3 ways employees sabotage their performance review

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 30

We’re just getting past the mid-year performance review cycle. Now the focus shifts to the year-end review. The important one with raises and bonuses.

The truth is, employees do have an influence on their performance review ratings above and beyond performance on the job. You do perform well in your work on the job, right? Past that, though, employees make some mistakes thinking they cannot influence their performance review ratings. Here’s their biggest mistakes.

Most people don’t try to influence the performance review

Hey, if you don’t try, you leave your performance review fate to the whims of management. People who don’t even try to influence their performance review by doing anything past their great performance on the job literally give up on their work and the importance of what the work brings to the job.

It is an abdication of control and influence. It is, in my opinion, giving up on yourself.

Cubicle Warriors fight for every piece of results, pay, bonus and recognition they think they deserve. Your performance review, after all, sets the tone for your family’s budget, sanity in the face of layoffs, and shows that the results you produce for the business mean something. Even if that meaning is to future employers.

If you don’t try, you lose.

Most people put their reviews in the hands of their manager

There is a difference between not trying to influence their performance review and leaving it the hands of their manager. When people leave their review in the hands of their manager, there is this belief that their manager will take care of them. That their manager, while not all-knowing, really does know all of the accomplishments the employee has done. That their manager will therefore rate them fairly.

Meh. Managers are usually overworked. They know far less about what the person has done and what the person has accomplished in their business results than most people believe. I was a manager. I didn’t remember half the things my people did during the course of the year — I had 22 people reporting to me at one time in my career. You think I can remember all those accomplishments? No one can.

As important, without evidence of your performance, your manager will get ripped in the meetings with other managers where your department’s performance rating is reviewed — and people are left with a good rating or downgraded based on your manager’s defense of your work.

Can your manager defend your work in a room with other managers all wanting to protect their people? Yeah, leaving your fate in the hands of your manager is risk, risk, risk.

People influence their performance review the wrong way

If a five is outstanding and a 1 is close to getting fired, how many of you managers out there have seen employee after employee rate themselves as “outstanding” in virtually every category the performance review addresses? In my experience, about 25% rate themselves as walking on water, er, outstanding.

The kicker? It’s usually the people who need a lot of improvement that rate themselves outstanding. Like if they give themselves a five and you thought they were a one, you’ll compromise with them and give them a “3” for successful.

You can see these people a mile away. They do themselves no favors by doing this approach of perfection. Plus, it ticks the manager off because when someone rates themselves as outstanding across the board they also tend to argue about it with no proof. It can easily turn ugly, especially because the manager has to pull this person out of their fantasyland and return them to the reality in front of them. No easy task.

Give your manager reasons to defend your work

You deserve the performance review rating that reflects your work. If you don’t provide the information to show how your work helps the business, you abdicate the most important business evaluation you get during the year.

Let me give you a great example. I got some great performance numbers from one of my employees. Based on those numbers, I gave her a higher rating than she had for the previous five years. When the upper management team is trying to cut down the (budget) numbers, those ratings get questioned. If you’re mushy on your reasons for the rating (she is such a hard worker!), that rating gets blown out of the water.

But in this case, using the numbers she provided, I easily said the reason for the rating was because she was the top person in the department for X and her improvement in the other department metrics was the highest out of the ten-person group. Thirty seconds it took. Rating preserved.

For her, that defense gave her an $800 annual increase and a $2,800 bonus — for a mid-year review.

You can try and influence your review and take that chance of getting what you deserve. Or you can abdicate your great work and hope others notice enough to defend your rating.

Your choice.

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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.