Darkened Software

Tag: Reviews

Managers review duties do not just start at review time.

by on Sep.15, 2013, under Lessons

Review time can be a little nerve racking for employee’s at Microsoft given a rather large chunk of your yearly wages are based on it.  In addition to stocks and money the ranking also controls the possibilities for promotion and transfer during the next year.  While the employee creates the body of work that will be judged in the end, its is not even close to 100% in their control how they are going to be judged & ranked in the end.

The 3 well known factors at work here that cause employee’s to have so little control of their fate:

  1. You create objectives at the beginning of the year, you get to make some modifications at mid year if your manager approves.  But between then and the end of the year if the business objectives change you are likely going to be graded on something you have not been working on in 6 months.
  2. You are stack ranged against everyone else in the company within your level.  Its not enough that you were great in your engineering job but you have to be perceived as better at that than the same level producer, artist, designer, HR, sale, and marketing person is at their job.  Not sure there is a possible formula for figuring this out so as in any subjective process things are going to be off.
  3. As you get compare to a ever growing group of people in your band, you manager has to fight to keep their suggested ranking for you.  Then at each level after that the next manager up has to fight to keep you at your suggested ranking.  Thus it is crazy important that your manager not only has your back but is persuasive as well so that all managers in your line will also have your back.


Feeling a little nervous yet that all your hard work could be for not.  Don’t worry in reality you have even less control than that as there is one more huge variable at work.

4.  End of year only peer feedback.

At mid year you get a forced check in from your boss were you write up how you think your doing and he corrects you if needed.  This is great as it solves one big problem were people think they are going good but are really not and get surprised.  In this system someone now has 6 months to correct it before they get locked down for the year.

What this system does not prevent is both you and your boss thinking your doing great but at the end of the year when all the co-worker feedback comes in there is some discrepancies.  Now your completely screwed, if you had known earlier (mid year) you could have cleared up any real or perceived issues.  But since there is only 360 feedback at the final review, you find out just in time to realize your extra hard work was wasted.  This is not just a Microsoft issue, many companies use this non symmetric system.

One can try to protect themselves from these issues by asking their boss at every single one on one “how am I doing in general and am I on target to hit my end of year ranking goal?”.  Then everything gets corrected in two week intervals ( make sure your boss is showing up ) and if you do it consistently your mid year feedback will be only positive with hopefully plans on how to grow the next big skills set you need for the next band.

If your at the lead level or above you should already be talking to the other Art, Design, Production groups to find out if your team is meeting their teams needs.  This is a good time to find out feedback on how your individual team members are doing and if they are willing to share, how you are doing.  Not everyone is confident enough to give you feedback about yourself straight to your face, but I have never had anyone not tell me their thoughts about my employee’s are doing.  So there is really no excuse if you ever get review time feedback comments for your people that that you did not see coming.  If all the manager up the line are doing this then the system works out even if they will not give you your own feedback and thus no one gets surprised.

So there is 4 big things employee’s do not control that make their review an stressful nightmare of uncertainty.  The manager have the ability to control or minimize all of them.  It requires only a little bit more work above what you should be doing already, so there is no excuse for not to do it.  The payoff is massive as stress and uncertainty kill peoples productivity, and the trust gained from them knowing you have their back is massive.







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