CASE STUDY NO 2:
BE HONEST WHEN YOU CAN BE
Two years in a row, Liz, a senior human resources partner at a global non-profit, didn’t achieve the goals she set for herself. “I was just too optimistic about what I could accomplish,” she says.
Since her self-appraisal required that she assess her performance against those objectives, she struggled with what to do. “Most people just talk about their accomplishments, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that,” she says. After thinking it through, she decided to list each goal, explaining which ones she didn’t meet. She also highlighted work she delivered that wasn’t part of her original plan. She admits that it was a risky move: “I knew that it could backfire. In some cultures that would’ve been equivalent to career suicide.”
But she was confident in the security of her role and knew she was well-respected by her manager and her clients. Plus she felt her integrity mattered more. As an HR partner, Liz’s success relies on her ability to influence others. “I can’t influence if people don’t trust me,” she says.
Her immediate boss and the head of human resources reviewed her self-appraisal and were surprised. “They were amused, but they also appreciated that I was willing to call myself out on my own failures,” Liz explains. Her manager specifically noted on this year’s evaluation that she was not afraid to admit her own mistakes. Liz knows she took a calculated risk by being so truthful, but in this case, her honest and careful approach paid off.
Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review.
© 2013 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate