39

I have had my annual performance review and the appraisal. I got a decent raise but my colleagues who started off along with me got a higher one. Quite simply, I do not want to remain as second best.

How should I try and improve in the next year? I know I should discuss with the manager and be clear about what his expectations are of me.

But there are a few questions in my mind like -

  • Does that mean to spend more hours in office per week?

  • Does that mean to try and ask for more responsibilities(read, as leading new initiatives) outside my current scope? That, is being all the more VISIBLE. Is it ?

  • Does that mean interacting more and more with the manager? Keeping him aware of every single thing I do so that he knows I am working a lot ?

What should I be doing different ?

P.S - This is my first year in my first job!

  • 5
    How do you know you are second best? Maybe someone else also got a better raise than you. – JB King Apr 4 '13 at 18:06
  • 3
    "I know I should discuss with the manager". Please do that, and come back when you have done. How are we supposed to know what improvements he expects of you? – DJClayworth Apr 4 '13 at 18:20
  • 3
    I already did that. However, I didn't feel it relevant to add to the question :-) – R11G Apr 4 '13 at 18:28
  • 5
    I think it is still a good idea to NOT talk about your salary, bonuses and raises with others. It just leads to this kind of unnecessary worrying. – Angelo Apr 4 '13 at 20:08
  • 3
    Wonderful question. – HLGEM Apr 5 '13 at 13:39
34

some content adapted from here

How should I try and improve in the next year? I know I should discuss with the manager and be clear about what his expectations are of me.

This process begins way before you start your year-end evaluation.

  1. Make goals you discuss with your manager for the year (or until the evaluation time period). Make these meaningful. Smart if you like. "I will make more money" is bad. "I will implement the following changes to increase sales by 10% by Jan 1, 1970" is good. It helps if you suggest these too, because 1) you can save your boss the "oh man I have to think of goals" problem and 2) you can make them more feasible
  2. Actually have goals (seriously this is important).
  3. Consistently accomplish and deliver on your goals.
  4. Consistently keep your manager informed as to progress via quick updates. "Hey boss, just wanted to let you know, accomplished XXXX and am working towards YYYY." Not overwhelming, but progress reports (might be combination of in person FYIs or emails)
  5. Perform at a high level consistently and keep track of it. Note for most people this means being better at communication but doing the same work (part of performing is communication skills, whether you're an engineer or a HR specialist)
  6. Optional: achieve more than your goals
  7. When it comes time to the "how awesome am I time" during the end of year evaluation timeframe, you now can objectively state:
    • Here were the goals I was attempting to meet last year
    • Here's the actions I took to meet (or exceed them)
    • Here's the work I did in addition to my goals
  8. Optional: include "here were difficulties I encountered, but here were the steps I took to overcome them and meet my goals"

Your manager should know everything in #7 (and 6, really) already because of #4 at the end of the year (or evaluation period) so reading this should be a reminder - NOT a "oh, didn't know at all you were doing that!" type situation.

Does that mean interacting more and more with the manager? Keeping him aware of every single thing I do so that he knows I am working a lot ?

I think almost all people, especially the more technical, can benefit significantly from better communication with their manager on project work. Tying this into the above structure? Absolutely.

Many technical people hate this part of work. "Why can't people just base all their opinions on what I do and not how I present my work?!?!?!?!? I hate the 'office politics' part of work!"

Well, people rate you off their perception of your work, not your actual work. Sometimes this matches, sometimes it doesn't.

Does that mean to spend more hours in office per week?

Maybe. Some company cultures will say, "we evaluate based on performance (see how important goals are!)" but then a large part of it is how long you are in the office.

Again, it's perception which matters. This will vary by company and even person within each company.

Does that mean to try and ask for more responsibilities(read, as leading new initiatives) outside my current scope? That, is being all the more VISIBLE. Is it ?

One interesting thing you can do is after setting yearly goals, perhaps 1/3 of the way through the process, ask your manager, "hi, I am on pace to hit my performance goals for this year and was wondering what it would take to increase my performance from XXX to YYY. I was thinking (suggest idea) - what do you think?" Those then get incorporated into #3 through #5 above.

  • 10
    "Well, people rate you off their perception of your work, not your actual work." This could not be more true. That was hard for me to come to terms with fresh out of college. – Jacob Schoen Apr 4 '13 at 18:14
20

First step is to to ask your boss what it will take to get to the next level. By letting him know you want to perform at a higher level, you are letting him know you are serious about improving.

Actual steps may depend on what he tells you, but here are some generalities to think about.

Performance evaluation is highly political even where they use an "Objective" rating system. If you want the highest evaluations, you have to play the political game to some extent. Your boss won't rate you highest unless you have given him reason to believe you are highest. It is not up to him, but up to you, to make sure he is aware of your accomplishments through the year. Make sure he is aware of your accomplishments and make sure he is aware anytime someone compliments you in writing or mentions to you that you did well. If someone compliments your work, ask them to tell your boss.

Your boss is not the only person who has a say in your final rating or raise amount in most companies. Typically these things are decided in a meeting of all managers at a certain level and if the others have never heard of you, your chances of getting one of the coveted higher ratings is effectively 0. So here again, you need to make sure that managers above your immediate boss and managers in other parts of the organization are aware of your contributions. This is very hard to do when you are very junior and is one of the reasons why most outstanding ratings go to people who have interdepartmental contact as part of their job. Remember, there is a budget for raises and only so many can be rated at each level. Your boss can push for you, but he expends political capital in doing so, therfore you need to make sure he thinks you are worth doing so. If your boss is politically naive or not well thought of in the organization, your chances of getting a higher rating are also low. In this case, it is sometimes best to find a different boss either in the current organization or elsewhere.

Outstanding work is more than just doing your job. Almost everyone who is not fired is doing their job at an acceptable level. Things that can help you be perceived as outstanding include:

  • Actual accomplishments and high quality work
  • Performing work faster or with fewer mistakes or both
  • Improving the company profits
  • Turning around a bad situation
  • Suggesting and selling ideas for process improvements
  • Implementing a successful process improvement
  • Finding a problem and fixing it before it is noticed by the client or customer or user.
  • Putting in extra time and effort to meet a deadline especially when others are not
  • Performing work of a job at a higher level than your curent title or in a different professional specialty
  • Taking on extra responsibilities that are not normally done by someone at your level. Being part of a special cross-functional project to do something in your organization is a huge plus.
  • Being the "go to" guy or expert on some important topic
  • Getting "attaboy" letters from clients
  • Getting company awards

There are also things you can do that will reduce your chances for a good performance appraisal:

  • Not keeping your boss informed
  • Trying to hide a problem rather than fix it (if there is a problem always tell your boss and tell him what your are doing to fix it, managers particularly hate to hear their are problems from above them or from their peers.)
  • Putting in the bare minimum
  • Not working all the hours a week that you are supposed to be there or fewer hours than everyone else
  • Missing deadlines
  • Poor quality work
  • Arguing decisions that have already been made
  • Ignoring directions to do things the way you want to even though you have been expressly told not to do things that way
  • Getting drunk at a company party
  • Annoying the CEO in any way shape or form
  • Not doing common tasks like timesheets without constant reminders from your boss
  • Anything that drives your particular boss crazy and makes him think about you negatively.
  • 2
    This is a great answer! – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 5 '13 at 12:49
  • I don't understand why we can't get drunk at company parties. Can we remove that one from the list please? – nardnob Jun 29 '17 at 22:24
  • @nardnob, getting drunk at company parties is a quick way to end up fired or minimized in the company. It shows bad judgement. People do things they don't normally when drunk and say things they shouldn't or make passes at other employees or even get in fights. It is irresponsible to get drunk at a company party. – HLGEM Jun 30 '17 at 14:09
  • Okay I agree we shouldn't be getting drunk. Maybe we can get a slight buzz though? – nardnob Jun 30 '17 at 17:09
  • My personal rule is no more than 2 low alcohol level drinks like beer or wine or 1 drink of hard liquor like whiskey over the course of an event. If you are an alcoholic and can't stop after 1-2, then you should stick to soft drinks for the whole event. – HLGEM Jun 30 '17 at 18:00
6

Well you have already taken the first step, you have acknowledged that you have room for improvement. Where to go from here.

First go to your manager and ask what specific things he/she would like to see you improve in. Any decent manager should be able to give you at least a few tangible items you can improve at, no matter how awesome an employee is.

Second, do some self reflection. You said your colleagues got a better review/raise than you. What did your colleagues do over the past review period that you did not? Be honest with your self, on this. For example, are they more knowledgeable than you in your field? Then spend some time outside of work to further educate yourself.

Lastly, and this is the biggest, speak up. No matter how good you are, if you do not speak up, you will more than likely be overlooked. The more vocal individuals are generally seem as the leaders and experts of a group, whether they are/should be or not. In meetings, make sure your throw ideas out there, even if they are not used in the end, it shows you are trying.

  • I feel "Speaking up" is the most important. I've seen people who are not competent enough in their work but just because they can speak up - they survive and thrive, and sometimes get better reviews than others. – R11G Apr 4 '13 at 18:24
5

While I can admire the desire to be the best, be careful how you measure this and what does this look like. For some, it is all about money and thus other perks may not count as much though for others this may be more important as things like time off could be seen as more valuable in a sense. Others may see it being about specific skills though this does mean knowing which skills count. Do people skills count as much as technical skills? Does it matter how much of this is a popularity contest or is it just the work being done?

Spending more time in the office could work or it could backfire. I'd suggest asking your manager how he perceives the time you do spend in the office. Is it good or would it be better to be around a bit more? This is a bit of a fishing expedition since there could be rules around how many hours one can work and whether or not you'd be getting into unpaid overtime if you spent too much time in the office. Some places may see it as acceptable though if your performance is already good this may not make you great just because you put in long hours though some places may reward this kind of behavior. If you do go down this road, consider how hard it may be to reverse this trend if you want more time for family, hobbies or something else.

Asking for more responsibilities may be useful in trying to step up though I'd rephrase this as, "What do you want me to do to become an intermediate developer?" or whatever language you want to use for that next step in the career path. Know what are the criteria for the next promotion here and focus there.

Visibility can cut both ways. If you try to push new projects that fail, you could be seen as a troublemaker. Alternatively, if you are always seen as someone with something new for people to try without researching it thoroughly that could also backfire upon you. Sometimes it can be good to be on a big project though if it doesn't deliver a good result, that can be interesting to see how it is taken.

I'd say it means interacting deeper with your manager. What great business value are you delivering all the time. I know I wouldn't want to tell my boss every little thing I do as it would drive him nuts. "I turned on my PC," "I'm opening Visual Studio," "I'm opening Windows Explorer to update the code," "I'm updating the code," I'm compiling," would be a lot of things to say over and over that don't really add value just noise. Consider how when you do talk to your manager, you have some tangible result, get some feedback and move onto the next work item.

How well do you know the big picture of what the company does? How well do you know what kind of value you could add in doing various tasks? What kinds of ideas could you present to help the team do better? These are where I'd look and see what is happening. There are probably more than a few areas where things could be done better though I would suggest looking at that performance review to see what areas did you come up as less than great and see if you could work on those areas first.

  • +1 for "I'd suggest asking your manager how he perceives the time you do spend in the office." – Joshua Drake Apr 4 '13 at 19:28
  • Presenteeism is never a good idea – Neuro Apr 5 '13 at 10:55
5

Productivity in an office can vary wildly. One developer can literally be worth ten times as much to the business as another, yet only be paid twice as much. Even allowing for overhead, I would be thrilled if all my staff became top performers - I would get more benefit from it than they would, and they would be very happy with the benefit they were getting.

The two things you need to know are:

  • your boss WANTS you to excel, exceed, and be great. Perhaps even more than you do yourself
  • only your boss KNOWS what will be great for you to do.

You're thinking "should I work longer hours?" and in some offices, the answer is yes. In your office? How could I know? How could anyone? Even if you're observing your buddy working long hours and getting a good review, correlation is not causation - his success might be tied to something unrelated.

Here's what worries me about your question. A review is supposed to be a two-way conversation. Here's how you did over the last year, and what I want you to do next year. And you said about this:

I already did that. However, I didn't feel it relevant to add to the question

You have to listen to your manager about your performance. That is who knows what you are judged against in that job. And you didn't listen. You don't know what your manager wants from you. You are headed to a worse review next year.

Tell your manager you want a half-hour meeting. Apologize and say "I am unclear, from my review meeting, what I should be doing to improve my review." Then LISTEN, take notes, and echo back to make sure you understand it. You should have a list of just three things to focus on. They could be anything: I've told employees to be more generous, to work harder, to write better documentation and emails, to learn specific languages or skills, to adopt a to-do management system so stuff gets done, to be more interruptible, to interrupt others less, and dozens of other things. I've never told anyone to work unpaid overtime. But I'm not your manager. There is no subsitute for asking your manager.

4

1) Confirm with your boss what you believe the situation is ("Based on my salary increase, I think you see me as an average performer rather than a top performer. Is that correct?") This is important because he may have had a smaller budget than the supervisors of your other friends - you don't know the specifics yet. Drill in. Be sure you both have the same understanding of where you rank, even if you disagree.

2) Tell your boss, "if you're unsatisfied, I'm unsatisfied." Tell him, "I want to be a top performer." Be clear and unambiguous! Some people just shilly shally around performance discussions - don't be one of them! Tell him this is important to you!

3) Ask your boss, what three things can I accomplish in the next 12 months that will move me from an average performer to a top performer. ASK! He will tell you what you need to do. He wants you to succeed. If possible, set even shorter term goals, and ask for coaching and feedback on a regular basis.

4) Moving forward, as you work towards these 3 goals, keep him posted on your progress. See if there are any course corrections needed, and try to get these sooner rather than later. As you accomplish each goal, tell him in writing, reminding him, "At my last performance review, this is what I committed to doing; now, it has been accomplished" with details and specifics.

Good luck! You can do it!

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