Writing your performance review protects your interests

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 07

Performance reviews are emotion-filled events. It makes sense, of course, because no one likes criticism (and some shy away from praise), the review determines your pay raise and often the amount of your bonus. Throw in the possibility of promotion — or firing — and the emotional parts of the performance review makes perfect sense.

The manager from hell is writing your review

We’ve all had them: the manager from hell. For whatever reason, we don’t get along with this manager and you know the review will be tough. Outside of all the other considerations for your career, you at least want to ensure that a manager’s review won’t kill your career in your current company.

In this kind of environment, you must write your self-assessment. And do it right.

Writing your self-assessment helps protect you

Remember, in most large companies, your self-assessment is given to your manager, then the management team determines your rating and raise, and then your manager writes your performance review.

So, you go first. It gives you some leverage for how the review will turn out. Here’s how:

  • Most poor managers don’t document performance. Because you’re a Cubicle Warrior, you’ve taken the time to consistently measure your performance, goal attainment, and accomplishments. You’ve even been smart enough to provide killer status reports over the course of the year showing your accomplishments. Thus, you have documentation and your manager doesn’t.
  • Poor managers won’t discuss your self-assessment with you. If your self-assessment is accurate (and accuracy in your accomplishments is crucial here), it goes against the perception of your performance that your manager has in his or her head.
  • Poor managers will drop your performance review bomb when you get the review. At this point, the reality of your performance is so off from your manager’s performance review that you feel you need to appeal to Human Resources about the review.

Your performance review is now, officially, a mess

Now, I’m not an advocate of appealing performance reviews. You get tagged by the management team and your poor manager will then do all sorts of things to submarine your career in the company. In short, appealing a performance review means you are buying time to find another job in another company or hoping your current manager sees the light and leaves.

Having said that, your accurate self-assessment and killer status reports now become your weapon of choice to fight your rating with Human Resources. Having accurately measured your progress on your goals (what’s more important to the company than hitting your goals?), communicated your progress through status reports and then summarizing your accomplishments in your self-assessment shows your company-protecting Human Resource representative that you’ve done the work.

Now your poor manager’s performance come into play. Did the manager communicate problems with your performance when you delivered your status reports? No. Did your manager discuss your self-assessment with you when you delivered it before the ratings were determined? No. What documentation does your manager have to counter the excellent, accurate measurements you’ve provided your manager all through the year and in the self-assessment? None.

Now your poor manager is in a heap of trouble because you have a case. And Human Resources people — who protect the company’s interests over all else — hate it when employees have a case and the management team doesn’t. It places the company in exactly the position Human Resources doesn’t want.

This buys you time

You may or may not get a ratings change — but you’ve made your case. And now your poor manager is even more ticked off at you and has a target that he or she can submarine. Business is social and you just made your poor manager look like, well, a poor manager.

So you bought some time, but you should be looking for a job during all this blow-up.

Consider, however, if you hadn’t done the measurements right, updated your manager through status reports and written a killer self-assessment. Now you could be on a performance plan with your manager from hell looking for any reason to throw you out the door.

It wasn’t fun, but you bought some time. And time, in this economy, is a big win.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.