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Dear Work Diary

Jan 16, 2012 / Professional Development / Trackback

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post The Annual Performance Review and You.

Let me recap: The topic is so broad and complex that entire books are written about it. None of them are very popular because everyone hates the subject except performance consultants and performance tracking software companies. Whether you work for a company that has a sophisticated or bad performance review process – or none at all, you own your career and are responsible for ensuring there are no surprises when it comes to the alignment of your perspective on your performance and your manager’s.

Why do you need a diary to write work stuff in anyway?

Of all the Internet articles I reviewed in preparation for writing this post, the one I most appreciate is on the Harvard BusinessReview HRB Blog Network byTeresa Amabile, an Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, andSteven Kramer, a psychologist and independent researcher – coauthors ofThe Progress Principle. Their post, Four Reasons to Keep a Work Diary, points to historical personalities like war generals, artists and presidents who journaled accounts of their daily lives.. manyposthumously published.Amabile and Kramer then list four reasons a work diary could benefit worker bees and leaders alike:focus, patience, planning, and personal growth.Valid, valid, valid & valid.

But, there is one thing they and the 52 ensuing comments never discovered or divulged. An excellent reason to keep a work diary is to provide you with an easy way to help you prepare your weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or yearly performance reports for your manager – to ensure all your greatness is attributed correctly to you in your annual performance review. Your manager can’t and won’t remember it all. Get the recognition you deserve by documenting your accomplishments – because no one else will do it for you.

TechCrunch did do a product review in 2008 on a then startup,ididwork.comand billed it as a way to drive performance reviews, eliminating the need for status meetings, and allowing employees to be evaluated based on concrete information rather than a managers impressions. This would be the closest thing to my own vision except that it wasn’t successful and you can’t get past the landing page – ididwork didn’t work.. andI think status meetings are important and don’t believe in eliminating conversation in lieu of strictly digital reporting when it comes to managing people.

If you readyesterday’s postyou know I would like to see the annual review die ahundreddeaths in favor of year-round mature, open dialog about the path to goal attainment.

For some managers and HR people, talk of a work diary evokes images of the covert operator who carries a ratty moleskin around stopping a odd intervals while walking across the work floor to write notes about who is at the water cooler, who clocks out early and who takes a paperclip home – or worse, is out to blatantly ruin someone’s career.

These individuals also carry discreet recording devices in pens in their pocket protectors or shoe soles (oops, that’s Agent 86) to capture conversations they set you up for.

They cut and paste letters from magazines to write anonymous notes to tattle tale and leave them under the HR Lady’s door along with cassette tapes of incriminating – if not contrived, conversations, that cause internal investigations and muchmayhem.

Back to you and real reasons for keeping a work diary…

The work diary is an account of your work events according to your perspective. Some people might be tempted to write about workplace drama – I suggest sticking to developmental content for your own personal and professional enrichment like Amabile and Kramer suggest, and the type of data you would want your manager to include in your annual review. It’s easy enough to copy and paste the cells into an email to your manager. Be sure to clean up anything you have second thoughts about before clicking send. Be honest while putting yourself in the best light possible.

Throw in a SWOT analysis to help identify trends and a formula in the weekly ratings column to average them and keep track of how your year is going at any given time. In each email, ask your manager for feedback on the content and rating you gave the week. You and your manager will naturally begin to ‘calibrate’ on quality and performance andthere should be no surprises in your annual review.

Do you think like this seems like too much work and that it shouldn’t be yourresponsibilityto keep track of your performance? I wouldn’t trust any employer with my career and you shouldn’t either. Success comes when you own your career and manage it well.

I don’t suggest keeping a physical paper diary because although it may be therapeutic and loads of fun to scrap your way to success, your manager won’t be able to copy and paste your accomplishments into your annual review.

P.S. If you are a manager responsible for the annual review of others, or in HR and responsible for the whole work force, educate new hires on the benefits of a work journal at the beginning of employment. In addition to being a very effective tool for individualfocus, patience, planning, and personal growth – it’s an optimal way to continually review and encourage employee engagement and ensure accomplishments are appropriately attributed and celebrated during the annual performance review process – and throughout the year.



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