"Millions of people who run companies know they should be conducting annual employee appraisals, but they're not doing it," asserts Roger Flax, president of Motivational Systems, a West Orange, N.J., management- and sales-training company. "There's a lot of assuming that in small companies people are motivated, so there's not a lot of formal motivating," he says.

One answer may be the employee-initiated appraisal, in which employees are told they can ask for a review from their manager. The on-demand appraisal isn't meant to replace a conventional semiannual review, but it promotes an attitude of self-management among workers and often makes critiques more honest. Edward Silverman, president of SOS Security Inc., a Parsippany, N.J., security-guard company with $25 million in sales, says the employee-initiated appraisal "encourages an open-door policy" at his company.

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Flax suggests employees ask for as many reviews as they feel they need. Here are the seven questions he instructs employees to ask in their self-initiated appraisals:

1. Can you rate my performance from one to 10?

2. What do you feel are the strongest elements of my work?

3. What are the weakest elements?

4. Why didn't I get a 10 (highest rating)?

5. Where do you think I can go in my job or career in the next 18 months to four years?

6. What skills, training, or education do I need to get to that point?

7. What specifically can we agree on that I can do, beginning tomorrow? -- Ellyn E. Spragins

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