Performance Reviews for 2013 are now DONE and in the books! At my company, it’s customary to spend a week on reviews where your boss will sit down with you for a nice 1-1 chat. I work in a pretty small group, so it’s usually just one employee per day. For whatever reason, my boss decided to hold my review off until the very end. Yup, just my luck… I was the last person in my group to receive their review this year.
When I was younger, I used to agonize over the yearly performance review. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate the entire week when reviews were happening because I was so amped up. I was young, ambitious, and way too eager to please. I used to work twelve hour days on the regular, and tried hard to follow that “good advice” of, “being the first person to arrive in the morning, and the last one to leave.”
Luckily for me, it only took two reviews or so for me to finally wake up and realize how the real world operates. In a corporate environment, it’s NOT the most hard-working employee who gets the biggest pay raise. No, it’s definitely NOT the “company man” who will capture the largest bonus either. When it comes down to it, the person who will reap the most rewards is the person who is most visibly known and connected.
You can be the biggest slacker in your group and it won’t matter. If you know how to perform in front of the cameras (useless team meetings), and you’re friends with the right people in the right places, you’ll be rewarded handsomely for your “accomplishments”. As a matter of fact, you’ll probably even be on the fast track to getting promoted…
Back in those days, I didn’t yet know about early financial independence. Passive income was a foreign concept to me and I naively believed that if I always worked hard, it would pay off in the long run. Naturally, I was rather crushed the first time I received my review and found out that my merit increase would only be for 3%.
In 2011, my merit increase was scheduled for an even more insulting 1.5%. My boss at the time reasoned that the company was operating on very thin margins and had no room to reward even their best performers. I asked him if he could do anything about it and he stood firm on his “no”. He said I should talk to HR if I wanted to protest. I declined, and instead announced to my boss that I was leaving for a better job opportunity. Two days later, I was on the phone with HR and they told me they would match ANY outside offer I received. To make things “right” for me, they would even throw in some stock options and RSUs… Stuff that I somehow wasn’t qualified for just two days earlier…
I declined and proved to them that I was serious about leaving. I went elsewhere and earned a higher salary… one that I wouldn’t have reached at the old company even if I had stayed for another five more years (without them matching)…
It was through that experience that I learned how to really get ahead in life. If you ever want to be fairly compensated from any employer, you MUST first secure an offer from a competing company.
Your employer will never fully appreciate you until they realize you already have one foot out the door. After all, if their biggest competitor wants you, you must be valuable! Secure an offer elsewhere, and your new merit increase negotiations will start at 20% and above…
Getting back to my review — The merit increase came back, and it wasn’t pretty. Just like with before, I was only able to get a 2% bump for this year. However, instead of feeling insulted, I took the news in stride.
I’ve gotten used to playing in the corporate sandbox, so I’m no longer surprised with anything they throw at me. I checked out mentally a long time ago. They could have came back with 0% and I really wouldn’t have cared. I probably don’t even put in enough work these days to ask for more. Don’t get me wrong, I still take my job seriously and I always put forth my best efforts when I’m working on tasks… I just don’t go overboard in trying to kill myself for a bonus I know that I probably won’t get.
I don’t work long hours. I don’t pay attention in meetings. And I’m now the last person in the office and the first one to leave… most of the time. So, I’m giving back to the company just as much as they are giving to me. Hey, two can play this game! I’ve been taken advantage of and abused for long enough by corporate… It’s about time I fought back and stood up for myself.
Passive income. The journey to early FI. These steps that I have taken to better my life are paying dividends in more ways than one. The employee who doesn’t need their job is the most powerful one of them all. You get to be a honey badger all the time!
Despite my abysmal review, my boss actually went on to tell me that I scored higher than most of my peers. In fact, I was one of the “top performers”… If your best employees are netting 2% raises each year, what are your bottom performers getting?
At this point, I don’t really care. I just want to hold on to this job for another year or so. Frankly, I only still need this job because I need work income to qualify for more loans. That, and I still have a lot of stock options I’m waiting for to vest.
One thought that has crossed my mind is to start applying for a new job this coming Summer. Even though I don’t plan on working for corporate for much longer, it wouldn’t hurt to secure one last 20% pay raise or so. That, and another large signing bonus. In general, I think it’s a good idea for someone to jump around every two to three years to get that strong salary bump.
But it is what it is… I seriously don’t know how people keep continuing to play this game for so long. For anyone reading this who’s just starting off in their career, trust me, life in corporate gets old real quick.
Have you gotten your performance review? How did you do last year? Are you happy with your merit increase?