Appraisals: How to get what you want at work



Hopefully you’ve already done the work, you’ve filled out the appraisal form and you’ve written your objectives. But you still need to prepare what you’re going to say in your appraisal meeting.

You need to practice speaking up on your own behalf. It can feel weird if you’re not used to it so maybe have a go with your best friend or a colleague the a few days before your appraisal. This would also be a great opportunity to rehearse the points you’re planning to make or if you’re asking for more responsibility (or money). Try to come up with three things you’ve done in the past few months that have gone particularly well or that you’re really proud of.

Think about what you’d like to talk about in the meeting and how you want it to go. Then, when your manager asks you, you’ve already got some idea of what you want to say. If you plan ahead then this will help you both to prioritise your current responsibilities and the next steps you should be taking.

If you live alone then don’t let your appraisal be your first conversation of the day. Call your mum on the way to work (don’t tell her you’re on your way to an appraisal because she might expect you to take her out for dinner that evening!)

Get your voice warmed up. Wear a great outfit (but make sure you’re comfortable).

There’s a reason we tend to get the third or fourth job we apply for, and not the first. It takes practice to talk yourself up to others and sound like we know what we’re talking about. So maybe go to the bathroom before you sit down with your manager and look at yourself at the mirror. Breathe deeply. In and out. Three times. Then tell yourself how hard you’ve been working and what you’re best at. Feel stupid doing this? I can guarantee you’ll feel less awkward saying it to your manager now.

Me, I never stop talking. But if you know you have a tendency to clam up, just write two or three things that are important to you on a post-it and be prepared to come back to them. An appraisal should be driven by the appraisee, not the appraiser.

If you’re asking for more responsibility or a promotion, or a pay rise, you need to make your case. Give examples that you’ve thought about. Remind them of any projects you’ve taken on independently, or tasks you were given that you’ve excelled at.

Don’t just think about your specific job role but whether you’ve looked outside your role or your team. Are you mentoring anyone officially or unofficially? Are you on the social committee? All these things show your commitment and worth to the company.

Is there an established progression plan within your department? Can you access job specs for roles in your department? Use any company resources available to you on the intranet or website. If you want to go further, ask your manager how far you are away from the next rung up, or what she thinks you need to pay more attention to. Take notes.

Ask for training, if it’s in the budget. Have a look beforehand at what’s available. Have your colleagues been on a course in the last couple of years that you think you’d benefit from? You won’t get it because the person you sit next to got it (and your manager will not be happy if this is your reasoning). Be clear on how this benefits you and why you deserve it.

If, when you reach the end of the meeting you realise you forgot something important and you really want to talk about it, or if you think your manager hasn’t realised something significant, then say it again. Repeat what you’ve been working on and make them pay attention.


An appraisal is an opportunity for both people to be honest with each other.

A good manager will praise your strengths and help you manage or develop your weaknesses. They will notice things you haven’t, and they may pull you up on shortcomings you’re not aware of. Don’t get defensive. Remember this is a conversation that’s supposed to benefit you and ask what they think you should be doing differently. Be specific; you need detailed constructive criticism you can use. It could be that you need to change the way you’ve been working and one way you do that is by learning from others.

If you are gunning for more responsibility or more money, even if you’ve come prepared and given it your best shot, it might not happen. If that’s the case, then try to listen to what’s being said and what reasons are being given.

Write them down so you can work towards these goals again. You can start the conversation in another six months or at your next appraisal. But before you ask again you need to show that you’ve been listening, and you’ve taken on board what was being said.

You don’t have to agree with everything your manager is saying. But you do have to find some common ground and accept some responsibility if things haven’t been going well.

You also need to wait. You need to leave space for someone to respond to what you’re asking or talking about. If neither of you is saying something. Just wait. Leave the silence. Make space.

Listening works both ways. During an appraisal a few years ago I told my manager I was unhappy at work. And he started telling me how well I was doing. To which my response was (again) that I wasn’t happy. To which his response was, again, to tell me that I was doing really well. Neither of us was communicating. I wasn’t telling him why or how I was unhappy at work, and he wasn’t really paying attention because from his perspective the appraisal was going well. I was working hard and hitting my objectives. I hadn’t actually given him anything to work with. Spoiler alert. I got a pay rise…and then, a few months later, I left the company.

If something’s important, you need to find a way to communicate it.


This one might sound counter-productive but bear with me.

You may not like the thought of sitting down to discuss how well you’ve been working, or not, over the past year.

And remember. It will be over soon. All meetings, even the ones you really aren’t looking forward to, will eventually end.

But while you’re in your appraisal. Just try to enjoy it a little.

Think about it this way. You’ve been working all year, day in, day out. This is the moment when that hard work and effort is recognised. Even if it’s not coming with a big pay rise. This is the time for your manager to tell you how you’ve been doing.

There will (hopefully) be praise coming your way. Accept it!

It’s also a good time to ask for things. If there’s a publication or account you want to work on, or a project you’d like to join, why not put your hand up? Be as involved as possible in writing your own objectives and suggesting the projects that you want to run.

As far as possible, your manager would rather you be working on things that motivate you. Apart from anything else, you’re more likely to get involved and work harder.

If it’s not possible at the moment, they’ll remember that you asked and try and give it to you in future.

That’s it! Good luck!

About the Author

Hilary Scott lives in London and works as a subeditor for an independent legal publisher. She is also a writer and freelance copywriter. She has been known to edit friends’ CVs in the pub for fun. She believes passionately that working your socks off and then walking into an appraisal and asking for the moon will get you a long way. Knowing your worth is important.