short answer Sunday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday: seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. In trouble for sending a farewell email to contacts

The process of giving my two weeks notice went well, and I survived with little drama, thankfully. Today is my last day, so I sent out my farewell email to all of my contacts. I sent the farewell email using my current company email address. My note was very kind, I wrote very nice things about the company, and simply let people know that I would be leaving today and what company I will be going to. About 20 minutes after the email went out, I was called into my boss’s office and was told that sending an email out under my company email address was completely unacceptable and that they would be shutting down my email immediately for “security purposes.” They feel that the email should have went out under my personal email address. I have seen many many goodbye emails, and they are almost always from the company email address (unless they were let go) I truly do not understand why they are so upset. I’m disappointed that after a calm two weeks, this is how my time here will end. Was I wrong do to this?

No, that’s bizarre. It’s very normal to do what you did. My best guess is that your manager wanted to control the messaging about your departure to people outside of your company, but what you did is so normal that if she wanted it handled differently, she should have spoken up earlier.

2. Negotiating when the company told you the salary range up-front

If a company indicates a specific salary or range at the beginning of the interview process, do you have any leverage to negotiate above the range if you actually receive an offer? Or have you implicitly agreed to the range they gave?

You can often try for a small amount above their initially stated range, but if you ask for much more than that, you’ll look like you weren’t operating in good faith — after all, they told you from the outset what they planned to pay. Think about how you’d react if you told a company at the outset that you were seeking to make $X, they didn’t raise any concerns about it, but then a month later after you’d put significant time into their hiring process, they offered you the position at significantly less and told you they wouldn’t budge.

Basically, they’ve told you the salary at the outset because they want to make sure you’re okay with it. You risk making them highly annoyed if you spring something significantly different on them later.

3. Is it legal for a manager and subordinate to have an affair?

I have an “is it legal?” question. I’m curious about legal ramifications of affairs at work. A girl I used to work with is most likely having an affair with her direct manager. This was confided in me by a friend I trust. Before this sounds gossipy, I want to say that I realize it could be false information because it’s secondhand and I would never pass it on to anyone and other than morally and ethically disagreeing with it if it is true, I have no other interest in the matter.

What it made me wonder was: could one or both people in theses circumstances actually get fired for this? Does that depend on the company’s individual policy on these sorts of things or are there larger scale legal ramifications? More of a curiosity question than anything else.

It depends on the company’s policy. But if the company is even remotely smart, they’ll have a policy against it — and most do (although often smaller companies neglect to address this, to their peril).

The law doesn’t prohibit dating or sleeping with your manager or subordinate. It does, however, prohibit sexual harassment, and the problem is that even fully consensual romantic or sexual relationships between a manager or subordinate make it very easy for the subordinate to claim harassment later — to claim that they felt they couldn’t refuse the manager’s overtures, or that they couldn’t break off the relationship when they wanted to, without suffering professional damage at work. And those things would provide legal standing for a sexual harassment claim.

(Plus, those relationships cause all kinds of non-legal problems too: questions about whether the manager can objectively manage and evaluate the person’s performance, whether they’re given unfair treatment when it comes to raises/evaluations/promotions/feedback/assignments, and so forth. And even in the rare cases — extraordinarily rare, maybe impossible — where the manager somehow manages to be fully objective about those things, no one around the manager will buy that, so it causes a perception and morale problem regardless.)

4. My annual review wasn’t in line with my excellent performance

My annual review was conducted last week, it was something I’d been eagerly anticipating for over a month. I’ve worked at the company for just under a year, and because it was a career switch I took a position beneath my experience level. My expectation was that I’d move quickly through the ranks after proving my competence and constantly striving to create value.

Over the course of the year, I moved up from a analyst role to a position managing several people on an IT project. I’ve received nothing but praise from immediate managers and peers, and so I fully expected to receive high marks, a sizable raise, and possibly a promotion commensurate to my current role. Instead, I received an average rating for my level, no discussion of promotion, and a whopping three percent raise. I was incredulous, I can’t remember feeling so devalued and humiliated. I tried to argue my case during the review (in as professional manner as possible), but it seems the decision had been made. I’ve been lumped into the mediocre (or below) pile, and there’s nothing I can do until the 2013 review to change it. What would you do if you were in my position?

Talk to your manager. The messed up reality is that many companies make it very hard for people to receive high ratings on evaluations and routinely give average ratings to star performers. That might be the case at your company, or it might be something else, but either way, start by talking to your manager and say that you felt your evaluation didn’t reflect your performance or the feedback you’ve received all year. Ask what you’d need to do differently to receive a higher rating in the future. Once you hear her response, you’ll have a better idea of whether you’re willing to accept this or whether you want to look for a position somewhere with different methods of rewarding people.

All that said, though, it’s possible that your expectations are slightly too high. I say that because you were potentially expecting a second promotion within a year (which is a lot), and you might be overestimating how well you’re performing in a role that’s relatively new to you. You might be doing a perfectly good job in the new role, but still not in the “excellent” category, which wouldn’t be at all uncommon after such a short period of time in a new role, even for a smart and talented person. And that’s more reason to talk to your manager with an open mind and hear what she says.

5. Noting future work on your resume

I have a question about listing future, accepted jobs on my resume. I’m a second year law student, so applying for jobs a year or two in advance is not unusual. I have a research assistant position secured for next semester, and a summer internship for Summer 2013. I plan to start applying for clerkships (jobs with judges) in January or February. So far, I’ve been listing my future jobs as this on my resume:

Summer Associate, Dewey Chetum and Howe, anticipated Summer 2013

Research Assistant, Professor Smith, anticipated Spring 2013

My career center thinks “anticipated” is the correct word, but my parents think that sounds too speculative. What do you think?

For once, I agree with someone’s parents! “Anticipated” sounds too close to “I think this will happen but I’m not sure.” How about “scheduled” or something similar instead? (That’s not perfect though — maybe someone will have a better suggestion in the comments.)

6. Job was removed and then reposted

I have basically been applying to jobs since before I got out of grad school in my field. I was lucky to have landed a job before I officially graduated and negotiated a start date just after my coursework ended. After starting, a variety of things went awry and I started job searching again. One job that I applied to was kind of a long shot, but I had some experience in that area and so applied anyway. It is several months later and I just received a letter stating that they position had been reassigned a new faculty ranking and so it was being deleted and reposted. They did not mention if this ranking is lower or higher, and never said in the letter if I was even qualified for the last posting since it wasn’t a flat out rejection. I just saw the new posting and it doesn’t appear any to be any different to me, and at this point I have more experience to add to my application. Can I go for it? Or should I accept that I’ve been rejected and move on?

Sure, you’ve got nothing to lose by applying again, and there’s nothing here indicating that they’d rejected you previously.

7. Turning an internship into a full-time job

I am a recent graduate from a top liberal arts college. I started interning at a large environmental conservation nonprofit as a development and events intern this past October. I really enjoy working there, although some tasks are too tedious. The department is quite short-staffed (there are the prospect research manager, major gifts officer, and events manager; the director of development had just left for another position at a different organization). How do I go about asking if there is full-time job opportunity at the department or elsewhere in the organization? Should I approach HR or my supervisors? I realize that there are a lot of disorganization in the department, and having an extra person, like myself, who has been working there for a couple months would really help make things flow better and take some tasks off of their shoulders. I have also been in contact with a board member who I met and help with occasionally. How do I utilize my connection with her to advance my job opportunity at the organization?

Talk to your manager and to HR. Your manager will know about the possibility of upcoming openings in your department, but may not know about others, so you should talk to both. Do not talk to a board member about work at the organization; board members are not generally involved in hiring or the day-to-day management of an organization (and there’s no faster way to piss off the day-to-day management of the organization than to invite the board into that inappropriately).

Keep in mind, though, that many nonprofits are short-staffed and could use additional staff positions, but don’t have them because of lack of funds or because they’ve determined that allocating money to other areas is a higher priority. So you don’t want to approach them as if you’re the only one who’s spotted a need for more staffing, but rather as someone who loves working for the organization and would be thrilled to have a regular staff position there is there’s an upcoming opening that would be a good fit.

{ 101 comments… read them below }

    1. Joy*

      I’m in the same position (applying for judicial externships and putting my summer associate position on my resume). My career center (which is pretty hit-and-miss but has staff that really care) suggested “offer accepted” before the position, which I really liked. It makes it clear that I’ve secured the job, as opposed to still in the process of interviewing.

      Good luck with finding a great position!

    2. Anon21*

      I was in a similar position about a year ago–I’d accepted one clerkship, and was applying for positions for after the clerkship would be over. I don’t know if this is right, but I just listed it with no notation, so:

      Judge XX YY, ZZ Court, Clerk, Sept. 2012-Sept. 2013 (this would have been in fall 2011 that I was sending this resume out).

      I figured that potential employers would look at the date and understand the situation: the job was accepted, but I hadn’t started yet.

          1. Jamie*

            That’s where I know it from. I hate those guys, yet I bore three beautiful children who inexplicably think the stooges are comic geniuses. Some weird DNA misfiring, so I’ve had more exposure to them than I’d like.

    1. Anna D.*

      I like “to begin” or “offer accepted” just fine. Personally, I just listed the date the other job was scheduled to start with no qualifier – it’s not like the person reading isn’t going to be able to tell it’s a job you’ve accepted that starts in the future.

  1. Blinx*

    #1. Let it go. I’ve never seen a farewell email sent from a personal account. And what difference would it have made anyway? Enjoy your new job at hopefully a sane company!

    #4. First annual review — This sounds EXACTLY like me at my last job with Big Corporation. I was there less than a year. Did a bang-up job – lots of praise from manager, colleagues, internal customers. A few small awards received. Then annual review, where I received an “average” rating. I was SO deflated!!! My manager really had to work hard to make me understand that it was essentially a bell curve system. In a department of say 20 people, no matter what the performances were like, only 2 people (I’m guessing) could have received the top rating, and 2 people had to receive the bottom rating (again, guessing). The rest of us were lumped in the middle. They did try to make up for it during the year with smaller awards and also annual awards, both with monetary gifts. And as for the 3% raise, well, in my past few years, we received under 2%. Stinks. But then, the alternative… I’m now hitting the 1 year mark of being unemployed. That stinks too.

    1. Sharon*

      I hate, hate, HATE policies like this. I can’t fathom how HR departments can’t understand that statistical observations of large populations don’t apply to small department-size populations, or how they are demoralizing staff. I know they all feel that performance reviews should be motivating, so it’s beyond belief that the damage this causes goes over their heads. (And yet, I’ve seen it many times, myself. I was told by a previous manager that since I’d gotten the exceeds expectations rating two years in a row that this year he had to “give someone else a chance”.) It’s unspeakably stupid.

      1. Blinx*

        Ugh. I had forgotten the terminology. “Meets expectations” vs. “Exceeds expectations.” They want to hire and retain top people, so why were we rewarded as “middle of the road”? And don’t even get me started on how the manager got together to divvy up the annual bonuses!

        1. Josh S*

          They hire top people, so perhaps they have really high expectations, and what is, in your view, “above and beyond” is really just “meeting expectations” to them? And “exceeding expectations” requires something truly remarkable?

          I dunno…

        2. UnderReview*

          All replies were spot on. The company brought in a new HR director, used a consulting firm to determine their salary curve, and used the “does not meet/meets/exceeds” model for the review. McDonaldsification of the review process. I’m not sure how the company expects to keep quality employees who care about their career advancement. Alison’s advice to speak to my manager is sound. However, if that gets me nowhere, I think it may be time to take my talents elsewhere.

          1. T. Garr*

            You have to understand that this rating system is tied to comp and thus has more to do with how well you are compensated in comparison to your perceived market value than to your actual performance. It is a musical chairs system where there are limited “exceeds” slots that have to go to those who most need raises and promotions. You just got a promotion so the official accolades are being directed elsewhere.

            Your manager should give you the “real” feedback separately, and that is what you should believe. Yes this is system is stupid, but it’s nothing personal.

            1. Jamie*

              Sometimes I wonder if I’m hurting myself not trying to get in to another big and more formally corporate environment…then I remember this kind of thing and I want to stay put forever.

              I can’t imagine my boss being unhappy with my work and not addressing it contemporaneously – so reviews are basically a look back and forward…making sure we’re on tha same page with where I want to go and where they need me.

              The problem with this is that it is personal so it feels like raises are just based on my own performance, but I know a thing or two about finance and better than anyone know there’s only so much money in the raise bucket. So theres a competition but since I can’t possibly know all the factors being considered in re others I just worry about myself and if I’m happy with where I am…and try not to worry about where I am in relation to my colleagues.

              1. Anon*

                I’m not sure whether it’s better or worse, but my company purposefully keeps raises (given mid-calendar-year) completely separate from reviews (done at the cusp of the new calendar year). Raises are based ENTIRELY on the variance between your salary and where your salary should be for the marketplace, combined with how much money there is to divvy up. If they decide they can give 3% raises, you get somewhere between 0 and maybe 5% at the MAX if you’re currently severely underpaid, but most people get 2.5% to 3.5%, depending whether they’re just above or just below the market rate. My problem with that system is that the market rate they use is the 50th percentile, which by definition, half of us should be higher than, and I believe it should be the outstanding performers who are higher. But no, performance is NOT tied to compensation at all, at our company. (In theory.)

      2. Josh S*

        The trouble is the “Lake Wobegon” syndrome (where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average) — it’s not possible for everyone to be above average. And if you define the “Superior” rating (or whatever your top rating is) as the top 10% of your people, you can’t have 30% of a team there, even if they really do go above and beyond.

        It’s hard. But it forces you to be really sure about who are your top performers.

        It’s not perfect, though.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I think it’s also important that 1) People often overestimate how good they are, and 2) Managers like giving good news more than bad news (because they’re human). If you have less than exceptional management, I could definitely see them giving you praise all year, but having reservations about your work that they never voice (or voice casually, so the importance of the feedback is lost).

    2. Anonymous*

      Re #1, I don’t think the OP needs to “let it go” like she’s being unreasonable here. She’s legitimately concerned that it might affect her reference there.

    3. ABC*

      Yep, this bell curve system is prevalent in all large corporates. So unless one does something completely mind-blowing, one is stuck forever on a plodding path….single digit raises, slow promotions and average ratings.
      The saddest part of this is that you are often wedded to your beginning salary; so if you havent negotiated well then….

    4. Been_thru_this*

      As per the questioner #4, I have also been in a similar situation to him or her, with perhaps a little better communication from my managers. I received a promotion mid-way through the “performance” year. I was on track to be an excellent performer which would have meant big bucks in bonus and a decent payrise.

      However, for my company, if your position grade changes (up or down) regardless of performance prior to that grade change – you are automatically graded as “average” and your pay/bonus decided based on your new position. The downgraded position could be the result of the end of a secondment, it doesn’t mean a demotion. This is the bad side of the coin. You could have been seconded into a senior position, performed excellently, only to then be told your pay/bonus is based on the more junior role you’ve stepped back into.

      But, for me, I received a pay rise for the promotion and was graded as average in my performance review, meaning no pay rise at my grade. My boss had discretionary bonus $$ of which I got a few, so that was good. I can see had I not known about this policy it would seem very demotivating to hear that I was subsequently only “average”, so it was definitely an example of good communication on the part of the company.

  2. EngineerGirl*

    #3 – Some companies take affairs very seriously. For example Lovkheed Martin just fired its incoming CEO (Chris Kubasik) for having one with a subordinate. Other companies it is normal operating procedure.

    1. M-C*

      I’d also add that even though an affair may be entered into by two fully consenting parties, it’s exceedingly rare that it ends that way. An affair that’s doing well is only demoralizing for the rest of the staff (who rightly wonder about any objectivity on the manager’s part). One that ends is hell for everyone, can crash a whole department.
      And don’t discount that it’s very hard for a company to know for certain whether one party isn’t in fact being coerced.
      So illegal, no, but unethical, definitely. If you want that cutie badly enough, first be willing to quit your job, then proposition them.

  3. Irish reader*

    Re the 1st question: is the issue due to the fact that the OP named the new company that she was joining? Is the new company an industry competitor?
    If not, then I agree the reaction was a bit OTT and an unnecessarily unpleasant way to end an employee’s final day in the company.

    1. Jamie*

      I wondered that as well, and especially if she’s in sales I can see this being an issue. They should have told her ahead of time if this wasn’t okay.

      I’ve never sent, not received, a mass farewell email so I didn’t know this was common.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I also wondered if this was a problem because of not using bcc. Maybe there is something in the email addresses that posses an unforeseen issue?

      2. Kathryn*

        I work in a non-profit, and I receive farewell emails every once and a while from people outside our organization. It’s usually helpful, because I then know they are gone, who to contact instead, can give the departing person my best wishes, and usually have a head’s up on where they are going. I may end up working with them again, just in a different organization. I’ve only done a farewell email once, but I just sent it to everyone at my company, letting them know the processes once I left and that I had enjoyed my time at the company. Pretty standard.

    2. Ryan*

      This is what I was thinking…I thought everything was fine until the OP said they named the company they were going to. Unless it wasn’t a competitor or even in the same industry I can see why they freaked though..maybe that wasn’t the case since they seemed to think a personal email would have been okay?

    3. The IT Manager*

      Exactly my thoughts. I noticed two possible areas of concern – she said contacts, not co-workers, so she may have been in touch with customers. And that she mentioned where she was going which could be a problem if its a competitor.

      As the situation is described I do think the boss’s reaction was over the top, but if the situation was that she mailed customers and told them she was moving to competitor especially if she was in sales that could be a big problem.

      1. JT*

        Yes. If the problem was contacting customers, then the problem was contacting customers, not which email account was used.

        In fact, if the OP was contacting customers from a personal email account, isn’t that sort of worse from a security standpoint – customer data now being stored in an external email system?

    4. KarenT*

      Agreed. If the OP has clients or vendors or others that could be solicited to follow her to her new company, that’s probably what her manager thought she was doing.

      1. Anon*

        Yes, and it the OP has clients or vendors that could be solicited to follow her to the new company, they should have shut off her e-mail the second she gave notice. I have worked for several companies that would pay out the notice period, but show people the door if they were in a role with this type of concern.

        1. JT*

          Does that actually help much? If the company is known to do that, wouldn’t that encourage employees to download contact information for contacts and take it home in advance of giving notice?

          1. AgilePhalanges*

            Exactly. I don’t understand the practice of the employer booting the employee the second they give notice. Sure, I understand the “security concerns” they cite, but it’s negated by the fact that the employee knows they’re leaving before the employer does, and if they were going to do something nefarious, they’d certainly do it before announcing they’re leaving, so sending them out the door and shutting down their network access only closes the barn door after the horses are already out. But hey, if it was me, I wouldn’t mind as long as I got paid through the end of my notice (plus vacation/PTO/whatever as per the company policy). Woo hoo–a few days to unwind from one job before starting the next, without a glitch in the pay.

  4. Angela S.*

    #1 – While I agree that it was horrible, and that the manager at your old job should have told you not to do so at the first place, I agree with Blinx that you should just let it go.

    At where I work, due to security reasons, many people who gives their 2-week notices would be asked to leave immediately and not to return to work. They would get paid for the last 2 weeks in which time they probably were enjoying themselves at home before reporting to their new jobs. If there are security issues, your manager should have just shut you off at the time you gave your notice, not waited until there would an incident.

    OP, are you wondering if you could go back to your old boss for reference because of what had happened? I’m sure that there are other people in your office whom you could ask for a favour in the future?

  5. Bob*

    #5 – drop it. don’t put future jobs on your resume. Having a job isn’t useful information, what you accomplished in those jobs is. you haven’t accomplished anything yet (unless you are a time traveler) so don’t list them.

    1. Anonymous*

      I work for a law firm, and this is SOP. We need to know what someone’s future commitments are. I imagine that even outside of the legal field, the fact that someone will be occupied through 2014 is kind of important to put on the resume.

      The OP wasn’t asking whether this should be on her resume or not. She knows it should. She just needed wording.

    2. op*

      I’d agree in most instances, but law is different. Getting a job is an accomplishment, and connections (to the prof and firm I’ll be working for) matter. I don’t list any responsibilities under the titles.

      1. Joy*


        Law is different, and it’s also impressive in today’s market to have landed a summer associate position with a firm. They hire in the late summer or early fall of the previous year, and you don’t start until May/June. It’s normal to list it in the meantime, without responsibilities and accomplishments.

        1. op*

          Thanks – I like your “offer accepted” language above, too. That’s probably the most accurate! Congrats on your summer job, and good luck with your applications.

      2. Anna D.*

        Yes, this is totally correct for law. A lot of the hiring is done so far in advance, even if you haven’t done the work yet, a future employer (like a judge for a clerkship) has an interest in seeing the work you’re slated to be doing before you work for them.

  6. Anonymous*

    Re #4, I’m glad we’re finally acknowledging that some companies (per policy) refuse to give above average ratings during performance reviews. A long while back, a retail employee mentioned that this happened to him during his review, and the general consensus seemed to be that companies would never deliberately underrate someone and he must have an overinflated sense of his performance. A few people acknowledged that he might just have a manager who didn’t care enough to really rate people, but it could never be the company. Nope.

    Speaking as a former manager in a call center, for a company which somehow always gets itself on those “Best Places to Work” lists (because sure, it’s great to work there if you’re the 3% who don’t do the actual front-line customer service), I know for a fact that we were told never to give above three out of five, other than a small percentage (2% iirc) that we could give 4 or 5 to. Basically, we had to do that in order to make it look like we weren’t deliberately giving everyone low ratings. Then we were told that we had to give a certain (higher) percentage of people 1 or 2. Some favorites immediately got the few coveted 4 and 5 positions, some slackers immediately got 1 or 2, and the rest was basically just random.

    If this Best Place to Work did that, I can guarantee it goes on all over the place.

  7. AdAgencyChick*

    OP #1, I don’t get your company! In my field, it is an unspoken (but fairly well known) expectation that you will NOT notify people outside the company of your departure, mostly because if the clients like you, the agency doesn’t want them following you to your next job (or, even if they don’t follow you, the agency wants to let the client know on its preferred timetable, not yours). But it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s going on here, because your boss said you should have sent the email from your personal address, which implies that the company would have been okay with you notifying your contacts, just not with using your work address to do so.

    Yeah, I don’t get it. Weird. Enjoy your new job!

    1. Vicki*

      And weirder yet is the fact that, by notifying them using your personal email, you’ve obviously given them a way to respond! Anyone you email from your work address is going to get a Bounce message tomorrow.

      Chalk it up to Yet Another Bizarre Manager Experience.

  8. Captain Scarlet*

    Q4: This is something people make mistakes about all the time. Your manager thinks you’re doing well, but I can guess what happened at the company wide levelling where they decided what everyone’s score is…

    Dave’s manager: Well Dave did a great job on project X, everything was done well, on time no issues, I’d like to put him forward as above average/great!

    Other Managers: Dave? who he? what was project x again?

    I spent years as the uber techie on projects getting nowhere fast, what I hadn’t learned was about the need to position yourself within the company. It doesn’t matter how well your project went (in fact it can be better for the project to go wrong and for you to be seen to stand up and rescue it), it’s about how well you’re known to the other managers/leads.

    You need to be getting to know them, what their issues/problems are and see where you can deal with them (“oh your having a problem with Y, just happens I did lots of Y at my last company let me have a look and see if I can see what to do”)

    It can also help if there are outside things (even lunch room talk) to get to know these people, the more they know you, the more they’ll trust you, and the more you’ll be supported at the end of year levelling.

    I only started to get anywhere when I managed be seconded on to other teams, and helped the projects, the actual results didn’t really matter, it was the visibility that helped.

    You should also look for tasks that no-one wants to do (cross team task forces etc), great for getting known.

    What will likely happen is just when you think it’s going wrong by doing all this stuff the magic promotion fairy will appear and take you away to some new people and the process will start again.

    People who just do a great job in their own roles, will remain doing their own role until takeover/downsizing (and first on the list to go then)

    1. starts & ends with a*

      This. If your manager thinks you’re the bomb, but no one else in the management level knows who you are/what you do, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Definitely something I’ve been trying to position myself for at my company and it’s hard when you’re on a small team.

    2. Captain Scarlet*

      And to illustrate this, I was talking to one of my peers, who manages a team that works with my team.

      He has two guys, both been working for a year, one is technically far better, other has been working on several projects across teams (and been doing good work, but not as good as the other guy).

      Guess who is getting average and guess who is getting exceptional at end-of-year…

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Really great advice, Captain. OP- this will definitely make a difference for you.
      To that I would add, just as OP would want other people to get to know his work, OP should learn other about other people’s work, too. Collect up tidbits of info– Joe is the best one to go to about gizmos. Jane is all about widgets. If you learn what others excel at, they will tend to become familiar with what you excel at.

  9. Anony*

    Re: #4. My annual review wasn’t in line with my excellent performance

    At my company, only the 1% get s a distinguished overall rating while the majority I assume get proficient even though they deserve a distinguished. Unless you have saved the company millions of dollars or do something so out of the ordinary for the company, you are just average.

  10. Liz*

    Re: Q4. I had a somewhat similar situation. After a year of being told how great and valued I was by my manager, she then gave me a very middle of the road score on my performance review. Just a few hundredths of a point above perfectly average.

    I asked for clarification and she told me that in the long term it would benefit me because of a company policy where only people who improve on their performance evaluations are eligible for any kind of raise. As she expected me to stay with her and continue being awesome, she wanted to give me plenty of room to improve and keep getting raises. If I had started out with a 5 out of 5, I would have never gotten any recognition for my hard work. So my boss was doing me a favor by rating me mediocre. I thought it was weird but I appreciate that she knows how to work the system!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It bothers me that she didn’t talk to you about this up-front and instead waited for you to ask her! What if you hadn’t asked her and instead had stewed about and decided to take a different offer where you’d be more appreciated, all without knowing this back story?

      1. BL*

        I agree with this. I haven’t been in my current position for a year yet but my supervisor has already prepared me for how reviews tend to go. According to him the majority of people receive “Meets Expectations” and generally if you get an “Exceeds Expectations” you are in line for a promotion soon. He also talked about how much the comments play in for internal moves rather than just the overall rating. Since he talked to me about this early, I won’t be surprised when review time comes.

      2. Liz*

        I think her intention was to tell me about it during the meeting anyway, I just brought it up first. I was so shocked and crushed by my score I just blurted out something immediately. Also my eyes bugging out of my head might have given me away. Luckily there were so many positives in that job; this is the one and only complaint I have about that manager and we still keep in touch, despite the years and miles. If I had disliked her, I would have thought she was lying to me though.

        1. Liz*

          After re-reading my comments, I wanted to clarify that I am not trying to sound like I was full of myself; I was basing my expectations on my managers comments about the upcoming performance review. Things about how she would try to get me a raise, even though they don’t give raises until the second review (can’t see improvement if you don’t have a previous review to compare against), about specific praises she would be including, achievements she would note, etc etc.

          PS. She got me that raise. 2.5%

  11. Ribiko*

    #7 – you sound like someone I know! now I’m curious where you graduated from…
    signed, fellow recent grad from top liberal arts college

      1. Ribiko*

        I have actually been at my new (real!) job a little over a month now, I’m happy to say. I came here for the interview advice while I was job hunting and now stay for the entertainment value… My school’s on the west coast so I probably don’t know you in real life, but best of luck with the job search/internship upgrade!

  12. fposte*

    On #3: just to be clear, “is it legal?” is a very different question from “can they be fired for this?” You can be fired for whatever your employer doesn’t like about you so long as it’s not a handful of reasons protected by law such as race, religion, gender, age, or disability.

    1. The IT Manager*

      #3 – It’s only illegal if they’re in the military, but there’s a good chance its against policy and people can be fired for it. They can even be fired for it if there’s is no policy because most employment is at-will. If it goes bad and explodes missily at work, even with no violation of policy, somebody may get fired.

    2. #3 OP*

      Thanks. That’s a good distinction. I was curious about both questions. I was guessing the firing depends on the company but was curious if there could be legal ramifications as well. I’m pretty weirded out to have worked with someone who is most likley on to her second married man and decided on her boss but it doesn’t surprise me. That’s unverified from her or him though so I take the info with a grain of salt. It could be false as I said. I hope it is.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Gack. I had one co-worker that was on her 6th husband and then had an affair with a married manager who had a pregnant wife. Our VP used to call the co-worker Jezebel behind her back. I knew a couple of her ex-husbands – really nice guys.

        The rest of us just watched and were disgusted by it all. I don’t think our company’s current environment would put up with it.

        1. some1*

          I hope you were disgusted by the married manager cheating on his pregnant wife as well. Don’t mean to pick on you in particular, because this behavior is wrong and unprofessional, just not sure why people seem to want to place most of the blame on the women when these situations happen.

          1. #3 OP*

            You’re right some1, there does seem to be a double standard. For me, it disgusts me from both sides but almost particularly the one with kids and a spouse. In this particular circumstance, I am especially disgusted from the side of the girl I know because provided this is true (pretty confident it is), this is her second married man and it’s become a pattern. On so many levels it’s so wrong and so destructive. I used to sit on the cubicle wall beside her and she’d be crying on the phone at work to her married man boyfriend about how he didn’t call and said he make a commitment. She apparently felt this affair was justified because it was her first love so naturally that makes it all OK to have a relationship with him even though he’s married with kids. ughhh

            1. some1*

              You definitely have a right to be annoyed/disgusted by her behavior, but it sounds more like the issue with the first “boyfriend” was the fact that she was bringing it into work and exposing you to it without your permission. That would be true if she was crying to or fighting with a BF who was single, yet I can understand how it must have made you that much more uncomfortable when you realized this was over a married man.

              When you think about how many people cheat, you’ve probably worked with plenty of people who date married people or cheat on their spouses, but those people were at least smart enough to keep their indiscretions hidden from their co-workers.

              1. #3 OP*

                I don’t want to think about how many people cheat. I want to live in a happy little bubble in which my significant other and I are loyal and faithful to each other and that’s all we worry about. :-)

                But I do live in “the real world” so I do know these things. You’re right that was part of the issue that she was bringing it into work. The thing that messed with my head the most was when I heard her mom referring to him as “her daughter’s boyfriend” knowing full-well he was married. crazy stuff. In any case, people are going to live their lives how they live their lives and that is what it is. All we can do at the end of the day is make different choices that don’t lead to eternal unhappiness, insecurity and drama I guess.

                1. Jamie*

                  I want to live in a happy little bubble in which my significant other and I are loyal and faithful to each other and that’s all we worry about. :-)

                  That’s where my husband and I live! It’s called No Dramaville and it’s pretty peaceful compared to how I see the residents of Chaos City live.

                  Seriously, I know what you mean, I see it too and I have to think that even if I were so inclined (which I’m not) I’d be way too lazy to live like that. It takes a lot of effort to keep all those plates spinning at one time and between work, the house, and my family I just don’t have the time or the energy illicit passion requires.

                2. #3 OP*

                  I love No Dramaville! Glad you inhabit it with me :-) I too even if I were inclined would not have the energy to lie and sneak around that much. And I don’t even have kids yet!

                  People set themselves up for that kind of drama and it’s like watching dominoes fall click click click click and then mystified they ask: “How did I ever get here?” Those are choices you just don’t make in the first place. Totally avoidable not to wind up in an affair.

        2. #3 OP*

          oh gross from both sides. Why do people ever even put themselves in these circumstances? These things don’t “Just happen”.

          1. #3 OP*

            lol I didn’t I promise! I was just making a general statement about how there’s often a double standard about affairs :-)

  13. The IT Manager*

    For #4: that’s really disappoointing. But I do wonder why you expected a sizable raise and promotion. Sounds to me like you already got a promotion within the year – you moved up from an analyst to some kind of lead or management role. Did you take the new position with no job title change and no salaray increase? Is that what you were expecting acknowledged or did you want another promotion?

    Also I think a sizable pay raise is probably an unrealistic expectation in this market unless you make a huge leap in the company. They already know you’re willing to take what you accepted.

    Also because it was a career switch I took a position beneath my experience level this is your POV. With a career switch, you probably rightly took a entry level position commiserate with your analyst/IT experieince.

    Good on you, though, I would kill for a few programmers able and will to take the lead on parts of the project. One is utterly incapable of clear communication. Another is great, but has no desire to be in charge instead of programming. It sounds like you are doing very well, but I think your expectations to move quickly through the ranks after proving my competence and constantly striving to create value may have been unrealistic.

    1. Naomi*

      ” I fully expected to receive high marks, a sizable raise, and possibly a promotion commensurate to my current role.”

      It sounded to me like OP was given more responsibility and expected to fulfill the lead/management role without actually being given a promotion or raise, and she expected that after the review, the company would recognize she was doing the work of a higher position and promote her to reflect that.

      1. The IT Manager*

        You are correct that commiserate with my current role changes things a bit. And I missed it.

        I still think there’s unrealistic expecations, though.

      2. Anonymous*

        I wouldn’t mind the OP 5 clarifying whether they received a promotion going into the PM role or have the responsibility w/o the title and money. If the later, then I agree, I’d be very disappointed. I’d probably go back to my original job description and compare my accomplishments against that to show I’d blown them out of the water. If I haven’t formally be given a new job, then it isn’t fair to rank me against those expectations. In our place, a promotion generally means that a solid “meets expectation” is considered as a good result.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      Also because it was a career switch I took a position beneath my experience level this is your POV. With a career switch, you probably rightly took a entry level position commiserate with your analyst/IT experieince.

      I wish people would understand this! Just because you have 10 years experience in widgets doesn’t mean you should be evaluated or paid at 10 years for thingamabobs. It is a restart. I know that when I have taken stretch assignments I expected a lower rating (because I was learning). I was able to bring in experience from my other roles that helped me in my new one. Eventually that led to stronger performance overall in both roles.

      But I think a lot of people don’t understand that doing a good job is expected. The prize for doing great work is that you get to stay employed. A lot of people really don’t understand what exceptional looks like. And as other posters have noted it has more to do with how other groups evaluate you too. Doing great work just within your organization is average. Doing great work and helping other groups is what pushes you up into high contibutor.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    Regarding the performance review, as a new manager this is something I have to deal with. Some of my direct reports have complained that they should have gotten “Excellent” or “Outstanding” ratings on their appraisals last year (thankfully I wasn’t their rater at the time) but they’re frankly meeting expectations.

    Thing is: you’re expected to do great work. That’s your job. So doing great work, to me, means that you’re meeting expectations. People who go above and beyond and do absolutely incredible work, and do it without drama or complaining, and take younger employees under their wing to show them the ropes – those are excellent and outstanding employees to me.

    I don’t believe in grade or rating inflation. You do great work, that’s meeting expectations. Nothing more, nothing less.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I guess it would benefit OP to ask the boss to give examples of what “outstanding” looks like. If he feels he is doing a great job- okay, fine. What does the boss think a great job looks like?

      What tires me, is to sit in my eval meeting and hear what a great worker I am, then look at the paper work and see I am average on paper. I say “Cut to the punchline. Give me an idea of what I need to do to get up there to ‘outstanding’ “.
      Basically, the answer was “Nothing.” I had to be rated as average because that is what the company expected.

      I had a friend who was rated on many things using a scale of 1 to 4. The word came down, “NO one gets a 4 for anything.”

      1. KimmieSue*

        “NO one gets a 4 for anything.”

        This happens all the time! I just wish that more HR folks would be honest about it (if even anonymously).

        I have worked at many large companies where managers were actually limited on how many top rankings they were allowed to give. Often it was less than 5% of their entire ranking population.

        Despite what you hear from supervisors and managers, many raises are directly correlated to the performance ranking. There is only so much money available to spread. By the way, the “budget” for annual performance increases is nearly always provided by finance NOT HR. So, Finance may budget a 2-3% increase for each employee, but the ranking process decides how to distribute the amount. Most companies are not in favor of doing the peanut butter spread (where each employee gets their allocated 2-3% increase). This is because it then becomes more of a “cost of living increase” versus a tool to motivate hard work. HR’s job is to manage the process and tools for the performance evaluation and increase process, not the money itself.

        So, if you control (i.e., LIMIT) the number of employees who receive superior rankings, you control the amount of spend on salary.

      2. A teacher*

        Welcome to the new evluation tool for teachers. We use the Charlotte Danielson Model and essentially you can no longer be excellent because it is just a place you visit. We are just to expect proficient with areas of excellent.

        Personally and from having done a master’s thesis on job satisfaction and burnout pre-entering the education field, even if you are a 10/10 you can still improve and still be challenged. My issue with supervisors is that so many say you provide “consistent service” or are “great with customers” and both are subjective statements without the qualifiers as to why both are true. For example, “Tom is a great chocolate teapot marketer because his ads have increased our sales volumes by 40% this year.” the bridging with because makes the difference.

        I’ve said this before, but I worked for a company where I consistently rated at 92% so I was eligible for that much of the bonus. It didn’t play into our raises or promotions so much but if we were over 80% we were eligible for a raise. After a 3 year pay freeze, where the small bonuses were out only extra money and just years of bad treatment they decided to change the eval system without notice or explanation. Went to a 87% in 3 weeks, wje asked why or what I could do differently I was told nothing because my managers “thought I was excellent but they just had to make the scoring harder.”

        It amazed me when they were shocked when 5 of us in a department of 30 left within 6 months. Toxicity on top of the stupid change in policy by our company owner was enough for most of us.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Tom is a great chocolate teapot marketer because his ads have increased our sales volumes by 40% this year.” the bridging with because makes the difference.

          I think that the employee needs to make this assertion on their self-evaluation. It gives the manager bullets so they can fight for you when they go up against the other managers. Otherwise you become part of the “meets expectations” group.

          1. Anonymous*

            I would also qualify that with the supervisor needs to provide the information that is needed to justify an evaluation as well. Subjective information doesn’t make most of us better as employees or as people. Objective information that is tied to specificity provides more validity. Even educators are supposed to be using more objective criteria in assessing and disciplining our students. In career technical education courses like I teach, providing the students with objective information and helping them to develop life skills is the aim. Sure, I can tell the kid “So-and-so thinks you’re awesome” Just as my boss can give me a generic “good job” or you’re doing well–its nice to hear. However, what does that awesome/good job/doing well quantify into though? How did they reach that conclusion?

      3. Lulu*

        Agreed re: it being tiresome to not even be allowed to look excellent on paper, no matter what you do. I once had a review where all of the comments from my immediate manager were excellent (thankfully, as I was effectively doing a job about 2 levels above my title), but they still had to write a “suggested improvements” comment. So they said that if I came in earlier, I might be able to get even MORE done. This despite the fact that I was essentially on call, on the phone during my commutes, and never able to really take a lunch – and there was no “more” waiting to be accomplished.

        I’d really rather just not be privy to my review if it’s going to make me feel like nothing I do will ever be good enough for them; I just found it really demoralizing.

  15. Max*

    3: It’s legal…but in most states you can be fired for just about anything, and that includes in-company relationships. Unless company policy explicitly states that such relationships are OK, I’d be worried about it, as such relationships tend to be problematic and troublesome and most companies don’t like it, especially when it’s between a manager and their direct subordinate.

    4: They didn’t put you in the “mediocre or below” pile…they put you in the “average” pile. You haven’t been marked as inferior, you’ve just been sorted into the same category as most of the other employees at your company. That doesn’t mean you’re bad, it could simply mean the average happens to be pretty high because most people there are good employees trying their best. You should really reconsider your expectations, though, if you were so sure that you were one of the best employees in the entire company that you feel “devalued and humiliated” by finding out that’s not the case. Sometimes excellent workers fail to be recognized because of idiotic company policies about rating performance…but sometimes people believe they’re the best person in the room when they actually aren’t.

    A 3% raise isn’t exactly small potatoes, either; I don’t know what career you changed from or what level you were at in that career, but that’s a nice bump for entry-level IT. Maybe even a little above the norm in this economy.

  16. Jane Doe*

    #1. If they didn’t want you sending farewell emails out, they should have made that expectation clear. Also, I love how they told you they’d be shutting down your email immediately for “security purposes.” I think that’s pretty standard when an employee leaves for whatever reason, so it’s weird to act like it’s a punishment for sending out a goodbye email.

    #4. Most employees are going to get sorted into the “average” category, since most employees are average by definition. Many managers and employers do a terrible job of explaining the review and scoring process for these things, and people end up feeling hurt, especially if all you get is a piece of paper with your score and there’s no follow-up discussion with your manager.

    I had a similar experience where I was asked to rate myself and write a few sentences to a paragraph of justification for scoring myself that way. The average rating I got from my manager didn’t bother me, but her written response about what I could work on showed me that despite assigning my work, she had no idea what I actually DID.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      “#4. Most employees are going to get sorted into the “average” category, since most employees are average by definition.”

      This. I think people assume that their performance is judged in a sort of objective vacuum (which it certainly is, in some places), versus being compared to other people, which it sounds like is the case here. If you’re comparing everyone, and use the word “average,” then logically the majority of people are going to be “average.” Average at one company, or in one department, could be radically different than “average” at another.

      Also, this could be a case of people conflating “Good” with “Rockstar.” As Alison has said in the past (and I’m paraphrasing), if you’re doing the sort of bare minimum work and slogging along, you’re not “average.” You’re below average and, if a good manager were in charge, you’d be on your way out. Average means you’re good at what you do. Exceptional means you’re… exceptional. But if the company is using the word “average” then average can really mean exceptional, so that the cream of the crop, excellent, super awesome rockstar employees are still a cut above the rest of the good-to-great ones.

  17. Anon*

    #2 — I’m surprised AAM didn’t mention this, because I think she has before. One time you can absolutely negotiate the up-front range is if you find out, during the process, that something in the benefits package is surprisingly sup-par, as compared to the industry norm. Then you can come back and say “I am really surprised to find out that there’s no paid vacation/health insurance/restroom on site, and that makes the salary range a little harder for me to work with. Would you consider $X?”

    1. the gold digger*

      Oh I wish I had known this when I accepted my job this summer. I had never worked someplace with such crummy insurance – I was expecting the (to me) standard $30 copay for office visit and 90-day RX. Instead, it’s a $2,500 deductible and drug coverage doesn’t kick in until you hit the deductible. I should have asked for at least enough more to pay the extra it costs to be on my husband’s plan. (There is a $100 per month extra charge for spouse coverage if the spouse is eligible for coverage through her employer.)

      Next time. I will know better next time.

  18. Lulu*

    #4 I worked somewhere once where most of the department’s reviews were bounced back to the managers, the issue being that people had been “rated too highly”. I totally found this insulting, considering how hard we were all working, but I could only assume it was due to the HR and pay-related reasons others have cited. If you don’t have actual goals and achievement levels spelled out by your manager (vs “make up your own goals” or “guess our imaginary goals”), it can also be really difficult to know what Excellent and Average really look like. Often, Excellent doesn’t really exist, because no one can possibly be that big a superstar, they just need the rating on the scale. See the discussion the other day re: employee evaluations – so much of the process is just for show, and part of the compliance/compensation system rather than designed to give you actual information, unfortunately.

    As someone else mentioned, you could possibly be unrealistic in your (non-rating-level-based) self-evaluation on this one, too. I still remember a relatively new hire, in her first real “office job” at our company, complaining about 5 weeks in that she knew how to do everything required in her position now so she deserved a raise and promotion! Not to at all imply that you’re doing something as clueless as this, but without outside guidelines it can be hard to know whether you have the same perception of accomplishment as they do. At least for the purposes of compensation etc. I’ll add to this that sometimes there’s just no room for advancement, in that there may only be allocation for x number of people at a certain level, so even if you ARE a rockstar, you’re not going anywhere until something shifts further up the chain.

    re: the raise, particularly these days, I assume you’re lucky if you get anything. Last place I worked, 3% was *awesome*, 2% was hoped for, nothing was assumed. Particularly if you’re in a low level role right now, you may have to adjust your expectations downwards a bit on that front as well.

  19. Chocolate Teapot*

    For queation 1, I can imagine sending out a short email:

    “This is the end. Chocolate Teapot has decided to persue other career opportunities. Thank you and Goodnight”

    But details about a new employer (especially a competitor) I would save for my Linked-In profile.

  20. tangoecho5*

    I got a $227 raise for 2013. That’s not per month but per year so divide that by 52 weeks and then 40 hours to see the big hourly raise I got! Needless to say, it’s not even 1% of my yearly salary. My company spent that much doing the paperwork processing the raise. Why bother?

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