Annual reviews - anticipating a dispute

Hi all,

Seeking some advice. I am in the midst of preforming annual reviews for my direct reports, and I've only been in the role for just under a year.

I am in a difficult situation where my predecessor gave inflated evaluations and ratings of my staff in last years annual review, indicating to them they had preformed beyond their standard duties. My observations over the past months are at odds with previous evaluations, and I believe they are meeting expectations but far from preforming beyond their required duties. My reports will now be coming into the reviews with high expectations based on previous evaluations.

I am new to this role and have only just begun one-on-ones and giving regular feedback to my staff. I am anticipating when delivering the reviews and advising that they are only meeting expectations that I will be receiving questions for example "I would have done better if I had more time and feedback from you".

Whilst I realise I could have provided more coaching and assistance along the way, should there be any validity to this argument? Should I mark softer due to this circumstance?

I feel I should perform the review solely based on their behaviours and results. I have other newer direct reports who I have not had one-on-ones with either, yet have still performed above and beyond.



Are there consequences?

Are there consequences for your employees just based on the fact that you are doing the reviews differently from your predecessor?

If not, just do not make it into a big issue. Explain openly that you do them differently, and that you will do reviews quarterly from now on.

RE: Annual reviews - anticipating a dispute

You have a lot of company: I am betting many forum participants have been in this situation.

I have a basic philosophy that successfully negates the problem of a prior boss and over inflation of reviews. At the very beginning of the process I state emphatically that if someone is fulfilling their job description, that is a Level 3: SUCCESSFULLY MEETS ranking (assuming you are using the typical 1-5 ranking). A Job Description is not a goal, its an expectation of ongoing performance. If management expected more, than the employee would already have been promoted.
I make it clear that a 4 (EXCEEDS) means that someone exceeded their job description, not just completely met the expectation of the job description. Rarely do I see more than 20-25% 4's. And if an employee ever received more than 10% 5’s, then it should already have been communicated that the employee is in line for a promotion.
Interestingly, this also reminds the employees that if they continually come up short to their job description that they will be getting a 2.

No surprises

The main rule of annual reviews should be "no surprises."  If you haven't made it clear already that you have higher expectations, and deliver lower ratings than your predecessor, you should be having that conversation in O3s over the next week.

I have a reputation has something of a hard case on evaluations.  We use a ten-point scale, and my ratings are statistically just a bit over half a point lower than my peers.  My ratings are close enough that it doesn't affect the raise pool for my group, so my peers don't have more money to pass out than I do.  The other way I'm different from my peers is that there is more variance:  I "spread the scores" so it is more obvious who the high performers are, and who is simply meeting expectations. 

Another suggestion for you to think about:  Ask people how they think they're exceeding their job description.  My best guys can give you a list of things they do that demonstrate they "frequently exceed expectations" and the one guy who doesn't exceed knows it.  He is meeting expectations, but for personal reasons he has chosen for the past couple of years to simply do his job well.

(Unfortunately, that contributes to my biggest challenge as a manager:  I don't give enough feedback.  My guys self-evaluate quite a bit, and I validate their self-evaluations, but that's not the same as feedback.)

It's also possible that you'll hear a list of reasons why they think they're doing more than the job requires -- if you're new, you might be misreading their level of effort, and need to recalibrate your ratings.  Which could be cool!


Too High Expectations can be Bad too

Don't be like my boss. He claims that he expects so much from his directs so the best you can do is "meet expectations."

So he doesn't give out 4's. Only 3's and an occasional 2.

It basically makes the rating totally meaningless.