Dealing with An Unexpected performance review

I have yet to meet a person that gets excited about performance reviews. Performance reviews cause quiet a lot of anxiety. One of the reasons is because no matter how well you do during the year and how great all the feedback was – you never know if your boss assessed the work the same way you did and even if he noticed the great work you did. Or, you just generally doubt your capabilities and wonder if you actually did a good job. Many of us battle with insecurities, especially in work environment.

The explanation for that is, these settings are so unfamiliar to us. All your life, you earn grades, you get the feedback on paper. You can actually hold it in your hand and check what the mistakes were and where you did well. And the end of the year you received an aggregation of your achievements. At work though, you rely on verbal feedback, which has no track record. You might get A+s every day, yet only remember the one time you got a B-, as you cannot hold the positive feedback in your hand (there will be a whole other article later on why that is).

Also, people are not as direct in person – your boss may want to keep you motivated or not want to deal with your disappointment if he felt you did not do well. Co-workers might just say “great job” (if they even bother) to get on your good side.

So it can happen that your performance review does not go the way you would like it. And sometimes,  it is not the review you were expecting.

There could be many causes for that – perhaps your company has a bell curve you and your peers compete for the best rate. In that case, it could be that the other person has a longer track record and/or is up for promotion. Or you didn’t have enough visibility and your boss didn’t see all the work that you did in the year. Or your boss didn’t support you to get the most out of you.

Although you might not feel great – it is important to remember that:

  1. a) It’s your bosses job to get you to find your potential and to help you show it. A real manager taps into their employees talent and gets the most out of what they can bring. That way he, his department and his group does well. A company is only as good as its people and if you don’t get the best out of your people then you will not get the best product/ company.
  2. b) It’s ok to tell your manager that it’s their responsibility to help you do better next year. Ask them how they can support you in doing better this year and then do it. It’s important you stay invested so your boss stays invested.
  3. c) Expectations are subjective. Your boss might expect something from you that you don’t understand or the other way around. Clear these up if you can and when you can, make them qualitative. Write down: “Has 25 new users” or ” Write 50 more reports per year” or “Delivers project at budget and on time”. Its a great way to set the expectation and to have something to measure against.
  4. d) Its ok to be disappointed. Yet, don’t act out. Take the feedback seriously, use it as an engine to do better this year and prove your worth. Remember that every feedback is a reflection of that person’s perception. And you can work to influencing that perception.
  5. e) Know your worth. Do the best you can every day and if that is not enough, then you are in the wrong place. You cannot do any more than your best. You are worthy no matter how much you did or what you delivered.

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