As I write this, we are coming up on week three of the new year, which means that I am still writing the wrong date and am breaking the last of my resolutions. I am also entering that time of year commonly known in the HR world as the Seventh Circle of Hell. Everyone else knows it as Performance Review Season.
To recap, Performance Review Season, or PRS (which is very close alphabetically to PMS) is when your manager takes that fictional account known as your self-evaluation and reconciles it with their own spotty recollection of your accomplishments for the year, and gives you a grade. Unless you work for a dentist or some other sadist, they enjoy this exercise about as much as you do.
So let me give you some advice on handling this most wonderful time of the year:
If you are a managers, own the review. You are writing it and you know you are going to deliver it, so stand behind it. Don’t try to pass it off as coming from your boss: “I wanted to give you a higher score but my boss said no.” Don’t try to blame the company’s culture or unwritten policies: “I would have given you a higher score, but the company discourages giving them out.” Don’t blame HR: “The form that HR gave us doesn’t really speak to all the things you are good at, otherwise you would have scored better.” By not owning the review, you are saying that you are nothing more than a tool, and that the person who is really in charge is above you.
If you are the recipient of the review, own it. Take ownership for what you need to improve upon, otherwise you will never go anywhere. Sure, you walk on water. Sure, the entire organization will collapse without you. Sure, you carry your boss on your shoulders. Sure, you are indispensable… The problem with this is you are the only one who sees it, and unless you are also the one who is making and approving your salary recommendation, and determining what future roles you may be considered for, your personal opinion of yourself doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. If there is a disconnect between what you and what your boss sees, you are going to be at a disadvantage. Let me be clear here – your review shouldn’t come as a surprise, but sometimes it does. I am not excusing your manager, but at the end of the day you are the one who is going to feel it. You are the one who was planning that trip to Aruba based off your expected bonus, only to find that instead you are going to spend a weekend in the next county at a La Quinta. In other words, the bad news is your review score is probably baked, and with it your increase and bonus. Fighting your score is, as Kurt Vonnegut might have said, about as productive as trying to stop a glacier. The good news is you have been given a roadmap or a plan or at least a glimpse into what your boss wants from you and what you need to focus on. Maybe the review is focused on how you logged 6 hours of sales calls a week while the expectation was a minimum of 25 hours. Might I suggest you start a call log at the beginning of each week and track your time on calls. Meet with your boss as often as you need to, and always have that sheet in front of you to show her your progress. Then follow up by asking what you are missing.
So, now we’ve established that everyone hates reviews. Maybe someday I will talk about why we do them, but not now – I have my performance review in a couple of minutes.