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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.