Self Evaluations: How Honest Should You Get

I have to write a self-evaluation as part of my annual review with my manager this month. Should I be tough on myself so they know I’m open to constant improvement, be honest about my strengths and weaknesses; or go easy and let my manager point out my development opportunities?

Congratulations on taking the strategic approach to your performance review and development plan. Evaluations are intended to help further your career and provide benchmarks that may impact monetary rewards. As uncomfortable as it can be to evaluate your own performance, it is critical that you sing your own praises as honestly as you share your areas for development.

Depending on the size of your company or team, you may work for a manager who is less aware of your day-to-day activities and responsibilities. Therefore, your self-evaluation is a great place to reflect back what it is you do for your organization. You don’t need to provide finite detail, but providing an overview is helpful. Even if your manager is very hands-on, it’s still important to communicate what your role entails, your achievements, and challenges.

When detailing your accomplishments and successes be as specific as possible. For example, use quantifiable terms like ‘demonstrated strong leadership and budget management skills on X project’ as opposed to using subjective adjectives like ‘great’ or ‘excellent’. Where you can, tie results and outcomes back to productivity; how much revenue was driven (if possible) or how much money or time was saved.

Provide concrete examples of where you went above and beyond to help specific people or teams on specific projects.

As you discuss your professional shortcomings, give specifics on how they have been a hindrance and how you have worked on them and plan to continue to work on them. Give an example of a project where you felt you were not at your best, what you learned and what you are doing differently now. Also remember that everyone has areas where they need to develop and your manager will appreciate your honesty and your self-awareness. If there are ways your manager can help, whether through a class, or teaming with him/her, make that suggestion.


Your self-evaluation is an opportunity for you to drive the dialogue about your professional growth and livelihood. You should always be just as honest about your assets just as you would be your liabilities. It’s not bragging; it’s a requirement for managing your career.

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