in the actual amount and that amount is usually determined by your position (front line vs. office staff/director vs. manager).

    Our evals are 9 pages long and it’s a lengthy process. You have to write about last year’s goals, including any accomplishments you achieved outside of those goals and then come up with at least 3 professional goals and 3 personal goals. You meet with your supervisor to review what you have written. Then, you meet with your supervisor & another director or manager. During that meeting, everyone gets a copy of your entire eval, which includes what you have written and additional pages written by your supervisor, and it’s reviewed.

    It’s hard for me to come up with new goals every year because I stay busy taking care of my normal duties. All my reviews are very positive and complimentary and my supervisor never has any suggestions for improvements or goals he would like me to pursue.

    I also agree with Grasshopper when s/he wrote “When you are doing your job really well, everything runs so smoothly and no one notices, even though you did put a lot of work that went into it ” and ” When you are doing your job poorly, something goes off the rails or small issues escalate, then everyone knows about it and is quick to jump all over it”.

    I think if you are meeting with your supervisor regularly (we meet weekly) to go over and address any issues or concerns , in addition to your day-to- day interactions, a formal eval process isn’t necessary. I recently read that many companies are doing away with them and I would love to see that happen at my company.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I know that many admin assistants have difficulty developing performance objectives. Here are some to consider:

      Become more proficient with computer software by attending __(#) of training courses per (time period)
      By (date), document all administrative procedures for position in the case of absence
      By (date), follow all departmental policies and procedures
      By (date), meet __% of all agreed upon deadlines
      Conduct __(#) training sessions with other administrative personnel on new skills
      Improve response time to requests to (unit of time) by (date)
      Reduce the number of documents returned due to incompleteness or errors by (date)
      Cross train administrative staff by (date)
      Decrease amount of money spent on office supplies by $___ by ordering in bulk and eliminating unnecessary items
      Keep office supplies from running out by instituting a formal order system by the end of (time period)
      Reduce amount of office inventory lost by implementing an inventory control system by the end of (month)
      Review and evaluate current policies and procedures and implement changes if necessary to improve/streamline processes

      1. videogame Princess*

        Honest question–what if everyone’s cross trained, the money is decreased, and the formal system for office supplies is in place? What’s next?

        1. Bingo Caller*

          Reducing error rates. Speeding up response times. Improving client satisfaction responses. Developing software proficiency. And the rest of that list up there.

      2. Michelle*

        I appreciate the suggestions and I will try to work some of them in, but honestly, most of that list I already do or have done. I could work on a manual in case I need to be off/out for a long period time.


    2. Chameleon*

      Wait, am I missing something? You are required to share personal goals with multiple people? Are these work-related, like “keep calm with an upset customer”, or are you actually supposed to let your boss know that you want to get better on the guitar?

      1. Michelle*

        It’s more of the “keep calm with an upset customer” type of personal goal. The very first year, I said something about improving my health via exercise and I was told that was not the type of goal they were looking for.

        1. LD*

          Yes. When your performance management plan asks for personal goals, it’s about the goals for you to personally improve upon for your job vs. the goals you need to accomplish for your organization. That does trip up people who think personal means “not job-related,” but it is job-related for your own personal development needs to help you accomplish your job. Wakeen may need better customer service skills. Waneeta may need to learn more about teapot marketing. Those would be examples of personal goals because not every employee in that role would need to improve or learn all the same skills.

      2. plain_jane*

        I can’t remember if it was at one of my previous jobs or my SO’s, but it was supposed to be real personal goals. IIRC the example given was that one the VPs put in that that she was going to run a marathon. I think it was my SO’s job, or I’d remember what I put down.

  12. Dulcinea*

    I bet a lot of things related to payroll have changed in 36 years. New computer programs, IRS policy changes, etc. How have you adapted to whatever the most recent changes are? Are you a quick learner? Have you helped coworkers learn new processes and rules? Those things are important!

  13. Stephanie*

    I did a little bit of payroll last month at work (I had to validate my employees’ hours and check they had the right job codes). Don’t sell yourself short! While it wasn’t string theory, it did take a decent amount of tracking and organizational skills. And yeah…you screw up hours, there definitely is a line of people waiting to have words with you.

    Could you point to a below average error rate? Or your ability to resolve disputes?

    1. Mike C.*

      Not to mention the fact that the budgeting data needs to be clean for all sorts of later analysis and tracking. Screwing that data up clouds up how the business is actually doing, and might make legal compliance an issue.

  14. Lily in NYC*

    I’m going to disagree with Alison and bit and say that I think it’s fine to “half-ass” your review. I’m in a very similar boat as you and I’ve been here forever and I basically write the same exact self-evaluation every year with a few tailored changes. I’m an executive assistant and I’m not on a promotion track and my boss is so swamped that she really has no time to devote to my professional development (which is fine with me). My review consists of her telling me she’s very happy with my performance, and then I tell her she’s a great boss and we discuss a few things and 5 minutes later I’m out the door with a raise and a thank you. It’s a system that works for both of us. But I would handle things very differently in a different company or with a different boss or if I were trying to get a promotion or more responsibilities. People seem to think there’s something wrong with people who are less ambitious or content with the status quo, but I don’t agree with that view at all.

    1. Hotstreak*

      I wouldn’t call it doing a “half-ass” job, but I think it’s fine to basically have the same review every year. If your duties and accomplishments were the same as last year, all that should need changing are minor details, typos, or changes in voice if you want.

    2. JPixel*

      I was about to make a similar comment – it can be frustrating/a waste of time to write basically the same thing every year or try to invent new language to make it sound new and exciting. That would be my gripe if I had the same job for years and wasn’t getting a raise! I often will wrote something like “I continued to oversee all aspects of xyz job including a, b, and c” when I am done listing my specific accomplishments unique to the year. I do this for some of my employees as well if their accomplishments and job description are the same as last year. This can be the case even with top performers, especially if I can’t promote them. I always reinforce that their excellent work has been maintained consistently for # of years but I don’t spend time trying to find new words to say the same thing if what I wrote previously was strong and presented the employee in the best way.

    3. BRR*

      I think this works if your boss is on board with it. Where they know you’re doing a great job (the above comment of everything running smoothly) and your duties don’t really change. Some managers might unreasonably expect you to grow every year even when the position doesn’t allow for that.

      1. voyager1*

        You make a good point, but I would add that is unreasonable of the manager. They know what the advancement/pay trajectory of a job is.

  15. Charity*

    Calling someone overpaid has connotations that they are useless, that it’s not worth having them around, and that it was a mistake to hire them. If your boss says that to your face, I think it’s reasonable to feel hurt — even if you think that you don’t think that your contributions are easy to describe in the glowing terms that we usually associate with performance reviews. It just seems like a really adversarial way to start the performance review process — and, in addition to the other great advice given here, it might be worth exploring to see if those comments (that the employees are overpaid and they aren’t sure what to do about that) really reflects the POV of management or if it’s just some kind of misguided attempt to get the long-standing employees to put more time/effort into the self-reviews.

    1. Corporate Cynic*

      This. While I think the advice in the previous comments is excellent, I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s reasonable for you to feel a bit demoralized after hearing such comments, and that exploring them is worthwhile. But yes, don’t sell yourself short no matter what :)

    2. Lily in NYC*

      We don’t know that OP was told that in those exact terms and I’m not sure it’s inherently insulting. About 20% of my office is considered “overpaid” (really just meaning we make market-rate salaries when no one else here does) because we were hired during the height of a good economy and got big raises until everything tanked in 2008. Starting salaries are now at least 10K lower than they were then so those of us who make more realize and understand that we aren’t going to get raises every single year. I know it’s more expensive for them to keep me and I appreciate the fact that I haven’t been laid off to make room for someone cheaper.

      1. BRR*

        Yeah I’m not sure it’s inherently insulting. It can be. But I have seen many people be in a position for a long time and with annual raises they make far above what a good salary would be if they posted the position. I don’t think a company should fire people to hire somebody who is cheaper or reduce their salary and I’m all for good salaries for employees, but there can be a point where a salary gets unreasonably high for a certain position.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I feel like I’m getting to that point! I’m lucky because my former boss left for two years and came back recently to be our president so I’m feeling very safe in my role now. He would never fire me (well, unless I did something really bad but he wouldn’t fire me for making too much).

    3. MommaTRex*

      Yes, I agree that it sounds like the company isn’t working too hard on employee morale here. Not a nice way to start the process. My advice to OP would be to recognize the hurt feeling, maybe even wallow in it for a moment, but then brush it off and say to yourself, “Oh yeah? Let me show you how much you should value me!” And then whip out an awesome self-evaluation that they weren’t expecting. Sweet revenge!

  16. AnotherHRPro*

    Think about why you do what you do. The purpose of your job/role and what you are trying to accomplish. Some performance goals/objectives could be:

    Eliminate penalties resulting from incomplete or inaccurate tax filings by (date)
    Evaluate payroll processing procedures and implement processes to reduce processing time __(%) by (date)
    Increase automation of payroll system through implementation of electronic services by (date)
    Payroll questions are answered within __(x timeframe) of request
    Process all employee expense reports and pay within __(#) of days of receipt of approved report
    Provide payroll reports to staff within __(time) of payroll processing
    Reduce __(#) of errors on employee paychecks by (date)
    Reduce amount of time spent processing payroll __(%) by (date)
    Reduce payroll transaction processing time __(%) by (date)

    Essentially, the majority of your work should fall into supporting the accomplishment of your goals/objectives

  17. MommaTRex*

    So maybe you haven’t worked on any large, glorious projects, but you have probably worked on hundreds of mini-projects (and even micro-projects) in the last year. I try to keep a list of the little process improvements I make each year. The list usually includes lots of spreadsheets that I tweaked to make them more efficient, or reports I’ve written, or just small process improvements like figuring out how to combine two forms into one, saving double the paperwork. Each one on it’s own seems small and insignificant, but when I show the whole list for the year, it’s quite impressive. This year, I had the boss of my boss comment that she forgot I did so much. I could really tell that she valued my work.

    On a side note, this post is getting bookmarked so I can reread all the comments again when I prepare my next self-evaluation. There is great advice here, I wish you all could help me write my next one! If it wasn’t for my list of mini-projects, I would be completely paralyzed by writer’s block.

  18. Elder Dog*

    Giving employees yearly raises is expected in this company. This “oh we’re already paying you over industry standard so we can’t give you a raise” is code. You might want to ask just how badly the company is doing and how long before it goes under.

    1. Anna*

      I’m not sure that’s accurate. A lot of companies have ranges of what they pay certain grades of employees and if you’ve been there long enough, you’re going to exceed that range. I used to work with a guy who fell in to that category. They couldn’t rationalize not giving him a raise, but he wasn’t going to move in to a higher position to justify a much higher salary, so he was making WAY more than someone in his position normally would have made and there was conversation around how much he was making and what they could reasonably award him for a raise. The company is still going strong (even if the department he was in has shrunk).

  19. Gandalf the Nude*

    I’m an HR Assistant who also handles payroll for the company, so I have less routine than you, OP, but still know a little of your pain. But our payroll company is so bad that I, no joke, listed dealing with them as an accomplishment on my review last month. My boss knows most of the issues we have with them but mostly as a “hey, this happened and is more evidence for why we need a new payroll service” than as a “hey, something’s wrong, please fix it”. And that’s what made it an accomplishment to me (and to him!).

    Basically, if there are issues that could reasonably have been kicked up the chain to your boss but that you handled instead, take ownership of them.

  20. nerfmobile*

    I have a story of what can happen when payroll messes something up – and it’s not an obvious sort of thing you would imagine as a typical payroll error. But this happened at my company last year and caused a big headache for many people. The scenario: we have an annual bonus program that is pegged to company performance and your division’s performance and your individual performance (we’re a big company, over 3000 in the US plus more overseas). Most people get at least a small bonus, but across the company the amount can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on your grade level and your personal performance. These bonuses are subject to regular (IRS) withholding, and most importantly, also withholding for our 401K program.

    Now, many people like to change the 401K withholding specifically for the bonus check (either to take more or less out, depending on their personal contribution scenarios and desire for a big lump sum). So each year the company always sends out notices that if you want to change your withholding rates, you have to make that change online between X and Y dates for it to affect the bonus check, and change it back between Y+5 and Y+10 dates [or something like that] for it to affect the regular paycheck after the bonus check. Well, this year it turned out that those rate changes did not get applied for the bonus check run. So hundreds of people had different amounts withheld from their checks for 401K contributions than they were expecting. This also had a domino effect on matching contributions and so on, too.

    Hmm, an issue but one that people could adjust to by changing withholding rates down the road, maybe? Not so fast – the IRS does not take lightly to ignoring these withholding election changes. If the company goofs by withholding too little, they have to make up the difference out of their own pockets, essentially. If they withheld too much, I think there is some other form of penalty, too. So this ended up being a pretty big deal and I’m sure some heads rolled (or at least got knocked around).

  21. LibraryChick*

    I keep an email folder of accomplishments and compliments from throughout the year. This was recommended to me by a past manager who kept one for himself called, “Attaboy”. When someone sends me a ‘thank you’ for a job well done on something I add it to that file. If I handled a small project or crisis, I will email a note to myself about it and put it in that folder. When it comes time for me to write up my performance review I go back and take a look at them, and I always have plenty of items to write about.

  22. gsa*

    I just want to stop in and say please thank all the admins you know, world wide, today!!! There is a rap song there, I will post that later.

    I have been fortunate enough, in my 25+ working life, to never had one late/short pay check. And never attended a soup sandwich of a conference. The folks that do this job should be revered! I do my best, but the folks that do it better, do it better than best.

    Thank you!


  23. Emily*

    Last year I got myself organised and bought one of those week to view diaries with a note page per week. Mostly I used it to keep track of my to-do list and deadlines, but I also took to noting down any key achievements throughout the year. Flicking back through it has made preparations for my upcoming appraisal much easier!

  24. Lisa79*

    What about being innovative about your role and suggesting ways to improve the system? Show that you’re passionate about the job and willing to do things differently if it makes the company thrive. Then you’ll have a sense of accomplishment in your work that may then justify a raise.

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