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I started my current job nearly 2 years ago having been hired by my manager from my previous company. They were sacked 5 months ago because their new manager didn’t like their attitude.

I have never had any issues with my manager's manager and she has been pretty nice with me, in fact she gave me a big project to handle which I delivered as well as my regular job, and she has appreciated me many times in front of others, she also has told me she will give new projects.

However, yesterday when I saw my performance review, I was very upset. I have been given just a 2.1 out of 3 which just meets expectation. Other women on my team who haven’t done any special project have gotten 2.3.

I started here a little higher than my peers now they have been all promoted and moved close to my salary last year and I feel this year they will be promoted even more, I am a brown woman in my team rest are white and honestly I haven’t felt any difference before except that one of the other white peer gets more opportunity but she is also very hardworking and great.

I have to meet my manager tomorrow and discuss my review, I am not sure what should I say? Should I tell them I am not sure why I got average rating even though I worked so hard last year?

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    "Should I tell them I am not sure why I got average rating even though I worked so hard last year?" Good performance is more than just working hard. There are a range of factors that could go into it. Hopefully you can have an honest and respectful discussion with your manager's manager and work out how they arrived at that number. Feb 13 at 6:10
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    Have you also received the breakdown of the score? Does it contain parts where you feel the report is just inaccurate or wrong? Or is it only the number?
    – Erik
    Feb 13 at 7:35
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    Re "I started a little higher than my peers" - this reminds me of myself in my first job. My team lead made it clear that because I had been ranked a "B-developer" due to having a PhD, whereas my colleagues who only held a masters degree were ranked "A-developers", this came with higher expectations, and consequently a lower performance rating for the same work done.
    – Sabine
    Feb 13 at 21:19
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    Related
    – code_dredd
    Feb 15 at 1:44
  • Why even dodge the confrontation with 'Should I tell them I am not sure…' when clearly, you mean 'This seems wrong, or unfair or both'? Sadly, since there's no useful detail, nothing in the exposition could ever be argued with, except whether the results reflected how hard you worked. More detail might help… Feb 18 at 20:24

7 Answers 7

44

What you say is:

"I was surprised by my performance rating; I thought I was doing better than that. What can we do to give me more opportunity to shine this year, and/or what specific areas should I invest more effort in to merit higher ranking?"

It can also help to check in with your manager every few months and ask "how am I doing, and what could I be doing better." A good manager will try to keep you informed about this, but they can get distracted by other issues, so it's helpful if you initiate that discussion.

In any one year your rating can be the luck of the draw. Management may have been operating on a quota system and not allowed to rank everyone as high as they would have liked. And in some companies you are in competition with other departments as well as locally, so you may not have had any warning of what you were up against. But your manager should be able to guide you toward improving your odds next time around.

ADDENDUM: Note too that ranking is relative to your job/title/assignment. Results that greatly exceed expectations for a junior staff member may only be meets-requirements for someone at a higher pay grade. Know who and what you are being ranked against.

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    These quota systems are something a lot of employees are not aware of. In my wife's company, manager was only allowed to give a certain amount of "points" to his people and while all of them did a great job, the manager was not allowed to reflect that in the reviews. Of course, most felt treated unfairly and motivation suffered. Knowing that the reason was this system helped somewhat but most still felt screwed over by the company.
    – DarkDust
    Feb 15 at 8:05
  • I dislike the start of this answer because the answer to that question is basically going to be 'do what you did last year' most likely. Go above and beyond and perform better than expected. Delivering an entirely separate project on top of your job meets that criteria imo. This strategy didn't work once. Why would it work again? Feb 15 at 12:57
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    @TheEvilMetal: So ask for specifics. There is no other answer; understand how you are being ranked and focus on that, if you want to be ranked higher.
    – keshlam
    Feb 15 at 14:33
  • @keshlam Odds are there is no actual answer beyond "We are trying to reduce labor costs". But you'll never get that as an answer. Or it's discrimination. Which they will also hardly ever admit. Feb 19 at 6:34
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When you go over your performance review please DO NOT do these two things:

  1. Assume your lowish review was because of your skin tone.
  2. Compare yourself with others.

Instead the tone should be: based on the extra work you were assigned, and the praise received in front of others.

You can say: "I expected a much higher review score than 2.1. Given the extra assignment I would say a score of 2.7 (or whatever) is justified based on fact 1, fact 2, and fact 3".

It is very important to keep it factual and unemotional despite this tugging at the disappointment part of our personality.

Frequently it is a knee jerk reaction to rate new employees low. This could be a factor here. It could be that this manager may not like you, may value things that you didn't do more than delivering a new project, plus a whole bunch of other things. Perhaps the manager thought it was unfair that you started at a higher salary than your peers and wanted to level out the discrepancies.

There are many factors that you may not be aware of, and it is encouraging that she is meeting with you. Listen to what she has to say. Is there a path forward for you getting a promotion and bump in pay? Is that manager listening to you?

If it becomes obvious that there is no path forward or that the manager is not there to listen to you then you have a choice to make. Do you move on, or stay because it is a pretty good situation as is.

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    Why should you not compare yourself with others? It's supposed to be fair right? Fairness is treating a group of people equally. In order to establish that, we have to allow to examine other people, IMO it's not only okay, it's a logical thing to do, otherwise you cannot establish fairness. Feb 14 at 1:41
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    @AndrewSavinykh from a pragmatic perspective, keeping the conversation strictly on one's own merits will likely make the manager less defensive and overall be more productive than if comparisons to others (which carry implicit accusations of unfairness/favouritism) were made.
    – jla
    Feb 14 at 4:58
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    Comparing to others comes across as "sour grapes" and an attack on the co-workers,. Keep it focused on your own performance rating.
    – keshlam
    Feb 14 at 8:43
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    As a university teacher and manager (two roles that often involve "rating" people) I also have to say that oftentimes, "meets expectation" is a very fair and correct assessment. "Meets expectation" does not mean "did the bare minimum", it means you did +/- as good as the company expects somebody in your position and with your salary to perform. In the kind of jobs we usually discuss in this forum the expectation often is that you show initiative, successfully handle the occasional task or project outside your direct role, etc. This alone is not grounds for a very high rating.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 14 at 12:59
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    @xLeitix Yes. That can also be called "being taken for granted". It is difficult to tell from the outside how fairly OP is being treated. Hopefully this good answer will give them some confidence and toolkit to explore that and come to their own decision on things. Feb 14 at 14:37
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It's been my experience that these things are often true:

  1. No one is going to advocate for you except you
  2. Managers are often valued if they can keep costs down.

I live and work in the United States and I can't speak for how these two points play out in other locations.

If no one is advocating for you, that means you have to do your own "marketing". It would be nice if your work spoke for itself, but if you want to influence what people think of you, it's often best just to tell them what they should think. Or emphasize your strengths. Or point out when you did good. People are often too wrapped up in their own stuff to notice what's going on with other people's lives.

Some managers are valued if they can keep costs down. That includes wages. And if a manager can avoid giving you any pay increases and you don't say anything about it, then they look good with their bosses. You need to advocate for yourself and signal to your manager what your expectations are.

Your review with your manager should be a two-way discussion. They should communicate with you what their expectations are. And you should communicate your expectations and dismay at what happened during this year's review process.

Keeping quiet and accepting whatever they give you is rarely a recipe for success. The trick is to find the right level of advocacy and pushback that doesn't cross the line to annoying, whining, etc.

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    Kind of have to agree with this one. Sadly, if you're a non-union worker, the only time you really have any leverage is when you are looking for a job (or have a better offer in hand). This means job-hoppers are just going to naturally end up earning more. If you don't like doing that, and your management figures that out about you...
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 14 at 22:57
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I have to meet my manager tomorrow and discuss my review, I am not sure what should I say? Should I tell them I am not sure why I got average rating even though I worked so hard last year?

You should ask your manager to justify the score you received. When they bring up particular criterion, try to give them a specific example from your project that might fit and ask them why it doesn't. If you feel you've hit some of the targets then mention it.

Also, ask what you'd need to do to raise your score in future. It's not uncommon for people to get low scores on reviews because the measures are outside the scope of their roles or a relevant situation hasn't arisen this year; if you aren't given an opportunity to do a thing you shouldn't be marked down for failing to do it.

Ask them how they score the reviews, they should use specific, measurable, achievable and realistic measures rather than vague impressions and feelings.

It's important that you do all this in a neutral, inquiring tone rather than an accusatory one because you need to get at the reasoning behind their decision; if you come over as too belligerent or pugnacious your manager may become defensive and concentrate on deflecting your attacks rather than giving you answers.

There may be lots of reasons you didn't score highly, some legitmate, some because of poor metrics in the review process and some may well be down to your skin colour and/or gender. Your questions and your manager's responses may well give you an idea of what's going on at your company.

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  • Asking a higher ranking manager to justify anything is risky. It can be viewed as insubordination and certainly won't win you friends. Asking them to explain is better. Asking them to tell you what you can do next year to get a better score is probably even better as another answer mentions. Feb 15 at 22:39
  • @TimothyAWiseman Yes, you're right, the questions need to be structured in the best way to get useful answers. I thought the first sentence of the second paragraph would address your other point though? Feb 16 at 13:31
  • It does and I should have been more clear. I meant that those options should be in place of asking for justification. At least as I read your second paragraph, I took it to mean you were suggesting that in addition to asking for justification. Feb 16 at 16:20
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It's not really possible for us to tell you whether you deserved your rating or did not deserve your rating - not only do you not give us much to go on, but of course we all have inherent biases when rating our own performance.

That said, while I strongly encourage you to follow the advice in the other two answers (keshlam and Pete's), I wouldn't say it's impossible that other factors might not be at play here - it's certainly been shown to be the case before. What you can do to set yourself up for success here is to follow their advice - ask for what you can do to improve performance, keep doing the special projects, etc. - and document everything. If this keeps happening year after year - you can show high performance on extra projects while others are doing less and getting more - then you can use that documentation to pursue a claim, in consultation with an attorney.

Don't make any effort to suggest bias on your own - that's what the attorneys are paid for. Do your job well, document your performance (particularly the above and beyond part), document the compliments from management etc., and see where it goes from there. Hopefully this was just a one year "meets" and your boss will get to know you better and rate you higher - if not, you have the documentation to protect yourself.

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Two separate issues to address:

Not getting the evaluation you wanted

Talking to your boss is pretty much all you can do here. Provide facts and make a calm and logical argument. This may get you a higher evaluation, better renumeration, or both. Other answers and comments have covered the main points you should cover and avoid in your discussion.

Your evaluation isn't as high as your peers

TLDR Your evaluation is multiplied by a factor of ROLE / SALARY. If you earn more than your peers, don't expect the same evaluation for similar work.


From your choice of words, it sounds like we can assume two things:

  • Your peers are now at or below-but-near your level
  • Your peers earned and still earn less than you

In this case, trying to bring everyone's salary more in-line is very common and a huge part of why job hopping is the fastest way to raise your salary.

To put it simply, they most likely hired you at a rate higher than they want to pay for the role and are adjusting for it now. (What they want to pay, ie what current employees earn for the same role).

Taking the worst possible interpretation of your description, you now have equal peers who earn less than you for the same position. Regardless of performance, it's not uncommon to see companies try to close the gap between people of the same role.

If you are overpaid compared to your peers, expect the trend to continue.
(Even more-so if any of your seniors earn less than you!)


But! They clearly thought you were worth hiring, so with resistance, you will likely be able to negotiate closer to what you were looking for--they want to keep you happy. If the evaluation and growth opportunities continue to not match your expectations, then it's a chance to reevaluate your expectations or to reevaluate your work situation (=change companies).

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  • As a PS, comparing your performance to your peers only works when you earn less than them, unless you're going to objectively prove than you bring X times the value to the company and thus deserve Y times more pay.
    – Mars
    Feb 15 at 8:18
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Hi so I might be a little late for your meeting, but hopefully this is in time to provide perspective and especially to help you moving forward.

So first off, and this is very important, there are a LOT of layoffs happening right now in many sectors across the economy (worldwide) and it is a high interest rate environment. So I would be VERY cautious about trying to push for raises / better performance. Now you always can, it's your life, but I would be very cautious of pushing for more money right now or making many demands in general, or "rocking the boat" at all, and I would probably be more likely to defend myself a little (tactfully) if the review was saying you were not meeting expectations

Another factor is that the person that brought you into the company was fired, and it doesn't always reflect badly on you, but this can be a negative and you might (unfairly or fairly) be associated with a person that has been fired. So your manager's manager might somewhat dislike you just because of that (it's dumb but does happen and it's something to be aware of) so you might have to work extra hard to fight an undeserved slightly soiled reputation

I think the other answers here have provided some really good feedback, and you should really keep in mind that some companies believe "meeting expectations" is practically the default and you have to be EXTREMELY high achieving to get beyond that (I've seen companies personally that can only give a three to one person in the entire department, and your boss needs approval from higher ups to do that). So some companies have an outlook that most people get "meets expectation" everybody gets basically a set raise and it is what it is. Paired with the fact that a lot of companies aren't doing well right now I wouldn't be surprised if having worse evaluations might be kind of a soft way of them limiting raises and it might not be personal.

Stick to just your work, get positive feedback, try to accept criticism gracefully "Yea I'll definitely try to be more organized! Thanks i'll definitely remember to finish this report earlier so the other teams have time to review, that is a really good point!"

And finally, I'll tell you this, if you think you might be underpaid or underpromoted, apply at other places, see if anybody is willing to pay you more after you explain everything you did last year. I've known people who complained they were "underpaid" tried to get jobs at other companies, realized that every other company was offering them less, and realized they were kind of OVERPAID. And just realize that sometimes in life we get passed up for promotion, for any lame reason (I've seen people at the same company be passed for a promotion because the company is "wanting people with more experience" they wait a few years and then the next time there are promotions they say "we want young fresh perspectives, sorry!", sometimes the boss's son will get a promotion, tons of dumb stuff happens).

And finally, we can't assess how well you have been doing since we don't actually know you, it's possible you are doing so well that they don't want to promote you because then they'd have to have somebody else fit into your roll, or maybe you aren't doing extremely above and beyond and the other people on the team are doing slightly better. Or maybe (rightfully or stupidly and wrongly) they think the other team members have more future potential than you and want to promote and invest in them more. We can't tell, and it's always hard to objective when it comes to ourselves but it is something to reflect on. And finally, if you really think you have the ability and potential and you really think this company is just getting in the way (although again these are not good times so it definitely is more risky) it's up to you to think if you can be better rewarded and further where you want to be in your career by just applying else where.

Good luck!

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