Evaluations: Learn from them, then “Get over it!”

I recently had a humbling experience. I conducted a 3-day workshop for a client in March, and a large envelope arrived at my office shortly after. Inside were the program evaluations. Not to brag, but I’m used to the evaluations being consistently pretty favorable. This time, while 95% of them were good, there were a few that were not so great. I experienced a myriad of emotions from embarrassment to defensiveness. In short, they made me mad. They generally said that days 2 and 3 were great, while day 1 was not as effective. Now you think back to an evaluation you didn’t like and remember how you felt. You “forgot” about the remarks that were glowing and got hung up on the ones that were more negative didn’t you? Well, I did the same thing. Until I heard a voice remind me of something. My husband Larry said, “I remember that when you came home after day 1, you told me you were uncomfortable with how the day went – that you weren’t at your best.” He was right. These evaluations were actually pretty accurate in their assessment of how the day transpired.

Evaluations, if analyzed in the proper way, have value. Since I needed that reminder, I thought maybe some of you might too. Here’s what I learned:

  • Try not to take it too personally. Very hard to do, but essential before you move to #2.
  • Read it objectively and see if there is validity to any of what was said. Then, if yes, use the advice and observations constructively to make any necessary adjustment to your work or your style.
  • When you’re done with it, or if you determine it not to have constructive value, then let it go. As speaker Doug Stevenson says, “Get over it!”
You can also apply these suggestions to your annual performance evaluations. You can use the evaluations to improve yourself, manage better, formulate goals, etc. After all, what are evaluations designed to do? Are they just “Smile Sheets” that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Sometimes. Do they let you know if you’re on the right track? Are you meeting the needs of yourself and your organization? Can they help you to identify any areas that may need clarification or just didn’t hit the mark? You decide what information you want to glean from the evaluation and then analyze it that way.
You may even decide that an “annual” evaluation isn’t enough. You might need this form of feedback more often so you can be on a constant track of improvement. Also keep in mind where the evaluation came from. Is it from management or is it a peer evaluation? Each is designed to help you in different areas. Whatever you do, use the information constructively.
Get an unfavorable evaluation? From now on, learn from it, and Get Over It!