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I recently had my first performance review, and I was given a very positive review. This was far better than I expected my review to be, especially comparing my skills and knowledge to other, admittedly more experienced employees. I am aware of Imposter Syndrome and at first wrote my feelings off as that, but then I started wondering:

Is there any reason that a manager might tell an employee that their performance is better than it actually is?

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    Yes. This review also goes to his boss, and he wants to look like he's getting the best from his people. He will make everyone on his team, including himself, look brilliant, as part of his competition with other teams. – A. I. Breveleri Nov 3 '16 at 19:42
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    Yes. He is satisfied with your work and wants you to stay. He will inflate your first one or two reviews to give you confidence and to avoid frightening you into looking for another job. – A. I. Breveleri Nov 3 '16 at 19:45
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You say that it was better than you thought it would be especially because of the skills and differences compared to your more experienced colleagues.

Ideally, when a manager makes an assessment of performance, he isn't assessing your skills or knowledge compared to your colleagues. He is assessing your performance on what he believes you are capable of. He will take into consideration how quickly you are improving, your general attitude and other non-technical aspects.

Highly skilled people can perform poorly. Not quite as skilled people can perform well. It's all relative.

Even though you got a good review, it's not a time to be complacent. Expectations will increase while your performance is good. With the increase in expectations, often there are increases in remuneration and opportunities for career progression.

Keep up the good work, and keep improving.

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    I'd hope that the comparison was based on your role not on what you're capable of. If you have two people in a Jr. Widget Puncher role, it would suck to say "Steve, you punched twice as many widgets as any other Jr. Widget Puncher and you had a much lower defect rate. But I really think you're capable of doing 50% more if you just apply yourself. Here's a mediocre review and a lousy raise. Bob, you bunched half as many widgets as average with a higher than average defect rate but you really did the best you could. Here's a top score and a big raise.". – Justin Cave Nov 4 '16 at 1:31
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    Maybe there is a semantic argument to be made here, but I would hope that someone's roles are proportionate to their capability. And I would hope their current remuneration is also proportionate to their capability (also tracking previous performance). I suppose my (somewhat) naive assumption is that Steve's remuneration starts off more than Bob, because historical performance has inflated expectations, which means, in this hypothetical situation both remuneration and future expectations are converging as Steve underperforms and Bob (over?)performs. But your point is well taken. – Gregory Currie Nov 4 '16 at 3:44

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