3 min read

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror
Mirror, mirror, in this blog; self-assessments are a slog. All credit to Disney

Sorry, o reader mine, but this is going to be another stream of consciousness post. I just don't have enough available mental space to do a proper one.

What's taking up the already somewhat limited space in my brain?

Well, it's the same thing as it was last week; the twice-yearly performance evaluation process at Atlassian, otherwise known as APEX, and the unfortunate fact that even though I am no longer a manager, I still have to do the manager dance.

In other words, I need to evaluate the performance of everyone I was responsible for over the last six months.

I imagine that some managers find this sort of thing easy, but for me, it's always been incredibly hard. I can do it, I've got no worries about that. In fact, I think I'm probably pretty good at it.

I just don't like doing it. It makes me uncomfortable and I second guess my decisions and because of those factors, it takes an inordinate amount of mental effort to push through and make it happen.

I mean, I don't even like evaluating my own performance, but it's far more manageable, because the only person I can screw over is myself and I'm willing to accept that risk.

Which brings me to the actual topic of this stream of consciousness.


Reflecting on how you've been doing and what you've managed to accomplish over some period of time is a good thing to do. It helps you to understand how you can be better in the future, and gives you ammunition for setting goals.

But reflection and self-assessment are subtly different in my mind.

The intent of reflection is to get better.

The intent of self-assessment is to evaluate yourself.

Speaking of which, as part of the APEX process at Atlassian, every single person needs to do a written self-assessment.

Said self-assessment needs to contain:

  • A summary of your goals and any progress made (or lack thereof)
  • A narrative view of the major things you accomplished over the period
  • A pillar-by-pillar breakdown of anything you think is relevant

It's not a huge document or anything, maybe 1000 words in total? It's intended to be something of a summary after all, drawing together everything meaningful and relevant for the period and collating it into a single readable document.

But that's part of the problem.

The self-assessment is focused entirely on looking backwards and summarising, and is intended to be used as an input into the rest of the performance evaluation process.

There is very little allowance made for genuine self-reflection.

In fact, because performance evaluations and the ratings that are generated from them have real financial impacts (i.e. they drive salary increases, bonus amounts and equity allocation), you are implicitly encouraged to focus on your wins and not on the lessons that you learned along the way, or how those lessons will help you to be better in the future.

Where am I going with this?

Well, its a stream of consciousness, so I don't really know.

What I do know is that I started this blog post with the intent to talk about how self-assessment is difficult for me. How I'm not a fan of looking backwards and reflecting on how I've been doing, because of some reason that I'm sure would have been really good.

Honestly though, I don't think that is the truth. I don't find reflecting very difficult at all.

I write all the time. I like having data that shows whether or not something is making the difference I intended it to make. I have no problems summarising what I've been doing and sharing that with anyone who is interested. I treat failure as an opportunity to learn.

But in writing this blog post and working through those thoughts, I think that original motivation to write was more about self-assessment, which is just generally dislike.

I dislike it because it is often framed as reflection, but it is isn't really about you.

It's about someone else.

And that makes me sad, because it means people focus on proving their worth instead of just being better than they were before.

Which should be enough.