Not happy with the recent Performance Review in spite of all the hard-working effort?

Here are some food for thoughts

Photo by Tanja Žarić on Unsplash


Recently, our company has just completed a performance review cycle, a colleague felt that he did not get what he deserved, despite all the hard-working effort he has put into it, and ended up with disappointments.
It should not have to be like that and he has asked for my advice on how to get a good rating and get promoted.
So this blog post is a response to him and it is also a chance for me to reflect on what has been done and how we can get better.

  • The company is one of the fastest growing companies and now at the size of thousands employees.
  • We are software engineers trying to climb the career ladder as Individual Contributors.
  • The company used a 5-point scale for performance rating:
    [poorly-performing, need-improvement, solid, exceptional, superb]

First of all, I would like to say that I really empathize with what you’re going through. So I won’t repeat what others might have told you regarding “solid is already a good job done”.
Instead, I will share some thoughts so that you can think about it calmly before making the next decision.

Promotion vs. Good Rating

This is an important point. Which one did you aim for?

Aiming for good rating is different from aiming for promotion.
Even though one would compliment another, to be promoted, you need to have more visibility, across all the way to the committee who will vote/decide if a person should be promoted or not, as the company in context is no longer a small startup, it is now more of an enterprise company with clear hierarchy and career ladders defined.

So yes, in spite of how others might have told you otherwise, there will always be, at least, a soft-quotas to cap the number of people to be promoted, and the people in the committee, who are not working directly with you, will question your credibility and also compete for their own team’s slots.

Thus, you will need to play along with “the corporate game” here.

- Do you clearly tell your manager/skip-manager that you want to be promoted in this/next cycle?
- Do you discuss with your manager(s) about the strategy to get promoted?

These are the 2-foremost questions you should do before a new cycle begins.
Take a proactive approach to seize the chance of getting into the race for promotion.

Don’t just “work hard”, and hope that someone will notice.

After that, here comes the part which you have to outperform/go for extra miles to ensure that you are providing more value than the norm.

- Do you ask your peer(s) for feedback?
- Do you ask your manager(s) for feedback?
- Do you ask your manager(s) their “definition of success”?
- Do you share with your manager(s) your “definition of success”? And whether they are aligned with your manager(s)’?
- Do you actively and continuously ensure that your work is going the right way as you progress?

These are the questions you should drive in 1:1 meetings and skip-level meeting.

One *special* note, if you want to maximize the chance of getting promoted, you need feedback from the people who are operating at the level higher than yours.

Here is the thing, “talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not”.
That is why you should continuously seek the right opportunities to increase your chances of getting promoted.

Plan for the best, but also prepare for the worst

Life is not fair. In spite of doing our best to get all the things right, sometimes, there is always a certain chance we will not get what we had expected.

That’s why you should clearly define:

  • Number of hours working per day
  • % of efforts working toward your promotion
  • % of efforts helping your peers
  • Absolutely make use of leave time for family and take rest.

These are the guidelines that will help to keep you in the right mental state to make the best decision.

First, “Working hard” is a very blur line here.
Nobody, except you, is able to understand “how hard” you have worked on the thing.
So do tell your team/your manager if you have to work overtime and ask for compensation in different forms, depending on the matter and its urgency.

Next, clearly, you will need your peers for help toward success.
Rarely have I seen someone who works in a silo with little visibility and gets tremendous success.
That’s why balancing your work and having dedicated time to be a team player is necessary. Sometimes, it can even unlock more opportunities that you would not have found otherwise.

Remember that your job/career is just a ride toward your life goals, don’t be too disappointed if there are some hiccups along the way.
Do spend time on your family/personal life and give it the most priority.
While sacrificing your precious time for your job might be a noble act under the hiring manager’s point of view, most of the time, it is not recommended, nor does it worth to do so (unless you are the business owner and you are doing it so that you can reap the benefits later).

Lastly, do look around when the current job no longer gives you the satisfactions that you once had or expected.
Things can go wrong due to business strategies change, organization restructuring, or something that you have not expected to happen (e.g. I think bonus/compensation is most often the topic here).

Why did you join the company?” and “why should you continue to stay?” are the questions you should consider carefully at this stage, as it is a big decision.
But “not making a decision is a big decision” too.
So keeping yourself ready for new opportunities outside the current company is always the correct course of action.
This is where your personal connections and peers’ shall be useful.

Additional References

We have come this far, and learnt many lessons, not just by our own setbacks but also from others’ experiences.

Here are some extra reads you might find useful

Be prepared and be strong 💪


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