Review Time

I read a reader entry on one of my favorite software blogs. It was entitled “Review Time Again”. The author had a performance review. And despite having a stellar year, he got a rating of meets expectations. His question is what’s a developer to do in such situations? The great part about this post was the great feedback from other readers.

There was a general sense that performance reviews are themselves bad. They pit employees to compete which each other. Sometimes a little competition can be healthy. But if I need to do better than my coworkers to get that raise, why should I help anybody else. Right?

One source of feedback from another reader was to call attention to the fact that reviews are not about how much effort you have expended. They are or should be able what kind of results you have generated. Then again, another reader recommended you just threaten to quit your position. You might magically receive an “exceeds expectations” ratings sooner than you think.

There are many times in the Dilbert world where the pointy haired boss does you wrong. However in the case of performance reviews, the boss may not have very much flexibility. The manager may have to grade on the curve. The majority of the team is expected to have a rating of meets expectations. Maybe 10% can get an exceeds expectation, while another 10% must get a poor rating.

It is clear that one thing is for sure. Receiving a meets expectations rating hurts developer morale. And it could very well be the case you are working at a place where management is just bad. Sometimes you just need to move on. You often do get a pay raise when you jump ship. At other companies there is no set pay increase other than a cost of living each year.

The last idea, which is one that is implemented in my own company, is that of a 360 degree review. You don’t just get a review from your manager. You get it from your peers as well as people under you. I just received one of these. Or at least I was supposed to. I never got the results back from my manager. Am I unhappy? No. I was already told it would not impact my pay because I am new here. So there was really no point.