Should I contest a negative performance review
December 8, 2017 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I got a negative performance review at work. It's stuff that has been explicitly flagged by our company as being unfairly applied towards women and asks me to act out of accordance with our company's stated values. Should I contest it?

I work at a very large multinational tech company as a ux designer on a small team. I've worked here for 3 years. I work in California where the company is headquartered.

About the review:
It wasn't completely negative, but the positive stuff was extremely vague, and the negative stuff was very specific like taking things too personally and shooting down other peoples' ideas. Our company took the time to inform everyone that these types of feedback were generally unfairly applied to women but managers weren't given any guidance about not giving this feedback.

Reasons I want to contest it:
It's not accurate and it's not fair, and both of those things bother me. I got downgraded from last year's 4 ("exceeds expectations") to a 3 ("Meets expectations"). I want to get promoted into management from individual contributor and I don't think this will help.

If I were to contest it what I'd do is ask to speak to my boss's bosses and say hey, this feedback is explicitly asking me to act out of accordance with our company's values. But there is no formal process for this that I'm aware of.

Reasons I hesitate to contest it:
We just had some layoffs that came completely out of the blue, after being told that we were doing great. It makes me not want to rock the boat. Like maybe this is just hot air and doesn't matter too much. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease and sometimes it just gets replaced. I've been trying to practice letting things go when they ultimately don't matter, even if the fact that it bothers me makes it seem like it matters.

Obviously, if we were unionized this wouldn't be a problem. And I know that the real answer is "Get another job", and I'm working on that. If I could just quit right this second I would. I just don't know what to do about this in the meantime, or if I should just let it lie (so to speak).
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think it is entirely appropriate to have a discussion with your supervisor if you don’t agree with your performance review.

(You haven’t signed it yet, have you?)

I would recommend you focus on the non-specific positive feedback, by presenting a list of very specific examples of positive performance you would like recognized.

Example, your review states, “Makes improvements to widgets.”
You would present, “Created and implemented 4 new dongles for widgets a and b that increased productivity by 20% over 3 months.”

Focus on these positive aspects of your performance first, THEN you can question the negatives, if nothing else, by asking for concrete examples of preferred performance. During that discussion, it would be appropriate to flag responses that seem counter to company values.
posted by slipthought at 7:25 AM on December 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

Just a few random thoughts, as someone who has both given and received performance reviews in large tech companies:

I don't know how these work in your company, so some of this may not apply. But in every major tech company I've worked in, by the time the employee gets the review, it has been looked at by at least the manager's manager and HR. Almost always, there's a session in which the managers will discuss the employees in the department, and make sure everyone is on board with the ratings the employees get. Typically there will be much more discussion about the employees at the top and bottom than in the middle, but there is generally at least some cursory review.

What this means for you is that most likely a number of other managers in the company have been exposed to your review and rating, and either agreed with it, or didn't disagree enough to get it changed. (It's not at all uncommon for other managers to simply not have enough data about individual contributors on other teams to have strong opinions.) What it also means is that once the review is delivered, it's considered "done" and it's extremely hard to get it changed. In fact, in my career, I don't recall ever seeing a rating changed after the fact due to an employee's objections. The best cases I've seen are acknowledgement of an issue, and specifically taking it into account in the next review cycle. Now, I'm sure review changes do happen on occasion, but they're not common. And in my experience, an employee refusing to sign/acknowledge the review not only doesn't make it more likely for the review to be changed, but it's often strongly correlated with people who are no longer at the company by the time the next review cycle comes around. Not necessarily that they get fired or anything, it just seems like there's a very strong correlation between employees who decide not to sign their reviews and those who end up not sticking around. I'm not sure you want to voluntarily put yourself in that mental bucket for your manager unless you've been grievously harmed.

I agree with slipthought that it's appropriate and normal to talk to your manager if you have concerns about how you were evaluated. Even if it's what you want to do internally, I don't think that phrasing it as "contesting" is going to be helpful or productive for you, at least if your goal is to continue to have a productive and positive relationship with your manager. I'd approach it in terms of wanting to understand more about the concerns, about why certain positive things weren't mentioned (if they weren't), and how to make sure next review goes better. If it seems like you're able to get to a place of mutual agreement that the current review was unfair, you can try to get them to change it, but don't get your hopes up too high.

As you discuss this with your manger, be extremely careful to not inadvertently reinforce the negative points that they called out. For example, if they say you take things too personally, you run a serious risk of proving the point in their eyes. This is not to say that it's fair, or that you are incorrect to take a performance review of you personally (it's personal by definition!). But I have seen so many patterns of employees getting negative feedback, and then everything they do is viewed through that lens, and it becomes a downward spiral. Avoid the spiral. Take the high road.

Depending on your relationship with them, it may also be ok to discuss it with HR. The old saw about "HR protects the company, not the employees" is true, but approached correctly, a conversation with HR can still be helpful (particularly if the company is trying to protect itself from discrimination liability and you feel that this is going into that territory). But I would ONLY do this if you already know your HR person fairly well and have a good enough rapport with them to have a sense of how the conversation would go.

In most companies, a 3/"meets expecations" is considered a "good" (not "great") rating. Getting "exceeds" every quarter is considered very difficult to do, and it's not unusual for people to sometimes get "meets." You may get pushback that you're objecting to a review that's actually good. This may also make it harder to argue the case that you're being treated unfairly. Again, as with everything I've said here, this clearly varies from company to company, but it's true in the places I've worked.

Anyway, to be completely clear, I am not saying that you're wrong to be upset or that any of this is fair. I'm just trying to give you some insight into how I've seen it work in companies like this. Also, my advice comes from the perspective of someone who does want to stay at the company for a while, be happy, and do well. If you already feel like you're on the way out, and you'd rather burn bridges in order to right the wrong, none of this may apply.
posted by primethyme at 7:56 AM on December 8, 2017 [17 favorites]

I work at a large tech company and had issues with gender bias in my last performance review.

Turns out HR had not read the text of the review. This sort of thing was not calibrated. A direct conversation on this topic was unsatisfying. The men in question kept trying to get me to see things their way. I said no way. That was the end of that.

I spent several months after amassing documentation to get my supervisor fired. My review was only an instance of a class of rank incompetence problems. Now he is gone, my slate is wiped clean, and I have some decent opportunities coming my way. I have plateaued so I am not concerned with promotion.

The entire set of conversations around my review were difficult and did not change the behaviour of my colleagues. The only value was in setting stage to get my boss fired. What do you want to get out of these conversations? If you want people to change their minds and do the right thing, you might be sorely disappointed.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:07 AM on December 8, 2017 [16 favorites]

It's probably not worth it to contest a performance review, which is by its' nature subjective, unless you are being managed out of your job. Then you'd be looking at contacting an EEOC lawyer to investigate whether 3's were disproportionately given to women who were then being managed out at the same rate.

You could bring it up at your next meeting with the boss and say something like, "I didn't see myself doing anything differently this past year than in 2017 than I did in 2016, but my rating went down. Can you please tell me what I need to do to get it back up to a 4 in 2018?" Pay close attention to his answer.
posted by juniperesque at 8:09 AM on December 8, 2017

You can dispute a performance review. The question is whether it would do much good - the people who matter (as far as your career path is concerned) have already seen the review as it stands now. They most likely will not see your revised review.

Also, you need specific evidence to get anything changed. As in "you said I did not do X, here is an email from you acknowledging that I did in fact do X". Subjective measures like you've given are not things you can disprove.

Which brings me to my last point: Are you sure your manager is wrong? You do in fact seem to be taking this review personally and shooting down your manager's idea, rather than taking professional direction.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:14 AM on December 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

once the review is delivered, it's considered "done" and it's extremely hard to get it changed. In fact, in my career, I don't recall ever seeing a rating changed after the fact due to an employee's objections.

I would correlate that with the fact that hardly anyone ever tries. If more people (especially more women) contested the crap-tons of BS that ARE typical performance reviews, I think it would be a very good thing. The system needs to be changed. That being said...

What is also obscured from most employees is the numbers game that is the review process and subsequent awarding of merit increases. Typically, each manager gets X percent of a possible raise pool, and there is curve of sorts, so you can only "allow" so many of your direct reports to get good raises (meaning, to get the top ratings). So you have to ratchet down the other reviews so that you don't skew the ranking for everyone else. It's all such a huge joke. So what your review says is rarely an accurate representation of YOUR VALUE. It's far more accurate to think of reviews as a bunch of bids your manager submits in order to win different amounts of merit increases for people. Working downward from the 1 or 2 folks that the manager has decided MUST get raises, everyone else's review is adjusted accordingly so that the ranking will allow as many of everyone's "top performers" as possible to be accommodated.

I've had managers give me all sorts of side bonuses (even gift cards they'd purchased with their own personal funds) to compensate for shitty outcomes of these effed up systems. "I wanted to give you a 5 rating because you deserved it, but I am only allowed to give out a couple of 5s for the department, and I have to give them to Jane and Dave because they worked on the Widget Project and it was so high-profile, so here is something to hopefully compensate in some other way..."

Anyway... what I am saying is, reviews are an extremely shitty system because as people, we can ONLY take them personally, because to us, they reflect our value and therefore, we are very invested in what they say and what they mean.

But to the company (MOST companies, anyway, in my experience), they do not serve that same sort of purpose. They are documentation to prop up a (usually very flawed) compensation-distribution schema that is never fair and always subjective. So the more you act on your indignation about being unfairly categorized and having sexist commentary attached to you, be aware that you are probably the only one that even remotely cares about any of it.

HR wants reviews to be DONE, FFS, so they can get on with awarding raises and get Payroll off their back. Management wants reviews to be DONE, FFS, so they can get HR off their back and return to their normal cycle of daily bullshit, and stop having to write effing performance reviews.

Regular employees don't necessarily want reviews to be done. We want them to be ACCURATE. Unfortunately, this is not on anyone else's radar, so it's extremely difficult to get anyone to care. You need to choose what hill you want to die on, and take your chances.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:23 AM on December 8, 2017 [16 favorites]

I agree with everything primethyme said, including that "meets" is a good review, it's hard to "contest" this, and there was probably a multi-step review process.

I wouldn't look at this in the frame of formally "contesting" the review (you can't do that, and it will come across as combative), but more in the frame of trying to understand why you got the review you did and whether it was sexism. If I were you, I would ask my supervisor for specific examples of the behavior they observed, what you did, and what they would expect a high performer to do in the same situation. I would ask my supervisor to give me immediate feedback if the problem occurred in the future. I would ask my supervisor to give me clear (SMART goal style) expectations for what improvement would look like, and I would hold my supervisor accountable to that. I would spend a lot of time observing other meetings to see how other staff behaved and whether there was a pattern of men shooting others' ideas down, interrupting, or talking over others. If you see a clear pattern where your supervisor allows the same behavior from men while giving you vague negative feedback without any support on how to improve, then yes, your supervisor is sexist, this goes well beyond one review, and you should be job hunting.

On preview: I_Love_Bananas' explanation of how raise pools work is not universal and should not be assumed.
posted by capricorn at 8:29 AM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

My representation is not universal- I agree. However in many large companies, and in the large companies I have worked for especially, it is pretty close to how things shake out.

I suppose the point I tried to make with all that is there is often a hidden agenda in play when it comes to how reviews are handled, and it's rarely as pure a reflection of our value as we would like it to be.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:35 AM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am a technical manager in a large technology-driven (but not focused) company. I am also female, and have had very similar things called out as part of my performance reviews. I typed out a long rant here, but its not really relevant to the answer, so I removed it.

My experiences at review-time has been very, very similar to primethyme's above. And seconding that the "meets expectations" is the target and not a bad thing; we dont have quotas per se that I'm aware of but the expectation is the very large majority of the staff are expected to be in this bucket. Very few "exceed expectations", and those who get the 5, or "significantly exceed" more than once after an exceptionally good year are rare unicorns. In my experience, by the time reviews are seen by the employee they've been reviewed at several levels, and also that promotions are never decided by a single review. YMMV, of course, but in fact i've seen more of it working the opposite way - management already has a promotion candidate in mind, and gives a review that will reflect supporting that decision.

As for contesting it... I guess you could, but i can't honestly see it helping your case. If a high rating is important to you, what would help more is an open conversation with your manager on what they perceive are your "opportunities", and how you two can work together to improve them. Or, if you dont agree those are things you should need to improve on (ie if its things that women get evaluated on that men don't), have that discussion then, bring awareness to your manager, and work on convincing them first at an informal level. In all honesty, you probably cant change this years review. What you can do is work now to influence future reviews, even given the exact same set of behaviours and actions.
posted by cgg at 8:46 AM on December 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

you probably can't change this years review. What you can do is work now to influence future reviews, even given the exact same set of behaviours and actions.

This is very good advice.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 8:56 AM on December 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

including that "meets" is a good review

This totally depends on the environment. My last job, I was involved in doing reviews, and the numerical ratings were on a scale of 5. 1 and 2 were literally never used, 4 was for normal competence, 5 was for notably good work, but nothing wildly out of the ordinary, and 3 was a strong indication that you were very badly thought of.

That doesn't necessarily translate to any other workplace, but if the OP thinks 3 is a negative review, it's very possible she's right.
posted by LizardBreath at 9:13 AM on December 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would correlate that with the fact that hardly anyone ever tries. If more people (especially more women) contested the crap-tons of BS that ARE typical performance reviews, I think it would be a very good thing.

I have seen many people try. The problem (for OP) is that almost all of the people who I've seen complain about their rating were problem employees who deserved the rating they got. I think this puts anyone who tries to change their review at a disadvantage, because an experienced manager is likely to immediatley go into "oh no, here we go again" mode rather than "let me carefully listen to and understand your concerns" mode. Again, I'm not arguing that this is right or fair, but it's how I've seen these things play out and I think it's important for anyone who is trying to do this to understand it.

Also, I hate that this is a consideration, but.... If your primary concern is being laid off in the next round, it may serve you better to be seen as a middle-of-the road performer than a "problem employee" who "doesn't take feedback well." Again, I've seen this play out, and it sucks.

At the end of the day, this all really boils down to picking a single desired outcome and optimizing for that. Potential desired outcomes are: getting a bigger raise; getting back to a point where your manager sees you as a strong performer; getting your boss in trouble for bias; avoiding being laid off; positioning yourself for a change of managers. Each of these will dictate a different course of action.
posted by primethyme at 9:22 AM on December 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think having another meeting and asking for specifics is the way to go here. If you ask for specific examples in both the positive and negative areas, you may either understand your rating better or end up with your reviewer tripping over themselves trying to explain something they didn't really think through. Then you can either take under advisement the legitimate issues raised or tell your boss that you aren't sure how to progress without specific information about what they would like to see.

You could also explain where you want to end up and ask for specific actions you could take to get there.

Asking "what would a top performer do in this situation?" is also a good idea.

Basically, I think before you argue with the review, your best bet is to have the reviewer frame the issues so that you can either see their point or use their own language and framing to demonstrate that you deserve a better rating.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:53 AM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

This totally depends on the environment. My last job, I was involved in doing reviews, and the numerical ratings were on a scale of 5. 1 and 2 were literally never used, 4 was for normal competence, 5 was for notably good work, but nothing wildly out of the ordinary, and 3 was a strong indication that you were very badly thought of.

Man, that's a harsh scale. I am a software development manager at a large multinational tech company and I would agree with everyone who says a 3 is a good rating. It's expected that the majority of people are going to slot into 3, something on the order of 80%. 4s are 10% and 5s are 1%. Having a 4 two years in a row would indicate to me that you're doing truly excellent work that goes above and beyond and is noticed by people outside your team. I've had to justify all the 4s and 5s I give across the wider development organization and get buy-in from other teams. It does happen, but usually if someone is continually exceeding expectations in their current role they'll be promoted up.

Arguing the rating is probably not productive. Instead I think you should work on trying to force your manager to provide concrete, measurable goals that you can meet or exceed over the next year.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:23 AM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just adding to perspectives here...I had a very high-performing team working under crazy targets. I spent a lot of time reviewing them specifically and accurately.

Then my boss met with me and changed all the numbers to fit within the broader team. Then her boss changed them again, not positively. It was indeed a run up to layoffs, but it was also pretty common. So I would assume the review was signed off on at a pretty high level.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:30 AM on December 8, 2017

Personally, I think wanting to discuss your performance review shows you take your job and the feedback seriously. I would be clear that you disagree with some of the stuff, but I would try to find a way to frame the discussion as you wanting to improve, not merely you wanting to complain. I think it depends how strongly you feel about this and whether or not it will continue to bother you that you didn't say anything. But meeting expectations, I agree, isn't a bad review.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:32 AM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

You say that you worry that this review will keep you from moving up into management at your company. You also say that you've been an employee there for only three years and that you're actively looking for another job -- that you would quit today, even, if you could.

Given these details, if what you want is to move up in your current company, I would definitely not "contest" a review that scored you as having met expectations by coming out guns a blazing about gender bias and the failure of your bosses to adhere to the company's values.

Fire away if what you really want is to redress what you feel was an unfair and inaccurate performance evaluation, but know that doing so will almost certainly not help you achieve your stated goal of getting promoted.
posted by pinkacademic at 11:47 AM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

You do in fact seem to be taking this review personally and shooting down your manager's idea, rather than taking professional direction

To be the devil's advocate, we don't know all of the circumstances here but I had a similar observation to FakeFreyja's. You were sufficiently concerned about feedback that you "take things too personally" to write an AskMe about it, and though you hope to be promoted someday you say at the end of your post that you are working on finding a new job and would "quit right this second" if you could. If you take a step back, is the feedback still unfair? (Maybe it is; I have written an anonymous AskMe and been frustrated when people keyed in on stuff that I might have clarified or worded differently. If so, nevermind me.)

If you are keen to discuss the review, I think saying that it's "not accurate and it's not fair" or that the company is "asking [you] to act out of accordance with our company's values" will not be super-productive. If you could frame it as hearing that feedback and wanting to understand it better (are there specific instances they can cite? are there opportunities to have one-on-one discussions with others on the team?) that is at least coming at it from a neutral place.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:47 AM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

At a lot of tech companies the stack rank is agreed by a star chamber of managers, and then scores are given to fit your place in this secret subjective rank. Text details are added as needed to support the score. Therefore, at these places, the score is the result of how these managers regard you, which is not something you can argue about or change after the fact. The fix in the future is to improve your reputation rather than your work, which is tricky as they are correlated but not the same.

(My own habit of quietly getting everything done, in what looks like a very strange order, can yield bad reviews if the score happens in the middle of the project when people are wondering WTF I am doing, rather than just after the end when I delivered everything on time and it worked great.)
posted by w0mbat at 12:32 PM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Nthing the experiences and insight of others – especially reviews being circulated and agreed to before they reach you, there being a limited number of "exceeds" possible and "meets" generally being positive, and much of management viewing them as "things that have to be done for HR" rather than "things we do to help employees develop". Now, there are managers who view it both ways, thank goodness. But there are many who see it as a chore. I've also experienced what w0mbat has, where reputation has more weight than work.

Now that one was the hardest for me to handle, because it IS so strongly correlated to sexism as well. It's like, well cripes, I'm a woman, our reputation is dependent on nonsense we don't even control! So I'm going to do my best to control that by delivering awesome work! Well, when I started getting management duties, all of a sudden your work IS relationships, i.e. a huge chunk of reputation. In fact being a good manager very often (I'd go so far as to say "always" but recognize not all managers think that way) entails setting aside your achievements so your team have room to show their achievements.

One positive interpretation of your review is that you are, in fact, being considered for management and that's what changed this year. They might be using this review to see how you handle it – taking it personally might cut off management potential for you. Whereas taking it in stride and approaching your manager to ask how you can improve, with your goal of management in mind, could be exactly what opens that door further.

This: Obviously, if we were unionized this wouldn't be a problem isn't necessarily true btw. I live in France and the place I quit early this year, was one I quit because my mentor-manager wrote on my review, as his sole remark on my management capabilities (I had a team of 15 on two separate sites, we delivered everything in budget and on time, great client feedback, team members were motivated and I had the only team that never had a single sick day, my direct management were also happy), well, my mentor-manager wrote, and I quote: "fraula is too maternal." AND he finished the review with a "needs to improve" rating. I took a photo of it, it was so mind-boggling. And I was an elected employee representative. Turns out: other union reps told me that was actually why the manager wanted to take me down – he viewed having a respected manager as employee rep as threatening.

In short. Humans are human, thus imperfect. You're the best judge of your situation, but if you too wonder if you might be taking it too personally, it's possible. But honor your reactions too, because I've been in situations where I second-guessed my sensitivity, and my initial reaction of "wtf this is wrong" was in fact correct, just more complex than I originally imagined. Like with my mentor manager: on the surface of it, sexism ahoy. Which it was, but the deeper explanation really grabs you with an "aha, oh yeah, geez, that makes sense now," which in no way changes how wrong it was, just you grok that the choice I had was clear.

There's a way I handle "wtf" now – hold on to it, use the energy from it to carefully explore every possible constructive explanation, without judgment or criticism but also with healthy boundaries, and you know what? When you do that, you inevitably discover the "wtf" core, and it's usually pretty complex, but it is indeed real. If you want to become a manager, develop that skill, because learning to accurately, impersonally investigate "wtf" while keeping relationships professional with everyone involved is very important. For conscientious management, anyhow. Not all managers do that, sigh.
posted by fraula at 1:18 PM on December 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

It depends somewhat on how the reviews are used later. Where I work, there are only two "real" scores that matter: acceptable and unacceptable. There is a number system, but that's more for the employee's benefit than anything else. The top scorers get to feel good about it and get a slightly higher bonus (but we're talking 3 digit bonuses here and maybe a $50 difference), but the real purpose of the score sheet is so someone can work on their weak areas if they want to. When we promote people, "acceptable" is what matters, plus managers' opinions on suitability.

But I think many people's impression of the evals has the causality backwards. The evals are not used to form opinions of you, they are a report of what the opinion already is. That's your problem here, your manager thinks you're a "meeting expectation" kind of person, but hasn't put in the effort to articulate why (possibly even to themself). Often this happens when people mentally stack-rank their employees first, and then try to backward-justify that mental model with the write up, instead of thoughtfully rating each person individually and then seeing how the ranking shakes out. The first way is easier, and a manager who doesn't believe in evals except as an annoying paperwork drill will do that every time.

In your spot, I don't think I'd try to get this one changed now and make a big stink about it. They'll just fill in more justification for the score you already have. If your org allows lazy vague unsubstantiated remarks like that, then it does and there's not much you can do about it. What I WOULD do, is meet with my supervisor to "clarify" how specifically I can be better. My policy as a manager is that nothing in an eval should surprise the employee; by that time I'd have mentioned it numerous times, in routine one-on-ones and if that didn't work then in the moment - "you're doing that thing." I think "why haven't you told me you have these concerns before now" is a perfectly fair question to ask. My strategy as the employee would be to ask for that much more frequently. If my supervisor is not going to push that kind of information then I would figure I need to pull it. It will put the supervisor on notice that you're paying attention. It might make them realize they have a wrong impression if they really think about it. And it might remind them that an employee's "poor" performance is really the manager's poor performance - lack of clear direction.

Bottom line is, effectively "fighting" a lackluster evaluation looks indistinguishable from "accepting at face value and making an honest effort to make changes based on the feedback."
posted by ctmf at 6:51 PM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I dont think the fact that you care about the review shows that you are taking things too personally. Your tone in this question is very calm and reasonable. What does that criticism actually mean, anyway? It's often gendered and used to suppress analysis or questioning of feedback, ime. Maybe that's happening here, maybe it's not. But writing a MetaFilter question doesn't prove that you're over-sensitive. That conclusion only follows if you assume already that the feedback is accurate. Which none of us know.

As to critiquing the review becuase it might be gendered... That is probably not going to work unless you can prove a pattern of that behaviour. Because even if they do make sexist assumptions in their reviews, that doesn't mean that your review isn't accurate. Some people don't take fair criticism well.

All of which is somewhat beside the good point that others have made which is that pragmatically speaking, challenging the review except in the most subservient and accepting of terms is probably not going to work out well for you.
posted by jojobobo at 7:16 PM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you're Canadian, submit a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission

Make sure you document the issues you've had. I would also look at contacting your local Labour Board is the negative reviews are gender based. Doing such is against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Good luck.
posted by GiveUpNed at 6:58 AM on December 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Chiming in also with another data point - multinational I work at also requires consensus across two layers of management to finalize review scores, a process which takes weeks or even months. I'm thinking you can't unscramble the egg at this point.

What I would do - express clearly that you want to get back to an exceed rating and ask your manager to put together a clear plan with you to do so by the next review. (It's their job!) Also ask them for mentorship opportunities with other managers - ideally for these issues you don't want to work with your direct manager, it's harder to be objective because they work so closely with you. This can avoid any bias issues which might exist (unless they're systemic to the org...)
posted by xdvesper at 2:16 PM on December 9, 2017

Managers don’t usually wake up in the morning asking themselves who they are going to undermine during the day.

No. But managers do suffer from unconscious bias.

What transpires in performance reviews is usually the way you project yourself in an organization and how you come across, as well as more specific and measurable achievements.

Did you miss the part in the OP's post where the organisation itself noted that there was an organisation-wide problem with women being unfairly assessed?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:59 PM on December 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think "why haven't you told me you have these concerns before now" is a perfectly fair question to ask.

The more I think about it, the more I think this is what you could do without making yourself a "problem person." If you've got a person higher in the chain than your supervisor whom it makes sense to go to (usually a department head or division head, but not, like, the CEO) and claims to have an open-door policy, try them on it.

To make that work, there are a few important things you want to get in there. One, this is not a formal complaint, just feedback that you think the rating process isn't working well. Two, this isn't about you arguing about the substance of the criticism, it's about how you first heard this criticism on your eval after it's too late to do anything. It's not clear what you can do to improve your rating. It's not fair. You understand what's done might be done and you're going to work on your weak areas in good faith, but you're pissed off about how this went down and it makes you disappointed in the company.

In my org, that strategy wouldn't change your rating, or maybe it would be sent back for a complete re-write. What would definitely happen is supervisors and their next level up would get some uncomfortable attention and maybe some extra training on performance management (throughout the year, not just at eval time). Also, after experiencing that my department head never forgets anything, I'd bet money my NEXT eval gets diverted from the process to cross his desk for a one-on-one director/supervisor conversation before it gets issued.

Chances are, the more senior person you pick to talk to is more concerned about the aggregate appearance of disfavoring women than your immediate supervisor (with smaller perspective) is.
posted by ctmf at 5:46 PM on December 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

OP may find some further insight in "Secret 19" p.81 of Corporate Confidential, "Performance-review scores aren't about your performance." (Spoiler alert: they're about your manager's opinion of you, and you are obliged to adapt to them, they don't have to adapt to you.)
posted by Coventry at 12:48 PM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

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