I had my annual review yesterday and received the highest rating possible.  I feel like I earned it but my VP was lackluster about it.  The whole review felt like a "you did great but here are all these things that you need to do...I am going to put the goals so unattainable that I will be surprised if you achieve them."  What gives?

Hard to tell from afar

Could be one or more of many things:  he was having a bad day.  He felt obligated to focus on your weaknesses (this is common.)  Cutbacks are coming and he's positioning people for action.  He couldn't give you the promotion he would like to. 

Perhaps a little more detail...

Did you get a raise and/or a bonus?  Did he discuss promotions?  

Rather than characterizing the tone of the conversation,  could you share what was actually said?  

Is this the first review you've had with this manager?  Is not, is this a pattern or something new?  

How's your firm weathering the economic storm?  Might your group be at risk?   

John Hack

Roll with It

I'd be really tempted to just roll with it. I know I've taken a hit and not been able to give my people what I think they deserve because of a numbers game. Maybe I'm jaded, but I see a lot of politics in performance reviews. I think I use reviews more for benchmarks than for career-boosting game-changers.

That in mind, check out the casts on preparing for your own review. Part of the advice includes pulling out your last review (that is, the one you just had), and checking your accomplishments, feedback, objectives, and boss' issues to use as a yardstick for your performance. Use this review as a springboard to move forward. Take all those things he said you need to do and try to do them. You may need to meet with him to discuss metrics for success on these. This might be a good agenda item for one of your next meetings provided you have regular meetings with your boss.

- BJ

I don't know

John may be right...and I agree with him that I don't know enough to draw a solid conclusion.  I'd like to know more about how many other reviews you have goteen, how they went, were they with this VP, and what the culture is there, as well as how the firm/division/group/team did last year.

In many places I've been, NOT getting the TOP score was tantamount to a BIG negative review.  Sometimes inflation plays a role.  But I don't know that here.

Mark