ACCORDING to media reports, about 30 per cent of British workers regard staff appraisals as a waste of time.

It is probable that many Singaporean employees feel the same way.

But until a dramatically different way of measuring work performance is created, it looks like staff appraisals are here to stay.

You may have just had one and are keen on preparing better for the next.

First, make sure you know what exactly a staff appraisal is.

Performance report

A staff appraisal is information provided to an individual concerning certain aspects of his performance on a task.

It takes the form of positive and/or negative feedback.

Positive feedback is where the employee is essentially told to "keep up the good work".

Negative feedback is where an improvement in areas of work, competencies or behaviours is usually sought.

It is an employer's responsibility to praise an employee's strengths and alert him to his weaknesses so that his work performance may go from strength to strength.

But how can employees accept negative feedback to improve themselves and move one notch up to reach or optimise their potential?

Receiving feedback

Some people do not want to receive feedback as they consider it "a criticising session".

Others see it as another way to confirm their worthlessness.

Many only want to hear "the good stuff" and nothing more.

And then there are those who want feedback and are willing to accept it although it may be painful or disturbing, only because they believe they can benefit from it.

Supervisors should always treat their staff with dignity and respect, and feedback should be given in a fitting manner.

Employees should also accord their managers with similar respect and listen to what they have to say.

Here are some tips on how to receive feedback:

1. Don't be defensive.

Trying to justify your every action leaves you little time to see your supervisor's point of view.

Listen carefully to judge if the feedback is correct or misplaced. Clarify issues if necessary, and do not interrupt your supervisor as far as possible. You will have time to respond accordingly.

2. Don't verbally attack your supervisor.

Getting personal may not be in your interest.

Just stick to the facts and defend yourself, if you have to, by clarifying your actions regarding specific events.

Take feedback as a reflection of another person's perspective. You might learn something about yourself.

3. Don't shift the blame. Blaming someone else is not the solution.

If you believe that a colleague should be held accountable for something, ask that he be included in the dialogue session too.

You don't want to be accused later of having "stabbed someone in the back".

4. Don't ignore your supervisor.

Looking blankly at him while he is giving you negative feedback tells your supervisor that you are not interested in improving.

5. Don't pretend to listen.

Giving the impression that you agree to what your supervisor is saying may seem like an easy way out, but it really does you no good.

Your supervisor is hoping for a sincere effort from you to improve.

It is better to ask him to specify exactly what he expects from you, rather than to nod in agreement.

You don't want to come back the next time and face the same criticism.

Opportunity to improve

Be thankful for the feedback you receive during your appraisal. Treat it as an opportunity to reflect and ponder on your actions or non-actions.

If you are able to act on both positive and negative feedback - leveraging on your strengths and minimising your weaknesses - you will have an advantage over your peers.

As a final tip, focus on the future and not the past. Think about what you can do instead of what you did not.