Never give management a reason to rate you low

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Apr 03

Here’s the secret that only a handful of people who have worked for me in my career have really understood: your review is completed months before you receive it.

Consequently, the (necessary) work of actually writing the review is too little, too late.

The Logistics

Some of the reason is simply logistics: in a large company, the ratings — and raises — need to be submitted early enough so that your manager’s manager can review the impact, make changes, and then send the information up the chain for the next level of approvals.

By the time that is done — in a large company, this can be four levels of approvals, including to the Board of Directors (it affects budget) — three months can pass before you actually get your review. The review you receive along with the possible promotion and raise at the end of December was all done by your manager by the end of September. And you had your mid-year review in July.

But I write my own self-review!

Writing a self-review does three important things for your manager, and these should not be discounted:

  1. The self-review covers what you believe is important work done by you. This can sometimes be an eye-opening experience for a manager!
  2. The self-review establishes in your manager’s mind whether or not you are on the same page as far as your goal accomplishment and rating. If you think you are “meets expectations” and so does your manager, great. If you rate yourself “outstanding” and your manager thinks you “meet expectations,” there is a disconnect. Not making a rating in a self-review signals it either doesn’t matter to you or you’re not willing to put a rating out there. Neither situation is a win for you.
  3. The self-review helps the manager write the review — helping you to set the agenda.

But, by the time you write your self-review or very soon thereafter, you have no more legitimate input into your review because of the logistics above.

Four ways to never have your manager rate you low

Since the ratings and raises are determined before the manager ever writes the review, here are the keys to never being rated low:

  1. Agree on goals and measurements for the review period. If you can’t measure, you can’t make goals, leaving you wide open to any rating. These must be done at the beginning of the review period, not made up while the reviews are written (which happens more often than you think, right?).
  2. Meet monthly with your manager on your performance. Go through each goal, your performance for each goal and competency in the review. Determine what has worked well, what needs improvement and come up with a monthly plan of what to do. This is critical for you to change your performance based upon feedback way before hearing it in a review.
  3. Ask for changes in your performance goals as conditions change. If conditions change and a goal should no longer apply to your work, close out or change the goal. Determine together a fair rating for the work that had been done on the goal so far and how that will weight into the review as compared to the new goal. Do not leave goals that no longer apply because of changed conditions.
  4. Ask what can be done above and beyond goals. And listen to the explanation given in return. If you get a non-answer answer to your request, look hard at what you are doing in your work because perhaps your manager doesn’t think you can handle the current workload. Or see if some new stuff comes your way after asking for it several weeks later. Extra work is plus points on the review.

This will feel uncomfortable at first, especially if your manager is not well organized or isn’t into conversations about performance (you’d be surprised how often this is the case). But, come up with a format to review your work and try it for six months. It will become more comfortable and you and your manager will be able to discuss performance easier.

Managers want to know that their employees are capable of handling the work and can communicate. More is icing on the cake. Following these steps will help ensure you’ll never be rated low by management — or you’ll know about it.

  • I’ve written my own review for years and so have my staff – so totally agree. It works!


  • Scot Herrick says:

    There are those that believe that having no goals and then writing your own review making up your goals based upon the work done during the review period makes good sense.

    I don’t agree with this approach — the manager still decides the rating. I agree that you should write the review as long as you and your manager have agreed upon your goals.

    Perhaps an intellectual distinction, but one that will bite you in the rear if you’re not careful.

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