How to do a performance review of your manager

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It is coming to the year-end performance review time. We’re all concerned about our performance review, of course, but now is also a good time to review the performance of your manager in terms of how effective the manager is with you and your work. Most people evaluate their manager every day — based on their emotional reactions to what is happening around them that day. They miss the bigger picture of a manager’s performance.

So how should you evaluate your manager? Let me suggest five great questions to ask yourself.

1. Did your manager follow the career processes in place at your company?

There is a reason companies have career processes in place — the ones relating to setting your goals, writing your reviews and having communication with employees about their performance. The reason is they want to have consistent feedback between managers and their employees so everyone can achieve the business goals.

You may disagree with the process or not agree with the outcomes of the process, but the very first thing to ask is if the processes were followed. If you are supposed to get a written review, did you? Many people don’t even though it is a requirement of the company. Did you get goals to work on? I’ve had managers tell me to not worry about the goals until later. And later never comes.

Consequently, the first question to ask is if the manager followed the company career processes for employees.

Now if your company doesn’t have any processes around your career, the better question is if the manager provided goals, performance reviews and communications plans. That means your manager is going above and beyond your company’s policies to tie your work with performance and goals.

2. Did you have well built goals that were also modified over the year?

Not all goals are built the same. And even if a SMART Goal is built correctly, it doesn’t mean the goal is right for you. In the process of building your goals, did your manager take your information into account? Did your manager tweak the goal to match what you can control about the goal? There’s a reason I offer a SMART Goal product; too many employees don’t understand how goals should be built and managers don’t modify them the right way to get the right performance from the employee.

In addition, business changes over the course of the year — and most goals don’t. What started off as really important to the business starts to change mid-year and by the end of the year the priority is different. Yet, when it comes time for your performance review, you’re stuck with the same old goals that are no longer relevant to your work. Yet neither you nor your manager changed the goals — and that effects your performance review rating.

Some companies are now modifying their goals from yearly to something shorter in time — quarterly or something defined by you and your manager. That’s great, but the principle still applies — you and your work change based on the changes in need from your customers, internal or external.

When the game changes, the rules change and your manager should help you close out goals that no longer have the priority and create ones that do. That’s a good manager.

3. Do you know what will be in your performance review before you get it?

If you don’t know your big hitters in your review, it means there wasn’t enough one-on-one communication about your work performance over the year. There should be no surprises in the review, save a higher bonus than you were expecting!

But both managers and employees are reluctant to have performance discussions, whether the performance is good, OK, or needs improvement. Yet, without this ongoing review of your work, you will have no ability to improve your work to help your performance.

Take your goals plus the competencies that are in your performance review. Write down the three things about each one that your manager will talk about. Then get the review and see how close you came. The more divergent the outcome, the more one-on-one time you need with your manager to get on the same page about performance and the less effective the manager.

4. Did your manager clear roadblocks to help your performance?

No employee can do it all, especially all the time. People, processes and technology inevitably get in the way of what you need to do to get the job done. It’s your job, then, to escalate the issue to your manager. Now comes the big question. Did your manager help you clarify what needed doing or intervene on your behalf to clear the issue?

If your manager helped you clear a roadblock or helped you get around it so you can continue to work, you’ve got a good manager.

5. Did your manager succeed with his or her manager?

Managers have managers as well. Part of being an effective manager — just like an effective employee — is accomplishing goals for the manager’s team. Did the manager make the business goals through you and your coworkers? Did your manager manage the goals so they were possible to make? Did your manager get his or her manager to clear roadblocks to your group accomplishing their work?

If this is what you observe, then you have a good manager. If your group didn’t make their goals or your manager didn’t make the effort to change what needed changing with their manager, it isn’t effective management.

Good managers are rare – that’s why performance reviews of managers are important

Business is supposed to be about working to achieve results, whether it is supporting customers or supporting employees. Your relationship with your manager is the single biggest influence on your satisfaction with the job. It makes sense, then, to do the evaluation of your manager in a way that supports what you want done on the job and for your career. These five questions will get you pointed in the right direction.

  • Didn’t see a discussion on how to act on results of the evaluation especially if it indicated that the manager in ineffective? Is the employee helpless?

    • That wasn’t the intent of this article. This is about how to evaluate a manager, not what to do about a performance review you think is unfair.

  • This is always a bit tricky. You want to be honest in your review, but can’t be too honest. Even if it’s one of many 360 reviews and is anonymous it’s not hard by process of elimination to figure out who wrote what.

  • Great post, Scot! I like the way it totally encourages people to take responsibility for getting the management they need.

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