I have a question regarding performance reviews that I could use some opinions on. I was a second line manager of a development lab (about 70 employees and 3 managers) who just accepted a new position in the company a couple of weeks ago under a new director (old boss was a VP). The old VP was responsible for my performance review and delivered it this past week.

Some background: The system we have goes 1, 2+, 2, 3 and is basically a stack ranking system because we do have to have a bell curve skew. Basically, no matter how good your department is, you will have 3's in it. He gave me a 2 (Solid Contributor is the wording - but most read that as average or below average).

I have always worked hard and done well and this is the lowest resting that I have gotten in my 16 years. I believe that I deserved a 2+ for the, naturally I am pretty upset (getting a 2 basically makes me indelible for bonus or raise). I'm not sure if the boss used me as an easy 2 since I was leaving and he has to give a certain % of them to his group or if he truly thinks that. Even if he truly thinks that, I don't agree since the things that he put in his write-up and discussion were somewhat questionable to me.

To elaborate, he took my best manager (of 3) away from me for a special assignment that last about 10 months out of the year. He stacked my development lab with a bunch of initiatives that are ancilary to what our direct mission is, which is delivering new product code that our customers are asking for to them in a timely manor. These initatives are considered to be side jobs, that VPs assume everyone wants to work voluntary overtime on and we didn't hit 100% of those. I view it as questionable to load us up with unrealistic goals and then nail us on performance reviews for not achieving them (an example...he wants to spur innovation, so gave us a goal of 25 patents - we are an old system that has been averaging about 1 a year in the past. We ended up with about 15, but he counts that as missing the goal...I count that as BS).

We achieved some amazing goals this year, especially considering our size, the number of customer reqs we delivered on, our budget targets (which we came in under budget and crushed our revenue targets), and considering he took away my top manager (so we had to deliver on this stuff down a person). I feel like he gave me no credit for those things and nailed me on some silly side goals that were near impossible anyway.

Now for the main I write a note to him explaining my thoughts or writing comments in the official performance review tool when I acknowledge it or do I just let it go since no good can come from going toe to toe with a VP?

Thank you for any advice you may have.


pucciot's picture
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I recommend not making too many comments, if any.

On your review, only make comments about your accomplishments and your plans for improvement.

Participating in the process of these reviews is part of the job.  

You should approach it as one of your tasks.  Any attempts at explaining yourself may sound like complaining about the system or trying to manage your manager.  

It would be nice to live in a world where we can be 100% candid, but, we do not know your manager's state of mind. Don't take the chance of ticking him off. Or frustrating him in this appraisal process.

Unless you feel legitimately grieved by your manager and in fear of being unjustly fired or unequally rated in comparison with your peers   (in these cases you may wish to enter in a grievance process with Human Resources)   ... then

Take your lumps - even if you don't deserve them.

On your review, only make comments about your accomplishments and your plans for improvement.

Ask the Boss for specific guidance and exactly what kind of behaviors he would like to see from you to get an "excellent"  score in the future.

Be proactive - right now in the process.

Track your results and accomplishments starting now and collect a little report in light of the review throughout the year - and make sure you log it into the system (if it is online review system) or forward the report to your boss just before your next review.   Ask the Boss to attach this self-report to your review as additional information.

This will set you apart from your peers and show that you are positively engaged in the process.

In the future, even if you are hammered because of missed deadlines, you will get credit for your positive engagement above your peers.

I love it when my directs make my job easier by giving me a detailed and accurate self-appraisal that includes all sorts of results and accomplishments throughout the year.  Boy, I sure do appreciate that.

That is my recommendation.


RS1990's picture

Thanks, TJ. Appreciate the thorough response and kind of figured that was the way to go.

Growing up, everyone told me that I should be a lawyer because I love arguing all the different points and angles with people, so it really kills me to just have his side with no opportunity for a redirect. However, I know that it's probably for the best to just shut up and take it.

Chalk up another negative for forced stack rankings...

pucciot's picture
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RS1990 :

If you can still add comments to your Review tool at this point don't forget to add comments about your accomplishments.

Above, in your original post you mentioned a Goal of 25 new patents this year.  And you achieved 15.

Your boss may have wrote :  "Failed to attain patents goal for 2014"

You can still comment : "Attained 15 patents (60%) of the 25 patent goal for 2014, a 750% improvement over the previous four year's average of only 1-2 patents per year."  "I plan to work closely with my manager and our team on ways to attain 100% of this year's goal"

-- Do you see it is arguing your point without arguing at all ?

Additional comments :

"Came in XXX% under-budget on project X " "I plan to work closely with my manager and our team on ways to either make a more realistic budget and/or come under-budget again this coming year.

---  If it is too late for this review - keep this in mind starting now.