I had my yearly performance review, which was the same as it has been for the past 5 years. I was given the middle ranking and all comments are positive. I have never been reprimanded for anything, my attendance has been great (with the exception of an 8-week leave during the death of my father). I have consistently gone above and beyond at my job over the years, received numerous awards, recognition, and accolades during my tenure and only ever received the middle ranking. I asked my boss what specifically I could do to improve my ranking and he could not answer. He said, "That's a very good question." Should I just let this go or is this something I should take to HR? I don't want to rock the boat, but feel I'm not being treated fairly.
Is this something I should take to HR?
No, because you don't have a specific complaint here. Your boss being vague and unhelpful is unfortunate but probably doesn't violate company policy. HR is not the boss of your manager (unless you work in HR). If and when you can show evidence that law or policy is being violated, ex. you can show that your treatment is due to your race, gender, or other protected class or if policy is that "Meets Expectations" gets a 3% not 1.5%, then you go to HR.
I've never been promoted. I've had 3 different bosses during that 5 year period and received the same ranking every year. The first year I received a 3% raise, then 2%, 2%, 2% and now this year 1.5%.
This sounds like this is an issue with your team, department or the company as a whole, not just your current manager.
Should I just let this go?
No, you should both follow skrrgwasme's advice to sit down with your manager and find out what you should be doing to advance AND you should be job hunting. You're not happy where you're at so don't stay there if you don't have to.
OK you have to realize that in many places your ranking has nothing to do with how your immediate boss perceives your performance and everything to do with how well he can defend your rating to the other managers. There are almost alawys a limited number of the higher ratings that they have the budget to give out.
If he can't think of anything more you can do, you might be caught in a situation where:
- Your boss does not have the political power to get you a higher ranking even if though he wants to (My rating once shot up like a shooting star when I changed bosses, my work did not change a bit.)
- Other jobs are considered more critical than yours and thus need the limited number of high ratings to go to them
- Higher ratings are reserved for lower paid people who can't otherwise get pay raises (I've worked places where all of the outstanding performance ratings went to the admin staff every year because they were at the top of their pay scale and the bonus money was the only waty to get them more money.)
- It is not yet your turn (they hate to say this out loud but it often happens that they have such a limited number they rotate them around)
- You don't have enough visibility in the organization to get noticed in the review process. It is up to you to make sure that other managers know your accomplishments, not to your boss.
- Someone above your boss doesn't like you or your boss but he can't tell you that.
I am going to point out that if you are not getting the raises you want, you need to learn how to work office politics. They are a major factor in determining who gets what raises in 100% of all offices (Hint there is no such thing as a meritocracy, no matter what organizations claim.). Please go grab some books on this subject and read them. Playing office politics doesn't mean you have to be a credit-grabbing snake, but it does mean you have a way to defend yourself from credit-grabbing snakes. You are in the game whether you want to be or not, you need to learn the rules and play or you will get pounded. It sounds as if your performance on the technical side is fine, you just need to learn to be more visible and to promote yourself since you boss is not being effective at promoting you to the organization (and really it is your job not his anyway).
I wouldn't necessarily go straight to HR with this yet. I would follow up with your boss and try to work with him to create a standard rubric or guideline for assigning performance rankings. It sounds like they're arbitrary right now. If he is unwilling to do so, then consider going to HR.
Throughout the process, try to emphasize that you're pursuing this so that you can learn how to improve, not just for the sake of a better "ranking."
Beyond what BSMP and HGLEM have recommended which I agree with, the only thing you can control is you. While its an unfair situation you can't force your manager to be forthcoming. Sometimes there are powers at be which may want to prevent promotion and it may have nothing to do with you or your performance. Take a view of the market for what you do, find what people are doing in the position you want to be, and do that. As long as you're committed to your own growth and promotion even when your manager isn't, there is little which can hold you back. Own your success, don't leave it to chance or others.