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Bad Performance Review - How to react?

#1 Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 15:01


Hi All,

Long term reader, first time poster....

Have recently had my performance appraisal for 2012 where I have dropped to a bottom 25% performer despite being a top 25% performer for the last four years.

There hasn't been a clear message from my manager to why I have dropped into this area, and certainty no warning. All he can say is that I didn't perform as well as peers but without quoting any examples, or being any more specific...?

I believe the decision may be more politically motivated rather than an actual reflection on my performance. I'm not saying I'm a top-end high flying performer, but at the same time I would've thought I would see a below average review coming. Also I'm on the cusp of Senior Consultant to Manager level, of which I 'should' be due a decent pay rise.

How do I react to this? The easy option would be to throw my dummy out, resign, etc. But, I'm wandering if there is more to it, which my lack of experience is not telling me.

Would appreciate if the senior heads on here could help me out.

I'm prepared to leave, if I have to. But I want that to be a last resort as I enjoy what I do, and have some really good friends among my peer level colleagues.

Thanks in advance...

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#2 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 15:30

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to fantaski (#1)

Appraisals just suck, don't you think?

Rest assured, there is no rhyme or reason for what's happened. It's just one of those things. He probably has the hots for some female colleague of yours and so you don't compare favourably in his eyes. Or it could be that he's under pressure and has decided to "beat up" a few people, such as you. Maybe he is slightly envious of your potential and wants to clip your wings. Or, more likely, he's probably just an erratic, inconsistent thinker whose mood and opinion changes from month to month. Some people basically are just prone to mood swings and your appraisal possibly co-incided with a bad time for him.

Trust me, it's not you - it's him. That much is abundantly clear from the honesty and conscientiousness of your post.

I'd start looking for opportunities elsewhere, where the grass is greener.

Don't waste time trying to win over an ungrateful swine. He has laid his cards on the table and you now owe him no loyalty. You are free! Do not let your conscience or a misguided sense of loyalty hold you back; an employment contract is a two-way thing and if either of you feels like the other isn't acting in the spirit of it, then you're well entitled to shop around for something better.

So - Stay calm. Realise it isn't you. Release yourself from misguided loyalty. Free your conscience and quietly pursue other avenues. Then, stick it to the man.

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#3 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 16:14

alexandermeerkat to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#2)

Surely this has to be evidence based - what are the specific examples that put you below expected performance? Also the appraisal should be based on feedback from multiple people so in that case one person should not be able to totally skew things - where are the individual project appraisals that add up to this?

I wouldn't necessarily leave just on this - can you turn it around - get a development plan together to do whatever needs to be done to address the issues?

Also do you have a mentor, another friendly partner/ senior manager you can talk to? If you genuinely think that it's motivated out of malice we are talking constructive dismissal so maybe a visit to HR is also in order? If you really did have top 25% performance and it's just this guy then surely you'll have allies that will not want to see you drummed out?

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#4 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 16:20

marsday to alexandermeerkat (#3)

I was about to add the same alexander - surely this manager must be able to corroborate his appraisal? It is not acceptable that you are simply appraised bottom quartile after a strong performance previously with no examples and supporting evidence.

First step will be to request - politely but firmly - supporting evidence to corroborate the appraisal. CC HR in if you want so they are aware of the issue. You may even find they have had issues with this same Manager previously in which so much the better.

The option to leave remains of course, but to leave and claim constructive dismissal you must show you have followed an internal complaints/appeals procedure, or at least requested one.

This kind of political nonsense is hard to justify, and your Manager sounds like he has an agenda of his own. Don't take it lying down - challenge it.

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#5 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 16:30

Mr Cool to marsday (#4)

+1 to mars and alexmeerkat

e-mail to Manager in the first instance asking for examples so that you can sure you "understand what you should be focusing on improving."

If no response within a few working days = resend the message and cc: HR

I PERSONALLY would NOT cc HR in the first e-mail. If you do then the manager will take extra care over his response. Keep it low key and he may try to fob you off with some shoddy lazy examples - that's the point at which to cc in HR.

...give him some rope and he'll hang himself.

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#6 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 16:39

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to Mr Cool (#5)

The problem is, these things are always subjective. It's very easy to put "spin" on an appraisal and selectively use examples and put a slant on things to support whatever you want it to say. These things are definitely not objective!

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#7 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 16:44

alexandermeerkat to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#6)

Yes appraisals very subjective but equally you can use your own influence to get things altered if you have support within the organisation.

Sure if everyone thinks you are rubbish (even if not true) there's nothing you can do and you should leave. If it's just one guy then that's totally different.

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#8 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 16:56

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to alexandermeerkat (#7)

But if that one guy is senior...? If an SC, then presumably the appraisal is being done by a director? So at best it will come across as sour grapes and they may begrudgingly change your grade to stop you whining about it? At worst the director will get irritated and use his own influence to crush him?

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#9 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 17:13

marsday to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#8)

'at worst director will get irritated and use his own influence to crush him'

or more precisely at worst the Director will do something inherently stupid and indefensible and land the company in an expensive tribunal. Once OP has some concrete examples it's much easier to establish whether those examples accurately corroborate the appraisal. It's also easier then to look at each example, and determine whether there is another interpretation of events, or even whether the appraisal has been based on 1 or 2 unsatisfactory events amidst otherwise good perfomance.

Appraisals are subjective of course - that's why OP can challenge this one as it would seem aberational. As OP is on cusp of SC to Manager level, I cannot help but wonder also whether the manager from the appraisal is acting on orders from higher up to cull people downwards perhaps, avoiding or delaying promotions the practice might struggle to offer? Any which way this appraisal needs explanation - it the manager can back it up, fair is fair. If not, there may be a case to answer.

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#10 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 17:17

alexandermeerkat to marsday (#9)

Well even if that's the case BEP it's still worth a try - if the alternative is leaving ...

Maybe it's a while since you had an appraisal rather than a sales budget to meet ;-)

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#11 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 17:17

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#8)

I'm normally with Bushy but Cool and Mars I think are right here.

We have all seen in our careers plenty of examples of people around us who were a marginal high/medium being given below average grades. Reading this I feel lucky not to have gone through it.

I think Mars and Cool are right, you fight it but not in an "all out Braveheart War" kind of way, you do it carefully and constructively.

As an example, an old colleague (now a friend) told me when he stepped up and Programme Managed for a year a large programme (his old boss left the 200k staff MC) and at the end of the year they did to him what they are doing to you, he got a below peer grade even though he did his boss' job for a year.

But he did as per Cool/Mars description, requested specific examples of why his performance was seen as below his peers etc and then discussed it with his mentor (who went ballistic) and over a 2 month period his grade was pushed up and he even finished with a bonus. Hence worhtwhile pursuing.

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#12 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 17:27

fantaski to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#8)

Thanks for all the responses...really appreciate it.

To provide more context to answer BEPs line of enquires the manager is an Associate Partner and I have only recently been assigned to him as my previous manager moved on.

I don't think I can get the result changed but I will seek HR advice offline to ascertain what the rules are.

Interestingly I confided in a Senior Manager (a genuine high flyer who will make Partner pretty soon) on my current project about this and he concurs with my assumption I'm being screwed over for political reasons. He sits in another area of the business and has offered to champion a transfer to his department! That is definitely something I would consider, and he has started collating the paperwork and approvals required to do that.

Like BEP said it's easy to put a spin on feedback and although I never received negative feedback directly, all feedback requires suggestions for improvement. This is where I feel he may have leverage to defend the outcome.

I have immediately requested a face to face with my manager and will meet him next week to discuss this outcome. He will come (well he says he will) with a development plan and I can then access whether it's total BS, or geniune...of which if it was I will bite my lip and work on it.

However, I would be surprised if that was the case and if it was BS then I will escalate formally through emails as per Mr Cools and marsday suggestions.

Ultimately if s**t hits the fan and I have burned all bridges with my immediate management team, then it's time to leave and if no offers come in a good amount of time then I would hope this transfer would go through.

Thanks again for your advice.

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#13 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
01/02/2013 20:17

DiamondSea to fantaski (#12)

To the thread opener.

Dunno how it works in your firm, but don't you have a series of appraisals that came from your actual day-to-day engagements?

If you are honest and I think you are, all of these should have given you at least average feedback. The periodical appraisal you do with your "development manager" should pretty much be the mean of those.

If it's much different, sure you have grounds an evidence to suggest being put in the bottom quartile was lunacy...

ALSO, looking for other options (both within the firm and with others) and trying to understand what is really going on are not mutually exclusive and I would initiate both of them ASAP.

Also, bear in mind that your practice/area of the business might not be happy to see you poached (even though you are a low performer in their eyes) and that transfering when you are on the verge of promotion will most likely put you back to square one of that grade (SC in your case)... Unless the transfer includes the promotion...

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#14 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
02/02/2013 23:15

big mac to DiamondSea (#13)

Thanks for this post fantaski! The exact same thing happened to me this week!

I'm an Assistant Manager and was expecting to be pormoted to Manager. I had been getting great feedback (verbally from clients and SMs and Directors) for months and out of nowhere in my end of year review they have maniplulated all the client feedback into negatives.

I hadn't done any engagement reviews as my Performance Manager said I didn't need to do them (which looking back was naive of me to beleive) and now I have been royally screwed over.

I have 2 theories:

1. My manager was told she was not allowed to promote anyone

2. She's a female (so am I) and I've only been at the firm 9 months and I have killed it, day on day, so much so that I am don't drop below 90% utilisation and am pulled off other secondments for short periods to work on other engagements because the other team has specifically requested me. She is jealous and trying to clip my wings...but she said they were doing it for my own good, didn't want me to move up too quickly because they want to be 100% sure I'm ready. Biggest piece of bullsh1t I have ever heard.

To your last point fantaski - I've already had a follow up meeting with my manager requesting all the client and other feedback. She had not given me the full feedback but stripped out the development points so I think they have taken it out of context to make it look more negative than it was originally intended. My manager's manger provided feedback on a piece of work I did with her (please note - HER again!) and there was a couple of typos in this 21 tab (w/ 100 row each) s/s I delivered to her (I didn't provide the content, it was a boring copy and paste job from document provided by the client) therefore I have very poor attention to detal - meanwhile there were typos in the review form she filled out for me! I asked them to change my grade and they are refusing to based on their shoddy grounds. I have confided in another director asking for advice on next steps and he's shocked and thinks I need to go to HR...I rpobably won't as I don't trust any of them and I am actually quitting as I have another offer...but obviously I was going to stay if I got promoted!

Good luck with your follow up meeting, hope it goes better than mine but if I were you, I'd look elsewhere. That team transfer would be a good option because if you move to another firm you'll have to spend to spend another year or 2 building up a good rep, like I will have to do! :(

Rant over now!

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#15 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
04/02/2013 09:20

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to big mac (#14)

Ahh, yes, I'm even more certain now about what's going on here.

Two feisty females battling it out at appraisal time over "extremely serious" matters such as a solitary typo buried away in cell RW62 in a 85Mb spreadsheet.

Plus, being the truly caring individual and the exmplar of professionalism that she is, she "wants to make sure you are ready" before you can handle the power of a 5% payrise.

Tell me, what do YOU think is going on here? It's fairly obvious to the rest of us. I bet she wears chunky jewellery, right? Perhaps, just perhaps, even a neckscarf too?

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#16 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
04/02/2013 09:36

big mac to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#15)

Pfffttt...I'm not fiesty. I have no idea why everyone keeps saying that haha!

Jealous, thinks it's unfair for me to move up too quicky because it was so hard for her. Cue the violins..

FYI That promo gets me my own desk, a car park and they'll even trust me with my very own work mobile...waaaay too much power for me to handle...

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#17 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
04/02/2013 10:55

Anon MCs to big mac (#16)

Wow, your own work mobile requires a promotion!?!

Tell them to stop being so tight and then welcome them to the 21st Century!!!

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#18 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
04/02/2013 11:19

big mac to Anon MCs (#17)

Well actually, they don't even give you a mobile but a SIM card...that's what Manager gets you, oh and I'll be allowed to dial mobiles from my desk phone, at present I can only dial landlines. I cannot wait for my next review in another 6 months so I can be told I can't get my phone bill paid for because I get on too well with clients and although I became the "trusted advisor" I really need to distance myself and make it clear I'm a consultant and build a different type of relationship (this one really baffled me)...oh wait, that just happened! Not that I'm bitter or anything.

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#19 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
04/02/2013 11:24

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to big mac (#18)

They just give you a SIM card but no handset? WTF are you supposed to do with that, stick it up your butt and talk into the palm of your hand?

And you can only call landlines? Well I bet that makes it really easy to get through to clients. After all, they're always sat at their desk and nobody ever call filters these days.

As for getting on "too well" with clients - well, we can't have staff showing personality or having a happy working environment now can we? Best be poker-faced and miserable, after all that's what clients demand.

As a junior, I once also got slated for being "unprofessional" - i.e. I actually got on with clients and they liked me. I was told that the "client thinks this" and the "client thinks that". Actually, the clients thought no such thing. It was just bullying by my manager, who I figure thought he knew best and could understand people like no other. Anyway, as I got older, I realised that he was just a plonker. Ignore other people when they give you "feedback" like that and just be yourself. Usually when a manager tries to control the behaviour of an underling, they get it all wrong and are usually doing it for entirely the wrong reasons.

oh big mac we can feel your frustration.... it must be maddening for you. Try and look on the bright side though, the weather's getting better and you can always explore other opportunities if this annoying boss gets to you too much :)

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#20 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
04/02/2013 11:53

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#19)

I'm sorry Big Mac, but your place sounds a bit too restrictive for my liking. You do realise the other MCs out there are in a massive recruitment drive and there are plenty of opportunities...?

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#21 RE: Bad Performance Review - How to react?
04/02/2013 18:46

big mac to Anon MCs (#20)

Thanks for the sympathy guys.

I don't plan on being there much longer and don't think I'll be working in consulting next time round. Will try my luck with the contracting market instead. More money, less hours and clients are easier to please (based on working with way too many contractors who do f all and earn triple what I earn!).

Also put off big 4s. I knew they screwed people over but this is really taking the p1ss.

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