Over the years I have conducted dozens – maybe even hundreds – of yearly performance reviews of employees. Typically when a review goes badly, it is because an employee makes one or more of the following mistakes:
1. Over-rate yourself. On our reviews we utilize a 1 to 5 ranking system (5 being the best) for an employee to rank their performance over the previous year. The employee does their self-ranking first – turns the review in to their manager – and the manager puts in their ranking. Occasionally I will have an employee give themselves a perfect score – all fives. I would not rate myself with all fives – and I have never had an employee perfect in every facet of their job. I would love to have someone like this working for me – and pray for the day that I get a solid fiver – but I suspect it may never happen. The employee that gives themselves all fives is almost always a “soft three or four” on my ranking, and of course their inflated self-opinion always gives me great concern. If they are deluded about their job performance it usually indicates even bigger issues. We all have areas we can improve in – and identifying those areas with a plan for improvement will usually impress your boss and make the review go much better.
2. Whine without a solution. Often there are organizational barriers preventing an employee from doing the best job possible, and if this is the case I want to hear about it and hopefully correct the problem. But often in a review the employee will point out problems that the company has nothing to do with and I can’t impact. Being late for work frequently because “you are just not a morning person” is not a valid excuse – unless your point is to acknowledge it as a past problem and present the solution you have developed so it never happens again. And “problems without solutions” in most cases are just whines. If you see an issue that is negatively impacting your performance, it is much better to come to the review with a suggested solution rather than just the complaint. Also, gossip, and general negativity against co-workers never helps you get a raise.
3. Ask for an unreasonable raise and/or promotion. I like self-assured, aggressive people – Warriors – and asking for a well-justified raise or promotion is fine. But if you ask for a 20% raise “just because you think you deserve it” without any real justification or “attention to the bottom line”, you are doing yourself a disservice. Research and document your request – make a good financial case for your raise. And don’t base it on “I’ve been here a long time”. While job tenure is important and certainly plays a role in the decision to grant a raise – performance is much more important. Tenure gets you cost of living raises – great performance gets you the big money and promotions.