Saturday, September 4, 2021

Work Life: (Exempt) My Personal Advice to Avoid These Steps on Your Yearly/Periodic Review or Interview or Status Update or Self-Evaluations

I have been working professionally for 15+ years, and I have coached quite a few colleagues and friends what I have learned the hard-way. Many who struggled with promotions or raises have found success with my suggestions.

For this article, I'm going to use a scale of 1-5. 5: Beyond expectation; 4: Meeting expectation; 3: Sometimes expectation; 2: Well below expectation, possible suspension; 1: Likely to get fired soon. Some companies have more points; some put different names to them; some also in reverse order. In my personal opinion, they all basically boil down to this type of model based on the results of my reviews.

This is also primarily for paying jobs where the work is not very well defined (exempt, no overtime pay) versus most hourly jobs (non-exempt). My experience is also wholly in the white-collared world. This may also work for blue-collared work too.

Give Yourself Full Score if You Do Not Know Your Benchmark

If you do not know your benchmark for scoring, give yourself the full score even if you believe that you deserve a 3 or even a 2. Force your employer to explain to you why you do not deserve a 5. 

The only exception to this is if your employer already gives you feedback on a regular basis. In that case, make sure that you fully understand what is being asked. You should make sure that you do understand when you receive those feedbacks. But if it is too late to fill in your self-eval, then put in a higher score. Don't put it too high as you may appear that you didn't get anything out of your regular reviews.

I have also never experienced nor heard anyone experience any negative effects of giving themselves a 5 even if it is obviously not a 5 work. Still use some judgment on whether your manager is the type to take offense. My work has always been 4-5. I do get some 3s but they are primarily for skills I do not have the opportunity to do. The most common one is improving company core values. Which I believe they default for everyone. But I still give myself a 5 just to hear my manager tell me that it is basically defaulted to 3 for everyone. This is when you learn this is whole exercise is quite pointless. But since it is required, I suggest everyone to make use of this to get as much information as they can from it.

Do not mistake that the score is for you to guess what you think the company thinks of you. This is what you think of yourself. If you believe you meeting expectation, then give yourself that score.

The main reason for this is because most managers also have no clue. Your problem is if you give yourself a 3 and a non-deserving person gives himself a 4, then you lose out. The manager won't even look or reconsider. You are automatically filtered out. HR has even less clue. Most do not even know your name.

Last is that it may even be potential that your work is a 5 but you don't know it! Maybe you thought all that training was normal, but you don't know that you produced the best candidates. Another scenario is that your group outperforms another group. You may be average in your group but still outperform another group top performer. As mentioned earlier, let the company tell you why you don't deserve it because they will happily let you keep your 4 even if they believe you deserve a 5 or even a 5+ because 4 is cheaper for them. 

Keep Track of Your Own Activities

Keep track of as many activities as you can do without impacting your work, because you are bound to forget them by review time. By activities, I do not mean just big projects. I mean meetings you hosted, important meetings you attended, any exceptions to your normal role, people who trained (or partially trained) even if it was only 30 minutes, documentations created. Many people I have coached assume these are small tasks so they do not record these information.

The problem is that some of these small things amount to big things. The difficulty of tracking these is that it is too late by the time it becomes a big thing. For example, I had to do a presentation on our internal processes. Managers loved it and had me present more. My roles have been development or process management, and no one else in my role or level presented. So by the time I had my review, I can only said that I spent significant amount of time training. Which they down-played because what is "significant"? When I started tracking numbers, this became much easier to present and leverage myself to my needs.

Ultimately, you are trying to justify your time. There is approximately 2000 (50 weeks of 40 hours) hours of full-time work in a year.

Also see Give Managers Ammunition.

Give Managers Ammunition

Most managers have absolutely no idea about your quality of work. A decent one will at least vaguely know if you are better than someone else. If you think it is difficult to give yourself a number score, imagine having to give a number score to someone else?

So help your manager fight for you. This is where your self-evaluation and your list comes in handy.

In reality, most managers don't know what to do. So it makes it easier for your manager to stand out if you give him some information that helps him leverage for you.

Start with not lowering your score. If you give yourself a 4 but in reality you are a 5, it is an uphill battle for your manager to explain why you should be a 5 when you gave yourself a 4. The manager also plays a similar game with their managers. Not all managers know where they stand among their peers either so you may be shafted for having a 4 in an outstanding team versus a 5 in an underperforming team. At least with 5's, the discussion can be had.

When that discussion can be had, it is typically pretty easy for managers to impress too with data. For example, 2000 promotions may be normal for me but that sounds impressive to upper management. Especially if a peer group does not provide any numbers at all. 2000 can be a crappy number in reality, but the perception is that my manager appears more prepared. The more data, the harder it is for a competing manager to leverage the benefits. Number of resolved tickets, requests, time-to-completion.

As I have repeated a couple times, this can only be done if that information is provided.

Not Everything Needs to be Monetary Compensation

With large corporations there are limits to a raise, the timing may not be correct. With small companies, they may not have the funds. Or your manager may be weak in fighting for your values.

Negotiate training time, bigger budget (or get a budget) to purchase work related products or software, promotion in name only (even just a jr to sr, or level 1 to level 2; make up a new position if one doesn't exist... this is free to the company), etc.

These are investments that you can use in the future when money becomes more available (whether that money comes from your current employer or future employer). If current employer does not honor your value, then other companies can at least justify the higher salary.

Don't Work Overtime Except for Exceptional Reasons

At least start reducing your overtime hours. You will never be able to reduce your hours until you decide to. Do not wait until you have a new member in your team.

Why? The reason is quite simpler than you think. No one tracks the hours of salaried employees. Most managers barely know the hours. Even if they do, most likely they are also working overtime. Because no one knows, upper management only compares your work to the calendar.

So let us say that you did 100 tickets over 80 hour work week. Because upper management don't know the hours, to them that is 100 tickets per week. If they hire a new person and assume that person is your clone, if you both work 40 hours, you still get 100 tickets completed. To upper management, they do not understand because now you are completing the same amount of work for the double the cost.

Along similar reasoning, if you were given a raise for working 80 hours and you are now working 40 hours, then upper management cannot justify your salary. So it is important that salary is in-line with your base hours otherwise it will be very difficult to ever return to normal hours.

If you are already doing extreme overtime, the path of least resistance is to slowly reduce your hours and let things fail. This requires you to set the proper expectations and "upset" some people.

Business is not perfect so some overtime is acceptable if it is seen as an exception. Once that overtime becomes a household name, then things get more complicated. Even reducing salary is more complicated than you'd think.

Overall, personally, I think it is good for both company and employees that expectations are set properly for the long-term. This is a difficult track because most managers do not know how to overlook short-term gains over long-term gains but it kind of starts with a person. "It's all business" will dictate that if someone is willing to put themselves in position to do more work for same or less pay, they will continue to exploit it.

This was a long round-about way of saying to avoid using overtime as a reason to get a promotion or a raise. Use overtime to get a bonus or other one-time benefits so that it is not tied to your base work. Once it is tied to your base pay then you will have a difficult time separating the two if you ever wish to work normal hours again.

Exception is if you plan to continue to work overtime for the remainder of your tenure of that job. I specifically use job and not employer is because one of the easier methods to get out of the downward spiral is to apply for a new role. The farther the role is from the original, the easier to start over.

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