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In our company, we have a yearly performance review with the department manager (software department). Our team lead supplies the department manager with his opinion and data, and who then decides whether we get a raise or not. Our team lead is new to the company. He has been on board for a little over a year. I've been on the team for just under a year, but with the company for longer than him.

I've heard of at least 3 team members who were taken by surprise by a negative review. Over the course of the year, they've asked him for feedback about their performance and every time he said it was fine. They got official warnings during their reviews and are obviously on their way to be fired. I know at least one is on a PIP. I'm on a scrum team with these people and I believe they are doing fine.

I've also asked about my performance. I got the same response. He said I was performing fine, that it wasn't perfect, but that was to be expected of a junior. Now I'm getting a tad worried. I do not trust him anymore. How can I deal with a team lead who says I'm doing fine, even if that is not the case? I've already put my CV out there, but I do not plan to leave my job before I have a new one lined up.

GOAL: How can I and my colleagues protect ourselves from this team lead?

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    Can you explain what function your team lead has? There is no team lead in Scrum, so I wonder what they actually do and how they can judge your work. – nvoigt Sep 9 at 9:34
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    I guess then it's extra weird. I would have understood if they were actively developing as well, so they can see your code and judge what you made out of requirements. I see the need for a "manager" job that handles the bureaucracy, but that person is unsuited to handle your professional growth or lack thereof. – nvoigt Sep 9 at 9:48
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    I undeleted my question, because I really need an answer to this. My job depends on it. I don't care how rude people here are being with their downvotes. Whoever close voted: how does this question not have a goal? There, I bolded it and made it caps. – Cyonis Sep 10 at 8:36
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    How many members are on your team? 3 of 30 being taken by surprise is different from 3 of 5. – nvoigt Sep 10 at 8:53
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    I remember at one company when I had to fill out reviews and management made a big deal about wanting reviews that contained not only good things but also areas of improvement so 'training ideas' could be identified and provided to the proper people. So I did as requested and gave good reviews for everyone but also had areas of improvement suggestions. Guess which part of my reviews were ignored and which parts ended up in the manager's final review? Yep, all the good things I said were ignored. Maybe your lead ran into the same problem. I no longer write anything remotely negative in reviews. – Dunk Sep 11 at 20:52
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Generally speaking, when somebody says something to you and then talks to somebody else and you get totally blindsided, make sure you have your conversation in writing. Ask your questions in writing. If the reply is verbally, sum it up and write it down again in a mail that you send to the person in question. Pretend it's to make sure you got it right. Who knows, maybe you actually didn't and it was an honest mistake. Either way, you now have a (e-)paper trail.

There is nothing to win for your team lead to threaten people. So I'd look for explanations where you don't need to "protect" yourself from your team lead.

I have been in situations like that before, where I was said team lead. I was happy with a developer. He did an okay job. It wasn't super great, but it was solid work. I told him I was happy with his work and to improve some minor details. 2 months later I told my boss that the guy was doing a solid job. Not great, but good. Only then I was told that he was supposed to be the rockstar programmer that singlehandedly achieves feats of greatness. And he was paid that way. Well, what can I say. I never got to look at his payslip or the expectations that management had before that day. For me he was a solid, normal developer guy that I never had problems with, for the manager he was an under-performing, overpaid source of frustration. Because the manager had information that I did not have, a relation between his output and his price. I had to agree. For that pricetag, it wasn't good enough. I'm not saying that that is necessarily what happened with your teamlead. But it is what can happen if you don't have the full picture (and teamleads seldom do). Performance is not an absolute value, it's always relative to something and your team lead and your manager may have different scales.

Since you mentioned you are a junior, I think there is little you have to fear in that direction. You don't know what the expectation is regarding the other folks, just wait your turn for your talk. There is nothing you can do now to protect you anyway. That would be a lesson learned for the next cycle.

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Well, if somebody (or the business) wants to get rid of you, there is really not much that can save you, though it's somewhat unlikely the team lead is conspiring to get rid of (at least) 4 employees. You shouldn't assume a PIP is the first step on the way to getting rid of an employee.

Also, don't discount the possibility that the team lead thought the team was going well, then management has indicated that team performance has not been good enough, and now the team leader is trying to improve performance across the board.

If you want be protected as much as possible, you need to try to have written documentation around your goals. Your performance goals need to be SMART. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria)

Which means to say, they must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-related

Then, obviously, you need to make sure you meet these goals.

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This was going to be a comment. But there aren't enough characters for what I want to say.

If you have 15 people, and 3 are on "report" with 5 reviews left uncompleted, there's a real problem either with leaders who are ineffectively leading, or with the corporate finances and a large reduction is being planned.

In addition to getting projects done, a team leader is also responsible for ensuring that all members of the team are performing to the best of their ability. And yet, with 2/3rds of the reviews done, 20% of the overall team are underperformers.

It could be that the company is trying to weed out underperformers, or just cut costs. We can't tell you the answer to that question.

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