Why September is performance review time

My cubicle, updated
Creative Commons License photo credit: Royal Sapien

Performance reviews are intimidating, frustrating and worrisome — in December. In September? Not so much. But, the dirty little secret about performance appraisals is that by the time you get your performance review in December, your actual performance rating (the rating determines your pay increase and bonus…) was already determined sometime in October, before your review was ever written.

October, you will notice on your calendar, is only fifteen days away.

Performance reviews go through the budget process

When your performance appraisal is tied to your pay, as most reviews are, the appraisal costs the company money. Costs need to go through a budget process for the following year and your pay raise — or not — goes into the budget. When the budget is too high, the amount of the raises are lowered, the number of high performers allowed to get that higher rating and higher pay is reduced, and there is that much more scrutiny of every raise given by management.

And, to be fair, the company may be making a ton of money but simply doesn’t want to pay out that much in raises regardless of the employee contribution. Heads the company wins and tails you lose.

Now is the time to determine your accomplishments

You know that great project you will complete with stellar results in December? It won’t count so much when the ratings are determined in October — you are not done yet, so how can it be factored in the rating? I once worked with a manager who artificially changed the SMART goal process to have the annual accomplishments be from October 1st through September 30th just so a full year of accomplishments could be included in the review.

Most of us are not that fortunate — our accomplishments count for nine months out of the year, not twelve.

October is the rating month — and every company has their October

Even if your budgets are not done from January to December, they are done annually starting in some month. And three months before the budget goes into effect, your salary increase is factored into the budget. That means your rating is determined before your performance review.

How do you work with the fact that your rating is determined before your review? It’s why I wrote “How to write your performance review.” You see, the review starts in January with your SMART goals (or goals, SMART or not…). You write your review in October. And you provide proof of your work so when December comes you get the performance review you deserve even though your rating was done months before.

It is your end of the year. Are you ready?

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