Performance Reviews — Appeals and Reality

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

May 16

Every corporate HR department has a policy on the ability of the employee to appeal their review. They are usually invoked when the manager and the employee have not met enough during the review period so the rating becomes obvious to the employee. If there are no performance discussions during the review period, the employee will (rightfully) assume that their performance is fine. Perhaps not stellar, but not in the “needs improvement” or “if not better in two minutes you’ll be fired” categories.

This, as an aside, is one of the downsides of calibration. Moving a person from “meets objectives” to “needs improvement” – and taking their raise and bonus away from them – because of calibration is just a horrible action to take by management. Especially because you’ve not had any performance discussions with the employee. As a manager, that happened to me once, but that’s a different story.

Here’s the deal with appealing your review: there is no upside for you as an employee to do it. Even though it feels unfair to you. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Appealing to HR about your review is telling your manager he or she is an idiot for giving you the rating. You may win the battle, but you will lose the war. Managers have way too many ways to block your path within the company. If you appeal a rating, plan to leave the company and hope your manager isn’t connected to block your path to another company.
  2. HR does not have your best interest at heart. In fact, their only interest is to protect the company against lawsuits. There will be a thorough analysis of your performance review, of course, and the rating may slightly change. But HR will be in the middle of the discussions to protect the company – not you.
  3. Appeals usually happen because you and your manager have a different view of your accomplishments. And the manager will almost always be right about what was accomplished. This underscores the importance of talking with your manager about your goals and goal attainment during the review period. If you are not doing this, you expose yourself to having a mismatch of accomplishments during the review period.
  4. The manager will (usually) have documentation to back up the review. Even if they don’t have any going into writing the review, they will before the review is given.

The best way for you to avoid having to appeal your review is to ensure that management never has a reason to rate you low. Because the reality is this: if you have to appeal your performance review, you’ve already lost.