Your performance review rating is set before your review is written

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We’re at that time of the year when performance reviews are written. Many, if not most, employees think that the review is written and then the rating is figured out.

That’s not how it works.

The performance review rating is determined before the review is written

But, really, that’s too difficult to do. After all, if you write a glorious review and come back with a “meets expectations” rating, there is a huge disconnect with a big fight waiting in the wings for when the performance review is delivered.

No, the performance rating is set. It’s agreed upon. It’s vetted with other managers. It meets the budget.

Once the rating is set, only then is the review written.

The review is written to the rating, not written to determine the rating

Imagine the disconnect of writing a review that glows with wonderful tidings of joy but results in a “needs improvement” rating. No joy for you — plus a totally confusing message.

So managers get the rating. Then they write the review to the rating. That’s how it works. I know. I’ve done it.

How does the Cubicle Warrior influence the rating?

If you can’t influence the review because it isn’t written until the rating is determined, how do you influence the rating?

When you are asked to write your self-review. That’s when. That’s when you need to give your manager the ammunition to rate you the highest rating possible. You give your manager the reasons to rate you the way you think you should be rated. You don’t really think your manager knows all about what you do better than you do…do you?


Thus, the best time to influence your rating when ratings are about to be determined is when asked to write your own review. Give you manager the reasons to get the rating you deserve — and defend that rating with other managers.

If you don’t offer the information needed, you give your rating — and pay increase and bonus and stock options and restricted stock awards into the hands of a manager who may or may not know how to defend your realm.

It’s not the place you want for determining your family’s income and your career.

And, by the way, you have to “meet expectations” — a difficult task in and of itself — before you can “exceed expectations.”

Fight for the right rating. I’ve found from my experience that conservative self-reviews often turn into a better rating that you think. It’s the “I walk on water” self-reviews that get shoved in the hole. Self-delusion will get you nowhere fast.

How’s your review coming along?

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