An Employee Review That Misses the Mark Is an Opportunity for You to Improve Your Aim

So, you got a mediocre review: Don't get made -- get engaged

This article appears in print in the January/February 2020 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Q: I just had my annual review and am really upset and disappointed. My boss gave me mediocre marks, and I don’t think he really knows anything about me or how hard I work. To top it all off, I’m only getting a tiny increase in my pay for cost of living, and it’s all based on him not paying attention. What should I do?

Dear Seeking Answers:
Take a walk around the block and cool down before you do anything. Trying to have review, merit or compensation discussions when you are hotheaded is a bad idea.

OK, deep breath. Now, I have several questions for you. Did you write down your accomplishments throughout the year? Did you ask for any midyear discussions to make sure he was paying attention to your work and contributions? And how proactive have you been advocating for yourself? It is very common for people to assume a boss sees everything, knows everything and pays attention. In defense of all managers, writing thoughtful and complete reviews and having an eye out for your whole team is hard work.

Assuming you didn’t take these steps, you are now looking in the rearview mirror, so here’s a suggestion. Don’t assume he had your back. Assume he was busy and give him the benefit of the doubt first. Reach out and ask him for a minute of his time but be prepared. Know your value, and know the market before you bother him.

What did you do to warrant a better review specifically? Do you show up, do good work consistently and can you be counted on to deliver on the company’s goals regardless of your role? What is the market for your position? Are you already at the top of the competition for your job? If there is room, it’s up to you to understand what he is looking for, set goals and meet them, and articulate clearly what you are hoping to achieve. Get organized, calm down and, as soon as you are ready, ask him, “Hey, got a minute?” If you missed your window this year, you know what you must do to avoid being hurt next year. Good luck!

Q: I have a significant role at the company I work for and have been here for many years. I would like to retire in the next six months and have been telling the owner for the past several months that he needs to find my replacement, so we can begin a smooth transition for our customers and my pipeline. He keeps ignoring me and jokes about me never leaving. I’m tired of bringing it up, but how do I get his attention, so I can start to plan my retirement?

Dear Ninja Planner:
You are obviously a conscientious and dedicated employee, so why don’t you have your own succession plan? I had a similar conversation with a friend recently, talking about the best way to leave a company that you love while creating continuity. What works well is a bit of a ninja move so you always have an exit strategy, not just when you want to retire.

Develop a No. 2 person you mentor and train, someone able to pick up your load and keep the work you are proud of moving forward. If that’s not an option, when you are ready to depart, set a real date that is tangible. Vocalize it and put it in writing as opposed to saying it in terms of a number of months. And if that doesn’t help, I’d suggest you schedule a vacation or trip when you will be unavailable that coincides with the last week or two prior to your final day. People know how to plan for two-week vacation coverage but don’t always know what to do to plan for a long-time employee’s departure. Then let it go and don’t look back.

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