Most people think of a job review as a time where the manager sits down with the employee once a year and 90% of the time, tells you what you already know. For eons, employees have been raised under the notion that the manager calls the shots, drives the process, and has the control over our careers. Generally, the feeling with both manager and individual contributor is that it is a waste of time. I don’t know the last time I heard an employee or a manager exclaim “Oh goodie, its annual review time!”
Most annual reviews cover what you did well, and what you can improve on. The biggest accomplishments are covered and the biggest mistakes are brought back up (even though they have been discussed, fixed, and we have moved on). This is usually the result of a lack of professional courage on the manager’s part. Sometimes, managers don’t want to offend the employee, so they are “nice”, and give an “easy” job review. If you have a manager who challenges you to become better, be appreciative. These managers are usually there to get you a raise. If you have a manager who doesn’t put any effort in the review, they aren’t going to put any effort into your self-development or your salary. The two are usually directly related.
To me, this is the same as a teacher passing an illiterate child onto the next grade. No one is doing anyone any favors here. In this case, the manager doesn’t even get to pass the employee on to someone else. They are usually stuck with the employee. The employee continues on their merry way thinking they are doing everything correctly. Result: popular programs like Dilbert and The Office Space making a mockery of HR and Managers.
If your manager holds the attitude that “we do job reviews once a year”, then set up a meeting with them and call it a “check-in”, or an “update”. Most managers think of the annual review as a lot of paperwork. Call it something else and let’s make it a process where they won’t have to do any paperwork.
I want to leave you with two thoughts on Reviews:
- This is your career, not your manager’s career. If you don’t care about your career, why should your manager? The way you are going to make more money, have an easier corporate life, be awarded bigger projects or more responsibilities is by documenting your accomplishments and letting folks know that you are working on improving yourself. The review is this mechanism.
- Think of the job review as not for you, but for your NEXT manager. Think of your review as your resume. The fatter the resume, the more options you have. You don’t have to use all of the bullet points, but they are a nice option to have. If your manager gets transferred and a new manager comes in then the first place they look is your employee file to see what you have done in the past. If that file is bare and empty, all of your prior work is worthless. If your file is loaded with documentation of what you have accomplished, added to the department, and what you have done to improve yourself, it is hard not to like the owner of this file.
This is your career, not your managers
If you have a great manager, then you don’ have to worry about much, but most of us are not that lucky. Let’s assume you are stuck with an apathetic manager. At the end of the day, this is your career, your salary. But before we move on, let’s take a look at “our” impression of an apathetic manager. The manager is human, just like we are. Let’s try to figure out what got them to apathy and see if we can change this around, not for the entire department, but just “for us”.
Your manager is REALLY, REALLY BUSY: Totally understandable. We are all being asked to do more with less, and managers are hit the hardest. They usually make only a few percentage points more than the rest of the team and are asked to do a lot more, including managing a team. Our goal is to make it REALLY, REALLY for our manager to keep up to date on our progress. We are going to take the initiative because if we wait, we will wait a long time.
Your manager gave up. Your manager may have been great at one time, and just got burned out. They may be working with a strong team, but it just takes one bad apple to spoil it for the rest of team.
Your manager was and is a great technician, but not a people person. This happens all the time, especially in tech. We are going to make it so your manager doesn’t have to be a people person. No chit chat, no “how are you today”. Just sit down with them, deliver the facts and the progress.
Sit down on a regular basis and give your manager updates. What you accomplished, what you are going to accomplish, and what you want to improve on. This may happen every 3 months, every 6 months, it may even happen every month. Outline the entire review yourself. WHAT you are going to accomplish should support your goals and your manager’s goals. I know a lot of people are reading this and saying one of two things: I don’t know what my department goals are OR, why should I be helping my manager accomplish their goals.
Again, this is YOUR career, not your department’s and not your managers. You are being paid a salary to make someone’s life easier, and that someone is your department heads or your managers. You are not being paid to show up to work and do whatever you want. Make no mistake about it. You are absolutely supporting your manager your department head and your department.
If the company needs to lay off 20% of the workforce, he who supports the manager and the department the most stays. Simple. Doesn’t mean you have to be highly paid either. If you are highly paid, you need to provide more value or solve harder problems.
If you have a manager who doesn’t really care, then we need to make it as easy as possible for them to manage you. We want to arm them with as much information as we can so that it is easy to prove you are worth more when they ask for a raise on your behalf or have more responsibility to hand out.
What should this review / check-in / update look like?
Let your manager know that you want to “check in” with them under the guise that you want to make sure you are working on the right projects. Bring two dated copies of the following agenda to the meetings. One for them, one for you.
- Projects you accomplished during the last rotation
- I completed x project
- I completed y project
- Z project was delayed because of budget cuts
- Projects you are working on
- I plan on having “c” project done within 3 weeks
- I plan on having “d” project done in 6 weeks
- I am working with the Sales department to deliver project “e”
- What you want to improve on
- In improve my facilitation skills, I want to run 2 meetings in the next 2 months. I just read a book on the topic and want to try some of these ideas.
- I am going to attend an Excel class in the evening on my own dime at the local community college to push my skills.
- Personal goal
- This can be really personal or can be work-related. I like it when someone says they are going to run a marathon, go on three – 5-mile hikes, or take a cooking class. At the end of the year, this self-improvement just paints a very well-rounded picture of an individual that is hard not to like from a corporate standpoint. The new manager will get a REALLY good idea of who, and what you are with this type of background.
When you are done with the meeting, send an email to your manager and the above outline in a separate document. Your manager can either drop the email or the document into your personal folder. Thank them for their time, and then confirm everything you mentioned. You can add notes to the agenda just confirming what was discussed. Don’t expect anything, but even an apathetic manager will have something to say. Make it easy for them to keep a record of your progress, just like you are.
See you at the after party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.