Most of us can easily recognize that our performance reviews — and bonuses and raises — go through an entire budget process before our ratings are given to us at the end of the year. When there is only so much money to go around for salaries and bonuses, you can only have so many people getting high comparative raises in a company before the budget gets blown up.
As well, most of us can recognize that managers don’t write the performance review until they have final approval on your rating, raise and bonus for the year. Why write it when they don’t necessarily know the outcome? And, yes, good managers will have tracked your performance and know how you did based on facts rather than opinions. But many, if not most, get the final performance review rating from their management and only then write the review. The review is written to fit the rating, not the other way around.
But there is a window of influence that Cubicle Warriors have to influence their rating. A window that can significantly impact your raises and bonuses over time.
That window starts when you write your self-review. Because your manager has a performance rating in his or her head, your self-appraisal becomes the only written performance review the manager has to justify performance ratings. Writing an accurate self-review provides your manager ammunition to use in establishing and negotiating your rating.
Your performance review facts become your performance review ratings. And what you can’t tell your coworkers is this: you will write an accurate self-review while most of your coworkers will not. If they write a self-review at all.
As a manager, I looked at hundreds of self-reviews given by the people that worked for me. I can count on one hand how many people provided a complete self-review. Those that did had one of two influences on my rating: they justified my thinking on the rating by providing facts and figures. Or they showed me accomplishments that I had forgotten about and needed to include in my thinking about the rating.
You understand that only the employees, focused on their career, did this accurate self-review, right? And when I say they justified my thinking on the rating by providing facts and figures, you realize that the justification was for a higher rating, right? More pay and a larger bonus. Or if they were borderline between ratings, the reminders of their accomplishments that I had forgotten about easily pushed them to the higher performance rating.
Let’s look at this in practice. What happens in the management process is everyone submits their ratings for their group and someone massages all of that against the budget. They look at the percentages of Outstanding compared to Successful compared to Needs Improvement. If the percentages are out of whack you won’t make the budget. Then management comes back to your manager and starts going through your team to justify the ratings. If your manager’s manager has a perception that someone doesn’t deserve an Outstanding rating, then your manager’s manager will suggest pushing the rating down.
And, without facts from your self-review, that’s exactly what happens. In two minutes of conversation, your rating just dropped.
Or, using a real example, my manager came to me and said his perception was “Mary” didn’t deserve an Outstanding rating. Armed with the facts from her self-review, I was able to quickly show — with numbers and accomplishments — why she deserved the rating. He agreed with my assessment and the rating stood.
In less than two minutes of conversation, that translated into an extra percent increase in salary compared to the lower rating and a 35% increase in her bonus compared to the lower rating. Doing the work and justifying the higher rating over five years and you start talking about real money.
Cubicle Warriors do the work to get the rating — most people do. The difference between a Cubicle Warrior and the rest of your coworkers is they also do the work to influence their rating. They leave no chance that their manager will casually lower their performance rating because their manager didn’t do the work to get the performance rating right.
Wouldn’t you want the performance rating you deserve?