Within the last month I have just left a very comfortable position working with nice people in a nice place. It was nice.

My issue was that of complacency. I felt that goals were not being well established at all levels in the business. It worked well for the company. They were profitable but it didn't gel well with that attitude. I like to constantly push the upper limit of productivity.

I was pushed over the edge when I received only a 4 (out of 5) in most categories in my performance review. I asked What I should do to get a 5 and the only goal I was given was working extra hours. This seems unreasonable as I was exceeding what was asked of me already (it was even noted in the review). So I left. I don't want rubbish targets interfering with my career progression.

With background out of the way, what should actually be expected to get the top level in your performance review.

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    The top level in your performance review is, was and should be the "stretch goal", i.e. >120%. How could you fairly rank overachievers otherwise?
    – Andreas
    Jul 12, 2013 at 11:42
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    @JoeStrazzere I got that result in my reviews but had no pay increase for 3 years running. I wanted one but they couldn't tell me how to achieve it; was I at the top of my grade? It is an SME with no grades in place. I'm interested in identifying a good process and ensuring that my performance reviews are handled properly by myself and my future boss(es).
    – Gusdor
    Jul 12, 2013 at 13:32
  • Its all linked.
    – Gusdor
    Jul 12, 2013 at 14:09
  • This is extremely individual to line managers and workplaces. Such systems carry inherent biases. You could perhaps rephrase your question to look at traits in a particular role which would be associated with 'good' performance or perhaps describe your role in a way where people might help advise on your personal development plan. May 20, 2018 at 1:18

3 Answers 3


When I do annual Performance Reviews, I don't like to have any surprises. For me, if my team isn't able to fairly accurately predict how their review will go, then we haven't communicated well enough in the preceding year.

what should actually be expected to get the top level in your performance review.

The only person who can realistically answer this question is your boss. The fact that you didn't know the answer indicates a failing in the communications between you and your boss. And the blame for that is split between the two of you.

Next time, talk with your boss on a regular basis. Learn her/his expectations. Ask regularly "How am I doing?" If you don't already know, ask "What do I need to do to get a top level performance review?"

And based on the comments, it seems your job expectations differ from your former company's expectations. These are things you want to try hard to discern before accepting your next position. Ask lots of questions while interviewing. If you are looking to avoid a job that expects overtime, ask about that up front. That will give you the best chance to avoid getting into the same expectation mismatch next time.

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    As I said in the question. I asked my boss following the review and was told to put more hours in. As a salaried employee, overtime is unpaid and imo should only be expected in an emergency.
    – Gusdor
    Jul 12, 2013 at 13:26

You can only get the top level in your performance review if you and the reviewer both agree/understand what it takes. It helps if this can be objectively measured. Hopefully, you're getting feedback along the way. Even for an annual review process, wouldn't it be nice to have known the first 3 months you were only getting a 4. Or maybe you were getting a 5, but slipped the next quarter.

The review process is a formality and a game. The mysterious bonus is dangled in front of you for 12 months in hopes you'll continue to strive and at best, not leave the company until that period is over.

You could have been the victim of No one gets all 5's - one can only imagine the ridiculous logic applied here. Are the goals set so high? Nobody is perfect? If you get a perfect score, there's incentive for you to do better or you'll always expect it.

Can't remember where I heard it, but if you want to increase the effectiveness of the annual review process, do it every 2 years. Amazing how prevelent this absolute waste of time is (And we want governments to act more like businesses?).

  • 'No one gets a 5' is indeed strange. I would prefer 'no one gets five twice'. If you exceed your goals one year, raise the bar. Offer a salary/bonus carrot-on-a-stick.
    – Gusdor
    Jul 12, 2013 at 13:38
  • I got all 5s one year. It actually annoyed me because I'm not perfect and I knew that anything I did the next year would look worse. The next year I had a new boss who worried greatly that he couldn't justify giving me such a review again (I still got an excellent review), imagine his surprise when I agreed with him immediately that the previous review was skewed and that I wasn't upset.
    – HLGEM
    Jul 12, 2013 at 15:09
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    @gusdor, raise the bar if you get a 5 is silly. If it was excellent perfornace this year it is still excellent performance next year. People can only stetch so much before they break and by raising teh bar, you are giving a disincentive to good perfomance. If teh reward for excellent work is to be considerd mediocre for doing the same thing the next year, how is that helpful?
    – HLGEM
    Jul 12, 2013 at 15:11

What seems most obvious to me is that the employer couldn't afford the raise, the manager was told not to give you one, so the review was watered down to keep you from getting one. That being true, leaving was a good idea, however going to work for another corporate entity is likely to result in a similar experience.

People that work for larger companies, as opposed to on their own as freelancers, are in an implicit social contract: the company will pay you less than you're really worth in exchange for 'security'. This is only a matter of degree: 'security' is as long as they're making money and you're producing something of value - if either of those disappears so do you. Some of the profits go to stockholders or owners, but there are other hangers-on that help themselves to the pie - many of them are landlords and taxing agencies. In short, the money you should be making was spent instead on rent, utilities, and bureaucrats.

Rather than depending on your boss for an evaluation, find out how to measure your worth on the open market. How you do this depends on your occupational specialty: everyone's is different. Be ready to operate as a contractor if that's the only way to capture your value proposition. Often a company that doesn't 'own you' will agree to what you think is a fair rate if they get used to using your services and decide they want you full time.

  • +1 for outing the implicit "security" of a staff job. In many states in the U.S., you actually have more job protection as a contractor than you do as an employee. Jul 13, 2013 at 15:16
  • @JoeStrazzere - Why is an employer giving five star reviews without raises, as had happened twice before? Either the rave reviews are phony, or they're accurate but the employer overall, or at least the individual manager, is operating under some budgetary constraint. Someone that would hang on under such circumstances is someone that is only vaguely aware of their own worth, in this case quitting suggests the OP knows what he's worth and isn't getting it. Other reasons listed suggested that the organization is a poor fit for his overall talents. Jul 13, 2013 at 23:15
  • I tried to stay away from finance in this question because I was interested in goals as a means to better myself (financially, educationally) and the company. It turns out, the company couldn't afford a raise and they were transparent about it in my final review. So I knew the financial reward for my contribution was off the table but i still wanted to know how to get top marks.
    – Gusdor
    Jul 18, 2013 at 12:15

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