It's that time of year again: annual performance reviews (aka, "how big is my raise?")

It happens every year, just before the holidays. However, things are different this year. A few months ago, it was suggested that managers tell their employees that raises would be small for the coming year--part of an effort to keep expenses low. That's good. No, not the small raises. The part about telling employees in advance. It helps to set expectations and make employees feel a bit more involved in keeping the company financially healthy.

But it seems that many managers did not. I'm hearing a lot of complaints from co-workers. They're pissed off about their reviews. Some are suprised by the numbers, while others are surprised by their actual performance review. Some of the second group feel like their managers are nit-picking them on their reviews as a way of justifying the lower increases.

That's just not cool.

The way I see it, if a manager has negative things to say during your year-end review and they surprise you, there's a real problem. You manager isn't doing his/her job by saving up all their complaints for the end of the year. You really ought to be hearing about them during the year so that you have a chance to work on them and show improvement.

Be open and honest with your employees. Try not to surprise them with bad news. Expectations matter. A lot.

(No, I'm not unhappy about the process. I've always had a good relationship with my manager, so I had no problems with it this year. But I appear to be in the minority, at least among those I've discussed it with.)

Posted by jzawodn at December 15, 2002 12:39 AM

Reader Comments
# Greg Klebus said:

Right. Early reinforcement is the key here. Late reinforcement (bad reviews at the end of year) has very limited effect. As a worker you're not relating bad things you do with bad reviews you get much later; I'm not a psychologist, but I guess it's one's subconciousness.

I also think the same goes for good reviews; the earlier good feedback, the better.

on December 15, 2002 02:24 AM
# Derek said:

"The way I see it, if a manager has negative things to say during your year-end review and they surprise you, there's a real problem."

Yeah, an unnamed Yahoo!Infrastructure manager did that to me when I was there, stiffing me completely on my raise and such.... pissed me off to no end. It wasn't malicious on his part they gave him way too many direct reports for there to be any hope of meaningful feedback with any of them.

on December 15, 2002 05:04 AM
# kasia said:

Nitpicking at a review to justify a small raise is a terrible way to do it..

The company I work for has little money and two years in a row now I've received a stellar "we can't live with out you"-type review and a pittance of a raise.. but at least they were honest about it..

on December 15, 2002 07:15 AM
# john said:


I think the communication road is also the responsiblity of the employee, not just the management staff. When I was hired at my new job I asked specifically about reviews and compensation, and was told that every employee was expected to know how their review would go prior to the review do to constant communcation with their direct supervisor. I've only been at the company for a few weeks, but am making a point of talking to my direct reports at least twice a week about their progress and will do the same thing up the chain after I've started making some headway in my own job... I've got a lot of work to do and they know that...

I've also started pushing for a weekly 'rudder' meeting if you will across the company for all managers and subordinates, so that we can combat the potential for uncommunicative environments at all levels (within our division)... nothing stellar or hard to put together, but a weekly documentation of performance and lessons learned...

It's not just the manager's job to talk to employees, but also employee's jobs to solicit feedback constantly... if they aren't doing that, then they're probably shorting themselves in the long run.

just my thoughts...

on December 15, 2002 10:09 AM
# Dave Smith said:

For some managers, when no raises are possible it's easier to downgrade someone on a review than it is to give them a good review along with an apology for not being able to back it up with cash. Ever notice how the higher you look in management, the less you see apologies?

on December 15, 2002 10:33 AM
# Joe Grossberg said:

A few thoughts:

* At least your performance reviews are tied to raises. We do them at my company, and then ... nothing happens. The boss says pay is totally independent of reviews. Imagine how frustrating that is. On the other hand, there's more honesty, because people know that by being constructively critical of coworkers, they're not costing their peers money.

* Did the managers get equivalently small raises too? I used to work at a place where, at the same time they were laying off programmers, they were adding new upper-level management. It did wonders for morale, as I'm sure you can imagine.

* As far as nit-picking goes, in any honest review, you'll have good and bad things said about you. The reviewer will emphasize whatever (s)he wants.


on December 16, 2002 10:33 AM
# zip codes said:

I agree with the author.

on September 6, 2003 01:23 AM
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