I started a job 8 months ago. The person who did it before was let go for performance issues. Before they chose me they spent 6 months looking for someone (while the previous guy was still there).

I found a total chaos - this was recognized by my boss. The company was missing the basics of my responsibility area. It's clear that the company is somewhat of a unicorn - most companies are much, much further advanced than mine when it comes to my field. (I think that's also a professional risk for me - the experience I'm gaining now will be obsolete at most other companies).

My boss summarized my role several times as that of a "cleaning lady" (after I started - I had no idea what the situation was before) and it was really it. I left no stone unturned. Several months later: I've fixed the main problems and created a clear roadmap for progressing further.

I'm not claiming the situation is "great". It's not. No one would have moved from an utter chaos to excellence in that time and under our conditions, but we are solid: the product quality grew a lot - as evidenced by the no. of issues reported, we even launched some new stuff, which wasn't to be expected, there are no emergencies, firefighting is mostly not needed anymore.

I worked incredible hours. My boss recognized my achievements several times, including in front of larger teams and his boss. Including beginning of this very week: after my presentation of my results, he stressed in front of 20+ people that "I'm too humble" and that I managed to move the area from "a huge disaster" to something functioning well in no time - "incredible achievement".

Just 24 hours later I had my performance review. We have 4 performance grades. I got the second worst one ("Meeting expectations"), with consequences for my yearly bonus and the maximum salary increase I can get this year.

Even worse: my boss didn't say anything positive about me. Instead, I was told I only fixed the basics and there's still a long way to go - he expected me to have implemented advanced projects although when I started the basic prerequisites were missing. My boss said I didn't do anything of impact. He said I wasn't with the company long enough for him to have trust in me and give me a better grade and that I worked too much and he didn't want to reward that. (He made me work so much).

He claimed I didn't deliver several deliverables which I most definitely did deliver (and have emails to prove it).

He also criticized that I solved some technical problems myself, which I shouldn't do as a manager. (I'm an IT manager with a non-technical background. We were facing horrible issues with a tool and had no budget to hire someone to fix them. Discussions about that - my trying to get the money - took months. Business impact was high - I constantly received emails from directors and the board asking when this will start working. At the end I learnt the technology in my unpaid time and solved the problems myself. They haven't reappeared).

At the same time he wants me to finish fixing everything. He proposed to "restart the clock", forget the past and for me to start as if I was completely new. He said the past was "closed" to him and didn't play any role anymore.

But I feel like an idiot for being so committed to trying to fix the disaster. I'm so demotivated I feel like giving my notice now. Can I do anything to still solve the situation or is quitting the only option? Finding a new job that pays the same or better salary won't take me more than 2-3 months, but I have made some good friends at the current job and don't feel like leaving if the situation is salvageable.

Update: I did what some of you recommended: I started documenting things. I wrote an email specifying the feedback I received during my performance review (I should do no overtime, no more jumping in solving technical problems, just delegating, etc.) as diplomatically as I could and stating that I'm eager to adjust to these expectations and that I already took steps to achieve that. I thanked profusely for the feedback.

Afterwards I received plenty of criticism on that from my boss (I'm "not a team player", I "lack communication skills", I don't react constructively to criticism, I should be more positive towards people).

I got a job offer today! 20% more money, a more prestigious company than my current one. They want me asap. It was easier than I expected! Still reflecting whether I should switch or not though.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 9:43

20 Answers 20


3 words: Get. Out. Now.

You said you came into the job and it was a total mess. In 8 months you turned it from a disaster zone into a functioning work environment; not a great one, but functioning. That's a HUGE accomplishment. You were given objective praise for that. The problem is, your boss "expected" something that wasn't really reasonable to "expect", and you "met expectations" which were way higher than they should have been. This is the sign of a boss who takes employees for granted; you will never "exceed expectations" with this boss (and get the bonus and salary increases associated), because this boss's "expectations" are to deliver the moon, which is impractical.

As far as your boss expecting you to work long hours and not rewarding you for it, that's unfortunately a sunk cost; you can't have those hours back. What you can do, however, is not give any additional hours going forward. Normally, I do not advocate for leaving at exactly 5 pm on the dot, even if you're in the middle of a meeting or writing a line of code, but in this case I do. Your manager has explicitly told you he does not want to reward/incentivize working overtime, and because your accomplishments required overtime work then he is not going to recognize them. So stop. For the remainder of the time you are at this company (see above and get out ASAP; it shouldn't be long), at the stroke of 5pm (or whenever your end-of-day is), your jacket is on, your bag is packed, and your foot is out the door, and make sure not to answer phone calls or emails from your manager during your off-hours; if you have those synced to your phone, delete the sync immediately (like, right now). If everything is on fire and the server is crashing and they need the fix today, it's somebody else's problem and not yours. If your manager asks you why you are not contributing, you should let him know that you want to adhere to company culture as much as possible and that working overtime is strictly discouraged, and that's that.

As for your boss saying you didn't deliver the deliverables he asked, that's known as gaslighting and is perhaps one of the most unprofessional behaviours that exist. You should make it known to HR that your manager is gaslighting you, and provide references. If your locale has Constructive Dismissal laws, you should keep those emails (that you did perform those tasks) after you leave the company in case you feel like launching a lawsuit against the company (seek legal counsel, IANAL, etc); those may be important evidence in court. You may also want to send your manager an email to confirm the gaslighting, so you have it in writing:

Hey <manager's name>,

As per our discussion earlier, you mentioned that I did not complete the tasks <A, B, C...> to your satisfaction, and that impacted your decision on my performance review. I would just like to confirm this is the case so I can improve my performance going forward.

(or something like this)

Basically the point is for you to get in writing that your manager did not respect your contribution, so you can throw that back in his face later if you decide to sue for Constructive Dismissal.

As for the trust issue: If your manager doesn't trust you after 8 months, he's not going to trust you. That means he's not going to give you more responsibility, promotions, and so on. Basically he's thrown you under the bus. You might want to keep this in the back of your mind and try to collect evidence on this as well, because this also could very much be evidence in Constructive Dismissal (the definition being "the company did not fire you but created an environment that was so hostile that you felt compelled to quit", which seems apt here). There's not a heck of a lot you can do about this, except for moving on.

  • 4
    I second this, if the OP plans on leaving (and I’d strongly consider it), document, document, document. From what they’ve said, there’s a slither of a possibility the manager may be teeing up a dismissal now that they think their problems have been solved — though a PIP would probably have been discussed if this were the case. Documentation gives you options, should anything untoward happen. Also, always be mindful of what you share with HR; in cases of dismissal/conflict their priority will always be to protect the company, not the employee lodging a complaint.
    – Greenstick
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 20:53
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    @overall Perhaps there was a reason your predecessor acted the way he did, and you're now learning that reason ;-)
    – Ertai87
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 16:00
  • Regarding the gaslightning - the manager may be taking (or want to take) the credit for the work OP has done. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 16:33

Can I do anything to still solve the situation before quitting?

Yes, by not trying to do anything.

My manager said I wasn't with the company long enough for him to have trust in me and give me a better grade and that I worked too much and he didn't want to praise that.

All signs of an incompetent manager. A manager should be able to find whether a new employee can be trusted or not based on the outcome the produced, and 8 months is not a short time. Moreover, your achievements speaks on behalf of you, so if just the work tenure trumps everything else - I feel it'll not be a pleasant experience going forward.

Quit sooner rather than later. From your narration, it looks like a very toxic work environment, where your efforts are not recognized and you're not valued. Find a workplace which at least honor and acknowledge your efforts.

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    @Helena YMMV, but actively denying the accomplishments is a red flag big enough for me. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 8:19
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    @Helena From my own experience, I regretted each and any case I didn't leave when that kind of alarm bell rang. each time I tried to fight such a discrepancy between the quality of the job and the performance review, I did hit a wall. Also a manager praising your work in front of everybody and being such a douche when it comes to actually reward the performance seems Toxic. Could be just a toxic manager, could be a toxic workplace, or even the terrible combination of both...
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 11:03
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    This sounds worse than incompetent. It sounds like the company is trying to manipulate/abuse OP into working like crazy for little pay. "Please clean up our mess", "wow you've done so good!", "you didn't deliver on all expectations--work harder". My guess is that a good performance review may well always be just out of reach no matter how much OP helps the company, because OP was hired to be exploited. They've already seen that OP will jump in to clean up their incompetent mess, working long underpaid hours. They won't likely stop unless OP leaves or stands up for themselves.
    – bob
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 15:47
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    I just want to add that a GlassDoor/Google review is needed :)
    – Skelethos
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 11:41
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    @bob It's a dumb strategy because hiring is expensive and you lose a lot of productivity bringing a new employee up to speed (both because that new employee can't work efficiently yet and other people spend time bringing them up to speed). But some companies are so broken that they can't operate efficiently. The earliest warning sign is poor work/life balance and pressure to do unreasonable amounts of work. Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 23:35

I had my performance review yesterday. We have 4 performance grades. I got the second worst one ("Meeting expectations"), with consequences for my yearly bonus and the maximum salary increase I can get this year.

I'd like to add that this is a common tactic of a bad company that doesn't care about their employees. The fact that they never told you of any shortcomings and then only bring up negativities during a performance review, which blocks you from getting a raise or promotion, tells me that you should leave the company when you can.

At my last company, I had a similar situation. All year they would praise/commend me of a good job then performance review time suddenly a lot of strange/unheard of issues. When asked why they don't bring it up or why they praised my work, I just got the remark that the boss can share whatever opinion he wants. My thought is the boss is worried that he might seem incompetent if he is giving too much credit to his workers and it would be a lot harder to deny a promotion with plausible reasons.

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    I second this, this looks like a classical "compliments to motivate you going on cleaning the mess, but bad review because we don't want to pay you much anyway (to the point of lying about results if necessary)". Many things in the question are red flags to me, and I personally would not hesitate to let know why when I quit (but not before to avoid troubles, we don't know exactly how the previous guy left). The OP doesn't give much details about the job, but one can even imagine that the mess was made on purpose because the previous employee noted how was the management and acted accordingly..
    – Kaddath
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 15:47
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    Why not just give everyone a truthful review but miniscule raise, citing company finances or some other factor? The cost is the same but the employees are slightly less likely to feel you're lying to their faces.
    – stannius
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 19:14
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    @stannius if you tell them they're really great but you can't afford to pay them properly, they'll just be encouraged to quit and find somewhere that pays better. Hurting their self-esteem instead makes them less likely to be confident enough to find another job!
    – Carcer
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 19:57
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    @stannius Because that leaves a paper trail which arms the employee with a good review. In OP's case it is more difficult to pin down. They have to argue against something as vague as "Meets expectations" and presumably the mention of missed deliverables was communicated by word-of-mouth only.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 1:46
  • @stannius As others said, it's a way to keep you onboard. It works out for their benefit for two ways. 1) Negative feedbacks always have a lasting effect. By saying you're not good enough, you'll just start to think that because finding a new job is already hard. 2) By not giving you a raise, you're locked into your current pay rate plus the usual 2% yearly raise. Eventually your margin of pay vs what is good in your area grows substantially enough that you cannot find a equal job at above pay thus making you unwilling to leave. It's best to leave ASAP as soon as you see this behavior.
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 18:08

I'm trying to rationalize what your boss has in mind. However, if you say:

I worked incredible hours. My boss recognized my achievements several times, including in front of larger teams and his boss.

But, after a grading such as

second worst one grade ("Meeting expectations"), with consequences for my yearly bonus and the maximum salary increase I can get this year.

and you being

told that you only fixed the basics and there's still a long way to go. You wasn't with the company long enough for him to have trust in you and give "a better grade" and that you worked too much and he didn't want to praise that.

I can safely say that you've been very badly mistreated. His praise to your achievements had taken a turn, they don't match between spoken word and written grade. He gave the impression of a "good boss" that takes care to praise his subordinates, but he thought to give a bad evaluation in the privacy of a grade.

This behavior is deeply unprofessional, and it is nothing less than slimy.

Moreover, after all that he has still the guts to tell you that

he wants me to finish fixing everything. "restart the clock", forget the past and for me to start as if I was completely new.

This seals the deal of a truly bad manager, he's just using you.

The situation cannot be "solved" without you explicitly (and rightfully) present this issue to his boss, keeping a written record of his unprofessional behaviour. However, it is highly improbable that you will keep a healthy relationship with your boss after this, as I've known too many people that take such criticism as "betrayal".

So, I wholeheartedly suggest you to leave ASAP, and:

  • do not work even a second more than your contract states,
  • keep the relation with your boss as professional as possible until your leave,
  • you don't owe him any motivation or justification for your leave,
  • after giving the notice, I would report his behavior to HR anonymously, with written proof if possible.
  • 1
    That sums it up amazingly
    – Strader
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 18:00
  • 1
    @Strader It was also very clearly stated, I felt natural to just use the direct quotes. Moreover, this hits close to home
    – TheVal
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 20:06
  • i know what you mean. in my opinion over half of people here have the same story to some degree
    – Strader
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 18:42

The description of your predicament is very common. Nearing the later stages of my work life, I can confirm what others have already suggested - this is a toxic work environment. The indicators are clear, and for some reason people are dismissing them.

  1. The previous person created a bad environment that, on top of you "job description", you are required to improve and rectify. This is NOT your responsibility - others will say it is, but did the job advertisement specifically state this? Of course not, no-one would apply if they knew they had to do more than the role they were employed for.
  2. Excessive hours is always a sign that you are in a toxic work environment. I want to explain this one. I have worked in many different company's and work environments. I have had work environments where the company scheduling and teamwork ensured people could achieve amazing things in a very short time, and during their appropriate work hours. These are good company's. Just because other companies (many others) think its ok to work people horribly, does not make it something you have to put up with.
  3. Your efforts were recognized multiple times. Reward for extending above the role criteria you applied for. Remember, this is important. You applied for a role that did not state "you have to help fix this company". It is the responsibility of the company to provide an effective environment for you to achieve your best results. If you are busy rectifying company problems, then you are already 1 step behind - this is a major red flag.
  4. Pay. You deserve extra pay for extra work. Again, reflect upon the job role that you applied for. Did you do more than what was listed in the requirements? And then some? I suspect so.

When you are young, its very easy for managers and companies to take advantage of you. These types of situations are usually about keeping someone who is actually doing well, in that place so that the company benefits more without paying any more. You are saving them large sums of money. Consider the 6 months of hiring time, and imagine if they have to do that again when you are gone? You are their cash cow at the moment - move on.

Finally, dont think companies like this are "fixable". They are not, that is not their intent, they are there to grab cash as much as possible and long term outlook is not their priority. These places are common, and toxic. I hope you find a great workplace, they are out there.. and when you find them, you will see how marked the difference is.


Let's just review. The company was in chaos when you arrived. The company doesn't seem to recognize good work or effort.

Unfortunately there isn't much you can do except move on. Trying to raise this will not end well for you. Don't mention it on your exit interview either, don't try to help them out because it won't help you.

At least next time you can hopefully recognize the warning signs before joining a new company.


No need to add on previous answers about why you should leave.

I think after hearing any criticism from a boss for any reason, good or bad, you should pose a single question:

"What do you believe i should do, or should have done differently, to be worthy of the raise/bonus/respect/appreciation?"

This puts them in a position that would either reveal to you something you were truly blind to, or to lie.

It will put you in a better position that you were prior to asking, regardless of their response.


There's plenty of good answers here, but I want to serve a warning. You are being baselined so that you can be easily terminated. The review has nothing to do with you, it has to do with the company's internal financials, which are likely dire. These guys are all trying to keep their options open as they decide when and how to abandon ship, with the slimmest of hopes that won't be needed. If you don't find another job, they will likely fire you after the next review anyway; don't hesitate.


Can I do anything to still solve the situation before quitting?

Yes, you need to speak to your manager.

Assuming that your manager is not purposely giving you a low score to avoid bonuses or something else, there is clearly a lack of communication and/or misunderstanding between the two of you.

If your manager is claiming that certain deliverables have not been met but you believe that they have then you need to identify exactly what your manager wants you to prioritize. You need to have a clear and specific list of achievable goals within the company, not simply "clean up the mess".

Set up a meeting with your manager and make sure you work with him to identify all of the areas that he wants you to work on. Make sure that you ask and confirm with him which areas require the greatest priority. After that, work on the identified goals and hopefully your next review will be positive.


One thing that none of the other answers addressed is that there very much might be a mismatch between what the OP thought his role was (and how success was defined) and what their boss's expectations were.

I'm not claiming that the other answers, which all seem to think that the work place is "bad" or the manager is "incompetent" or "gaslighting" are incorrect - I have no way to know, and if we take the OP's description as fact those are fair conclusions - I'm just pointing out that there is an alternative take on this.

The OP stated that their boss "criticized that I solved some technical problems myself, which I shouldn't do as a manager.". I could very much imagine a situation where the OP was brought in to fix a mess, and their boss expected the OP to do so as a manager.

In this scenario, the OP's manager would have expected that the OP would fix the mess by: changing the composition of the team (hiring, firing, promoting and reorganizing); providing the team with the appropriate training; creating and enforcing policies and procedures; delegating the actual work; and finally validating the quality of the work.

Instead the OP "worked incredible hours" on his/her own, and single-handedly cleaned up the immediate mess. While the OP's manager is happy that the department is no longer a "disaster" and thought this accomplishment was worthy of public praise (especially to the upper management), their expectations weren't met. From the manager's point-of-view, the OP "didn't do anything of [lasting] impact" because the root underlying issues which created the disaster haven't been addressed.


This type of management style exist, and, slowly, fades away.

You should chalk it out to an experience. being taken advantage of and move on.

Do your bare minimum required, if you not paid for extra hours, stop doing them

Do not stay with this employer longer than it takes to land your next job, get anything your current employer still owe you (bonus, raise etc) and run

P.S. Whatever you did for them, I would not expect a great reference

  • 2
    This would be one of the situations, where I would say, to be honest about the reasons you are leaving during a exist interview.
    – Donald
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 7:31
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    @Donald` i would not suggest to mention anything tangible / actionable In the exit interview. Standard blah-blah like personal reasons, opportunities exploration etc. Good luck and please keep us posted :)
    – Strader
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 17:54
  • 1
    I hate double sided bosses. I absolutely would point to the unfair performance review as my reason for leaving.
    – Donald
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 18:35
  • @Donald What does it matter if he doesn't care? People aren't stupid. They know what they're doing and they know why you're leaving. If you need to do it for your own personal satisfaction go ahead, but I think it would be wishful thinking to believe it's going to have an future impact on their behaviour.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 19:03
  • Truer words were nether spoken :)
    – Strader
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 19:07

There is probably a good reason why the place was a huge mess when you arrived. Assuming your description of the events is accurate, there's nothing for you to be gained from staying. You can find a comparable job elsewhere, and staying on will only lead to:

  1. Your manager taking you for granted because you put up with this kind of treatment the first time
  2. More sabotage and weird treatment as time goes on (things like that don't happen randomly, there's more where that came from)
  3. You having a harder time quitting because the time between the obvious cause and you quitting will only get longer and the message sent will get weaker
  4. You constantly second-guessing yourself and getting further demoralised, because let's face it, you won't believe you will be reviewed fairly the second time around
  5. You likely being let go just like the person before you, except that will happen on a timeline outside of your control and without you knowing it's coming

Your time and energy is an important resource that the company is bargaining for when they hire you. If they sabotage that, then as long as you're not trapped in that workplace for financial or other reason, there's no reason to reward bad behaviour by continuing to work for them. Use the fact that you can pick and choose and treat yourself the way you deserve, especially if the company won't. If you made real friends at work, you can stay in touch with them. If the place is as bad as you describe, they will probably have no qualms about leaving if presented with a better opportunity. I don't know where you're located and the details of your termination notice and/or non-compete clauses, but I'd recommend either turning in your notice if you have a termination period, or if you don't, starting a job search immediately and quitting as soon as is practical (which might be now or the moment you accept an offer, depending on your financial situation). You can always try to recruit the coworkers you enjoy working with to another company if you find one that treats you better.


The Motivation of your Boss

I intend to highlight the following point: This manager never had any intention of paying out the bonus to the new guy - i.e. you.

This is a common tactic, even before COVID19 times. Obviously you met all set goals and went above and beyond. It is hard to imagine, that your manager did not recognize, that you:

  • Achieved all goals that were set for you
  • Worked abnormally high hours in order to do so
  • Were able to not merely repair the existing project and bring it up to speed, but even started advancing it

These aspects leave two points of view. Either your boss is well aware of this and merely reprimanded you during the review, in order to not pay your bonus and rejecting a raise, or they have absolutely no idea what is going on in their projects. Given their verbal praise of your work I find the former view more likely.

How to proceed

First of all, don't overvalue having made friends in a company. Yes, this is a large part of the work environment, however you can find this in most companies. Unless management actively poisons the social relations between coworkers, which I have seen only once in my personal experience in the companies I have been in, chances are there will be people you get along with. And if not, as a complete newcommer it is still easy to jump ship and retry.

The most important point - and I cannot stress this enough - these types of character do not change. Ever. @Aaron F pointed this out and this is a 100% true. I have experienced two such managers in my lifetime. You are fooling yourself if you believe that next year you can perform even better and then get the recognition you want and that it is reflected in your paycheck. This simply never happens and such managers are capable of putting pressure on you and make you believe that it will. This is also likely to become something you take home with you everyday - you do not want that.

Proceed to do your assigned work, but throw all the extra effort out the window. Especially extensively long hours, even more so if those are not paid.

Obviously as you are doing so, start looking for a company. You do not seem to be in trouble, so take the time you need to find a suitable match.

Good luck!


I have previously answered this question, but I have received a lot of mixed feedback +11/-12, that made me realise didn't bring my point across very well and ignore a lot of points OP was making. Instead of editing my old answer, I think it makes more sense to present a new take on the answer.

First of all, you have all right to be angry and disappointed. You have worked your ass off beyond what was in your contract, got good feedback during the year and your performance score was above average. A good manager would have recognized the amount of ambition you have and given you proper feedback on how to reach an exceeding performance score, during the year instead of surprising you with a mediocre review. You have reason enough to quit over this.

However, I think you should not, at least not immediately. And here is why:

I don't think your manager has to have been a sociapath or in any way malicious in this situation, to act the way he did. The manager not being a good manager or just having a lot of time to manage you (which effectively make him a bad manager), would explain all of this. In my experience poor middle managers are the rule and not the exception. You might be justified to leave your manager, but chances are that you will find yourself in a very similar situation in your next job, or the one after.

So what should you do?

Don't work so hard, it clearly isn't appreciated and working harder isn't a good way to scale up your impact. Optimistically you can spend mayne 1.5x to 2x more time on your job, so you will only do so much more by working more. You want to have 10x-100x as much impact, by working smarter. If you have some extra energy after working hours invest those to improve yourself. Read books about skills that will help you in this job, or in the next job

Start managing upwards. Your manager didn't do a great job, and that impacted you more than him. Be aware that your relationship with your manager is a two way road and you can (and should) take control of it as he can. You can define performance goals for the quarter and define what exceeds expectations at the beginning of the year, you can ask for specific feedback and you can make sure to take notes of your conversation and remind your manager of what you agreed on frequently. You can start by giving feedback on how you are disappointed by the outcome of the performance review, and what you would have expected from him. Agree on a way forward, and make it clear that you expect to be exceeding expectations the next performance cycle. Specifically ask whether you are exceeding expectations in regular intervals. People react differently to their reports being so upfront, but what do you have to lose?

Get more sources of feedback. You are not dependent on your manager alone to get feedback. You can ask your peers and stakeholders, it is likely that that is where your manager gets his opinion from anyways. When managers give you feedback during the year, it is usually spontanous and based on their own observations, but when it comes to the official performance evaluation the manager might ask other people you worked with for their feedback and this might change your managers perception on your work and unfortunately will give you a performance score that does not match your managers feedback during the year. You can preempt this by getting feedback from your peers during the year. Ask them whether they think you are doing an outstanding job, and whether there is something you could do better. If all your peers and stakeholders agree that you are doing a great job, your manager is likely to give you a great score.

If none of that works, or you get the feeling that the problem really is the company and it cannot be helped you still can quit and nothing is lost. In the contrary you will have had the chance to gain valuable experience in career management, that you can use in your next job.


To add to the already good answers, I think the other thing which you can learn from this experience is that upon starting there should have been clear and documented expectations. Without doing this it is impossible to know how a performance review will go and managers can simply choose the narrative which suits their agenda (i.e. keeping costs low). Had you both agreed that achieving what you had so far was a great milestone and would result in promotion, it would be a very different situation to what you have now.

Although you do want to operate on some level of trust, there is always some needed formalities to save your back, such as communicated KPIs. I can't say whether the situation is salvageable, or even what situation you are in. But it is a difficult one when you both disagree on the performance review. If you are thinking of quitting you may as well be ready to have a frank discussion about the review, and then agree what would happen if you did achieve this roadmap. Would that indeed get a promotion, or is that just what you are supposed to be doing? And have this in some sort of documented communication which at least indicates a promotion would be on the tables, not to trap your manager but to refer back to next review.

But if you do not trust your manager after this incident, you either take the status quo or move on. Him telling you in a private conversation a potential raise is on the tables is neither here nor there.

  • Great advice, but, from OP post i gather that expectations are , lets just say, bit on the higher side and exceptions overachieving performance is expected as baseline :)
    – Strader
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 17:57

I had a similar experience many years ago. It is very unlikely your boss will change; strongly suggest you move on and be forthright in new interviews as to this problem. Like the old saying says: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me". Best of luck.


Let the person know that you're frustrated because you thought you were exceeding expectations, but didn't realize until the review that you only met them. Then, ask directly how you can exceed expectations on the next run, and if you can set milestones with them to measure this throughout the year. A performance review should really just be a recap, if there are surprises then you need to increase communication right away and directly ask for help in accomplishing your mutual goals. Also realize that many people believe that the "meeting expectations" mark is completely normal for employment, much like a professor who believes that since C means average, you have to really impress him to get an A, even though a C has real implications for your education and future career. He believes that 67% of his population should be getting a C.

If he has set the bar really high for an "exceeds", the rating itself may not be fully in his control - he may need to make concessions on other goals, such as budget for department raises. If an exceeds demands a raise through policies, but you are near the top of your salary range and he has people who have a wider gap and he needs to give raise, he may be trying to manage that. One management stack I worked for had a "quota" for exceeds, they could not have more than X number of reports with exceeds.

The manager may be (non-directly) communicating what you need to do, to actually get a raise, which would be to "break the mold". Again, more communication with him will fix this problem for you.


I'm going to say this straight and step on some toes that probably need stepped on good.

Having a boss that makes a habit of providing conflicting positive verbal feedback and a negative performance reviews is commonly observed if you have a boss that is up to something illegal or is trying to document an excuse to underpay you. If they are doing the latter, usually they would be motivated to do that to obfuscate the fact that the company is insolvent / deep in debt / pocketing money which their investors earmarked for paying employees' salaries.

Was there any whistleblower retaliation, sexual harassment, harassment in general [it sounds to me a bit obvious there was a hostile work environment], or discrimination involved? Did you address any integrity / safety / compliance problem that they appeared to not want fixed or didn't cooperate with fixing or outright resisted fixing. Do you notice anything suspicious or unuaual about your employer's ways of doing business, the company's organizational structure, etc? Were you asked to always address problems or inconsistencies verbally in meetings and not in written communication like email? Did your boss not seem to be able to give you a straight answer who his investors are or where the company gets their revenue from? Was the boss unduly secretive and withhold information that would normally be disclosed to someone in your position? Did he try to segregate different teams and keep them in mutual isolation? (e.g. please don't talk to anyone from acconting or R and D during lunch unless I am there?). It may be that they rotate through people in your position and 'make an excuse to fire them every 6 months' in an effort to compartmentalize what each person knows and keep them from connecting the dots. I am not SAYING that there's something necessarily illegal going on, but at the very least, if someone is verbally communicating one thing and documenting something contradictory to what they said, at the very least, this is a hallmark of a SEVERE personal integrity deficit and you [and everyone else there] need to get out [preferably all at the same time]. If the answer to any of the questions I asked you are 'yes', I would HIGHLY recommend to get the advice of a labor law attorney immediately. Call one at 8AM tomorrow and see if they can schedule a consultation during your lunch break. If they fire you, YOU send the lawyer a copy of anything they want you to sign and don't sign it until they approve it. From what I see, it just may be that if the boss found out you had a lawyer, they may dismiss you on good standing the next day or two with a check for a few months salary.... unless, of course the company is insolvent and is about to default on your paycheck anyway.

I second everyone else's recommendation to find another job, but recommend that you think very critically of what motivation the boss probably had to act like that. When you do, you will probably realize the need for a lawyer. I feel bad for you, that you are having your employment history blemished by someone else's nonsense. It is unfortunately not ideal to list on your resume that you had to resign 6 months after you began a job, but not that big of a deal. Look at other posts on here to see what strategies people recommend for handling that.


A departure from the previous focuses;

What is your bosses boss like? Since he's heard praise about you previously, perhaps a useful move would be to meet with him and express that you think your review was unfair and inappropriate. It might be better to call a meeting with both of them to review your accomplishments and expectations going forward. If they're both the same way, I'd make plans to move on.


I had my performance review yesterday. We have 4 performance grades. I got the second worst one ("Meeting expectations"), with consequences for my yearly bonus and the maximum salary increase I can get this year.

You worked your ass off and hoped for a outstanding performance evaluation and you didn't get it. This sucks. A lot of us have been there. It is important to realize that "Meeting expectations" is not a bad a score. You have been doing a good job and doing a good job is expected from you. You were hired because the interviewers thought you would be doing a good a job, and this is being recognized right now.

I'm so demotivated I feel like giving my notice now. The only thing that stops me is the thought I would then get no bonus at all. Can I do anything to still solve the situation before quitting?

Don't make any rushed decisions, because you are disappointed. The truth is, there will always be ups and downs in a career and dealing with the first upset with handing in your resignation isn't a good pattern. Instead try to improve your situation and learn from what has been going wrong. Even if you end up quitting a few months down the road, these learnings will be very valuable in your next job.

I think the biggest lesson here is that you need to shorten your feedback loop. You thought you did an amazing job and you would be recognized but then the performance review came as a surprised, our manager didn't think of your work as above average. Performance reviews shouldn't come as a surprise, which I put mostly on the manager but you can also help to make sure that doesn't happen. Have regular conversations with your managers and peers (whoever's will likely influence your performance score) and ask for feedback. Be concrete, ask for things you can do to have more impact and ask whether they think your exceeding expectation.

Since I don't know your work and cannot judge whether you should have gotten a better score, let me share some thoughts on what you wrote.

My boss summarized my role several times as that of "cleaning lady" and it was really it. I left no stone unturned. Several months later: I've fixed the most pressurizing problems and created a clear roadmap for progressing further.

This sounds great. You were hired as "cleaning lady" and you fulfilled that role. This means you have been doing your job, this sounds like "meeting expectations" to me.

I worked incredible hours. My boss recognized my achievements several times, including in front of larger teams and his boss.

and that I worked too much and he didn't want to praise that. (He made me work so much).

This is incredibly important feedback. In a lot of jobs working hard and long hours isn't equivalent with having a lot of impact. Indeed multiple answers here on workplace link to studies that working excessive hours doesn't make people more productive. In my experience if people are working late, especially to meet deadlines, there is something wrong with the time management.

*You are not rewarded for working hard, you are rewarded for having impact.

Learn from the feedback your manager gave you and ask for more details. What kind of impact does he expect and what would make you get a better score next performance cycle? Don't expect your manager to tell you what to do differently on his own. In his mind you are meeting expectations and there is nothing wrong with your performance. It is you who wants to have higher impact, ask for help on how to do that.

He claimed I didn't deliver several deliverables which I most definitely did deliver (and have emails to prove it).

This sounds like good feedback. Instead of dismissing the critique right away or starting to fight it, ask for details. For some reason your manager wasn't happy with your performance when you thought he was. Ask what kind of result he would have expected and learn from that. You might not disagree, but he is the manager and he is the one who needs to be happy with your work. Next time make sure to get immediate feedback after you delivered on a goal to make sure it doesn't come back as "undone" in a performance review months later.

I am not saying that your manager is right, or that you shouldn't find a different job. But I can tell you that if you want to have a successful career you will have to get used to deal with situations like this in a positive way and get the best out of it.

  • 16
    This sounds like good feedback., no, that's call lying. :) Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 8:18
  • 10
    And "meets expectations" is often considered a negative. It doesn't make sense, but many employers expect all employees to exceed expectations. Plus the "we don't trust you enough to give you a better review yet" is ridiculous. They trust OP enough to put them in charge of cleaning up this huge mess for the company, but not enough when it comes time to increase their pay. Kind of suspect...
    – bob
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 15:52
  • 5
    > you will have to get used to deal with situations like this in a positive way and get the best out of it -- And that's why OP should quit. That's the most positive way of dealing with toxic management. If you stay with them, hoping you could learn to deal with it, it'll only get worse because they'll think they can get away with their sh*t, so they'll continue manipulating you into doing more work for disproportionately low pay. Modern slavery.
    – scriptin
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 17:56
  • 7
    This answer seems to have an amazing ability to ignore numerous key details in the OP. E.g.: "I think the biggest lesson here is that you need to shorten your feedback loop." But the manager was just praising them the prior day. Do you expect a job-performance feedback loop of multiple times-per-day, and accept sociopathic-level swings within that day? Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 6:48
  • 6
    @Helena "meeting expectations" is not a good grade. You are not only ignoring a lot of red flags in the question, the shark has came out of the water, said "I'm going to eat anyone who gets in the sea on this beach" then walked back into the sea. This is not just a red flag. This is much more than that. "He claimed I didn't deliver several deliverables which I most definitely did deliver (and have emails to prove it)." He also criticized that I solved some technical problems myself," This is highly toxic. Problem solving should never be punished.
    – jo1storm
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 14:46

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