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Asking questions to clarify expectations

While the annual performance appraisal interviews are in full swing and thinking about my discussions on the subject with visitors to my office, I feel it’s appropriate to underline the importance of each party being open, honest, respectful and considerate and, in particular, of a clear agreement between the supervisor and each team member.

This applies not only to the MERIT forms but also to those relating to the induction and mid-probation period interviews. The goal of these formal agreements is to lay down a clear, agreed and motivating framework that provides the member of the personnel with a point of reference throughout the period concerned. Of course, the information in the forms is also used during the person’s career as a basis for decisions on the award or extension of a contract and in the context of internal mobility. 

The EDH form drawn up after your annual interview contains both an assessment of how the objectives set for the previous year (2021) have been met and details of the objectives set for the year that’s just started (2022).

The interview with your supervisor should be open and honest and should not give you any big surprises as your supervisor should have been giving you regular feedback on your work throughout the reference period.

Similarly, the objectives set for 2022 must be tangible, quantifiable and achievable, in other words S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). Above all, they must be clear. It is essential that you fully understand what is expected of you and under what conditions (means, resources and deadlines). If anything is unclear, ask your supervisor questions, obtain clarifications, make proposals and put your ideas forward.

The form that summarises what’s been discussed during the interview, the performance appraisal and the new objectives must be completely clear to you when you sign it as, in doing so, you indicate that you understand, agree and commit to implementing what’s been agreed.

Comments such as «must improve work ethic” or “must get rid of student attitude” are vague and unhelpful at best. They carry a significant risk of not being understood, failing to motivate and hampering an objective and constructive evaluation of future progress.

Both during your interview and the period between the interview and when you sign the form, don’t hesitate to ask any questions you need to understand what’s expected of you and to be able to implement it. This will help the supervisor and supervisee alike and ensure that everyone is able to give their best.

In the interests of an efficient MERIT, which will serve as your reference point for the working year ahead, don’t hesitate to ask all the questions you need to understand what’s expected of you and the means you’ll be given to implement it.

                                        Laure Esteveny

I want to hear from you – feel free to send an e-mail to ombud@cern.ch with any feedback or suggestions for topics you’d like me to address. 

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