Performance Reviews — What about extra credit?

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

May 14

Most performance reviews easily incorporate items that would be considered “extra credit.” Beyond goals and your job skills, extra credit is an area that was not formally defined at the start of the review period, but ended up being part of the work accomplishments during the review period.

Extra credit sounds great, but the great truth is: extra credit doesn’t count in the ratings.

Seems unfair, doesn’t it?

Yet, the rating in a performance review is work performed against the goals and job skills for the position. By definition, if your extra credit is not part of your goals, it is not part of your results. Results are all that matter, theoretically, in a performance review. If what you are working on is not part of your goals, it is really wasted time and not extra credit.

Harsh, Scot, harsh. I know.

Here is how “extra credit” gets put on the review in the first place: the work is done without an agreement from your manager that the work is important enough to be included in your goals.

Your manager asks you to do the work; you do the work well, and then include it in your review. It doesn’t count. The counter from the manager is that what you did for extra credit was “just part of the job.” Or, “something that was a favor.” Or something.

Without the agreement that the requested work is part of the goals for the review, you leave yourself exposed to not getting any credit in your rating for the work.

Early on in my career, I had a co-worker complain loudly that a particular sales person simply sold stuff to the customer without regards to the net margin to the company. As in no margin for the company. My co-worker complained because other sales people sold products that had margin and they should be considered better sales people. My question was simple: do the goals for the sales person include a net margin requirement for the sale? The answer was “no.” There was one the year before, but not this year. Then there is no complaint. The sales person was doing exactly as the company management wanted: making sales to achieve a sales objective. If margin was important, the company would have a margin requirement in place as part of the goals.

Margin was “extra credit.” But the company removed the margin requirement in the sales goal, presumably to get product in a company and go for sales after installation. The company didn’t pay for margin in the sale. If the company isn’t willing to pay a sales person for margin, why should a sales person worry about it? The answer: they don’t.

It should be the same with your work. If the work you are doing is not directly related to your goals, you have to seriously question why you should be doing what you’re doing when “extra credit” doesn’t count.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Exactly. Unless you and your manager agree that the non-goal work becomes part of your performance review, you leave yourself exposed to not having it count.

    It’s a slippery slope…

  • Rick says:

    Well, “other duties as required” could work either way, IMHO. If the manager says, “Do it because it needs to get done,” that’s not extra credit (although doing it well or effectively, especially if it requires extra effort, would certainly bode well on the next performance review). If the employee convinces his/her manager that there’s this extra something that needs to be done, that’s extra credit.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    I’m reminded of the phrase “and other duties as required” in the job description. That’s extra credit. Part of the other duties as required.

  • Rick says:

    Nice topic Scot! You highlighted a negative of performance reviews and goal-setting that managers and employees might not think about: being rewarded for showing initiative. An employee might want to address this “extra credit” issue when he/she and the manager establish performance criteria and goals on which the next review will be based. As long as the manager approves an “extra credit” project before it’s launched, and makes it clear to the employee that regular work must not be shortchanged, it should be a workable arrangement. Of course, this may be easier in companies that encourage this or similar practices among its employees.

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