The idea of being an at-will employee scares me since I am the breadwinner for my family. Recently I received some wrongfully objective lower scores in an evaluation which could impact my annual pay raise, but also my overall performance at the company. I brought my concerns to my manager who disagreed and is sending to his manager for review.

My concern is that by fighting for an appropriate evaluation score I am making myself a target for termination in a company where complacency seems to be valued over capability. And that there would be no recourse for me to act on if terminated because I disagreed with my evaluation.

Is it safer/better for me to just keep my mouth shut and take whatever is thrown my way even if it affects my ability to move up in the company or get raises?

(Fun fact: I once had a supervisor advise me not to give the department negative scores on a survey because too many would make the department look bad unnecessarily).

  • How long have you been on this new company? – DarkCygnus Feb 12 at 21:45
  • Just over 2 years. – Jeremy Feb 12 at 21:49
  • Have you noticed or you suspect about any possible differences between this and your last review? I suppose on your last review you did good, and now you did worse than last year and are wondering... – DarkCygnus Feb 12 at 21:50
  • I improved from my last review, but as an objective review I could see that there were areas that I scored higher. My manager did not take into consideration certain aspects of my review wrongly. As an employee on paper I am excellent, but I am fearful that my willingness to push for "career advancement" is causing abrasion that will ultimately lead to termination. It may be unfounded fears as I haven't got any verbal or written warnings, however these are not required in an at-will position. I am concerned that these actions I am taking end in me being terminated at-will without cause. – Jeremy Feb 12 at 21:56

Consider that at will works in both directions. If your employer doesn't like you, they can get rid of you (as long as it's not for something protected, like age, race, etc). Similarly, if you're unhappy with your employer, you're totally free to go work elsewhere without repercussions.

Of course, reality is often more complicated than that, but it can be freeing to remind yourself of this truth. People are sometimes afraid of job changes (whether they were voluntary or not), but a change from an employer where you were clearly not a good fit can be a good thing.

That said, to get back to your actual question,

Should I fight for appropriate evaluations with an at-will employer?

Unfortunately, we can't answer that: it depends on how much you care about receiving appropriate evaluations. You're right, "fighting" for a different evaluation may put a target on your back. But that's really true regardless of the fact that you're in an at-will state: it would just be a different target if you weren't.

Also, since your complaint seems to center on performance reviews, it may be helpful to actively engage in the feedback you're receiving, even if you disagree with it at first pass:

  • Can your boss give you specific, objective pointers on how you can show improvement in the future?
  • Are there things you may actually be able to learn about yourself from this feedback?

Even when you're sure you're right about an incorrect performance evaluation, it doesn't hurt to ask these things as a gut check.

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You are ambitious and want to advance. That is good. Most companies like it when employees want to take more responsibility.

Instead of "fighting" for your advancement, I suggest you ask for advice. "What can I do to prepare myself for more responsibilities here at Initrode?"

If you can find a mentor who is not your manager, that might be helpful. A mentor can help you navigate your company's culture. Your manager also might be able to give you some helpful advice.

Keep in mind that most people love being asked for advice.

But you should be willing to hear that your chances of advancement in your company are not good. In that case, it's resume time.

Also keep in mind that almost everybody is an employee at will, and that it's expensive and time-consuming for companies to replace and train competent people. They won't sack you for being ambitious, unless the company's culture is really broken.

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If capability isn't valued and you feel yourself capable, then you should start to look for other employment opportunities. whatever comes out of the current situation, this company seems to be a bad fit for you in the long run.

Do whatever keeps you employed while searching for a company that's capability-driven, there are many of them out there. Good luck!

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