By: Revanche

An Annual Evaluation, Belatedly

August 1, 2011

It’s been over a year since my big move: the new job, the new home, the new life.

And I’m reflecting on the career part of it now that we’ve passed the big milestone: the performance evaluation.

Having to pull together a comprehensive report of my own accomplishments was a chore. I hated it.  I shouldn’t. It’s my opportunity to toot my horn because I work incredibly hard, well and above my job description with three times the number of people to manage and many more times the amount of work to shoulder than most, so I should have been jumping at the chance to rectify the salary situation.

You see, when I accepted the job, I wasn’t offered an amount that was commensurate with my level of experience and history of performance.  While peeved, I wasn’t terribly surprised because HR doesn’t make offers based on performance unless you’re long on obvious achievements and come highly recommended by people they know.  At least not this HR, as far as I can tell.  While I’m a high-performer, it’s not obvious on paper, nor does my youthful appearance do me many favors in this department.  As well, the industry, the role and the company I was dealing with isn’t known for a generous offer at this level. I did negotiate and came away with a single concession, but they wouldn’t budge anywhere else.

In such a situation, I used some of the following variables to figure whether I should stay or go:

Leave it: 

– You’re confident you can close the deal elsewhere in a short enough period of time that giving up this offer won’t hurt you (financially, reputation/burning bridges)
– The offer is below your baseline (you should always know your baseline lest you take an offer below that and find that it hurts you more than it helps you)
– You have a competitive counter/other offer on the table instead
– The culture is a poor fit

Take it: 

– Decent alternate offers aren’t forthcoming and the money is enough to live on
– You know there is room for growth (financially, the people you’d make connections with)
– The culture is a good enough fit that it’s a good stepping stone for the time being
– It’s a good company to work for and the experience will be valuable on your career path (in combination with the money not being so bad that you can’t live on it)

My considerations: it was near PiC, the offer wasn’t so low that I couldn’t knock their socks off and bring it up to my standard fairly quickly (I thought it’d be sooner), the job was bound to be interesting and blow the rust off my skills so I could more easily find something else if I weren’t happy there, and from my read of the economy, I was still looking at a prolonged job hunt over several thousand dollars a year if I was at all unsure about moving to the East Coast.

So I took it. (Little realizing the angst those dollars would cause my psyche.)

Several months ago, my boss and I had a conversation where we reviewed my goals, achievements and expectations, and performance to date.  I broached the topic of an increase at that point and while they weren’t willing to budge at the six-month mark, they were on notice that I wasn’t letting the salary matter lie.  That was Step One.

Throughout the year, I carried more than my weight and became the go-to person on several fronts. Aside from the incredible challenges within my own team, and there were oh-so-many, I worked across departments and with upper management on a regular basis.  After several months, my role expanded far beyond the original scope and I’m now active at a higher level than any of my peer group who have been with the organization as long as or longer than I.  None of this was easy, of course, and very little of it was fun, but I was bound and determined to win back my salary.

At judgment time: the value of recordkeeping 

With that in mind, when my annual review came around, I drafted a self evaluation that laid out the expansion of my assumed responsibilities. It took weeks to get it right (the price of doing a stellar job here is you never have personal time) but that was critical. That was Step Two.

We had a conversation about my performance over the year after my boss reviewed and responded to my write-up and no surprise, was very positive about everything.  Step Three: Boss then wanted to know my expectations with regard to salary.  Because of Step One: On notice.

The end result of that conversation was that, on the basis of my performance and my initiative throughout the year, using my write-up which was fully Boss-endorsed and the assurance that I expect them to Make Right, Boss secured a very healthy raise for me bringing my salary up to a less embarrassing, and more liveable level.

I still can’t afford to indulge, I’m still budgeting carefully and half that increase will be going to bills, the other half will be going to savings but it’s a step.


I’ll admit that I still have been second-guessing myself a bit ever since, thinking that I should have stated a number or pushed harder for a better increase.  I feel like I dropped the ball when asked what my expectations were. I didn’t give a number and I should have.  I know why I didn’t; I was asked but it was phrased as “will you quit if you don’t get [insert outrageous number here] raise” and so my response wasn’t to set an expectation as a number, it was to say that I expect I will get a better than average raise but I’m not a hostage taker. (After discussing with a mentor, this was somewhat close what I was advised to say.) Still, second-guessing a bit.  Also, I do wonder if that careful phrasing works differently coming from a male to a male VS. from a female to a male VS. from a female to a female VS. from a male to a female boss.

And part of that second-guessing is an emotional reaction because I’ve gone a year on a lowballed salary.

I’ve been alternately angry and embarrassed all year about accepting that original number even though I thought I had made my peace with it in the first place. In feeling the pinch, I felt like it reflected poorly on me in so many ways:  that it diminished me as a breadwinner, that it prevented me from carrying my weight in this household, that I was a poor negotiator, that I’ve failed in my career aspirations and taken steps backwards. That has been a difficult cycle to handle this year on top of my health spiraling and needing to prove myself at work. I’ve kept it to myself until now, but I’ve not liked feeling this way one bit.

Objectively, what played out is not poor at all and in this economy, really good, in fact, and I’m appreciative of the effort Boss must have gone to in order to make that happen.  And I have my sights set on the next goal.

So that’s Year One down.  Hello, Year Two.

7 Responses to “An Annual Evaluation, Belatedly”

  1. The Borrower says:

    What I really admire about you is your focus on your accomplishments. I like how you were prepared to bring them all up and insure your future benefit. Don’t second guess yourself, you are on the right path. Next year will be even better.

  2. This was really well-written. It’s really frustrating when your salary doesn’t reflect the hard work, time, effort and quality you put into your work. Good job on getting the raise (although one would wish it wasn’t that difficult in obtaining one!).

  3. Kay says:

    yessss!! Congratulations and keep going forward. 🙂

  4. I’m in a similiar situation where I am about 15K underpaid. I am embarrassed that I did not push harder for more money, but I worked with a recruiter that ensured me that the salary was competitive and that the bonuses would more than make up for it. Fast forward 4 years and I am woefully underpaid for my job and it burns me because they know that I’m trapped as the job market is dead in my area.

  5. Kellen says:

    Okay, I feel like I need to read this post over and over several times. I’m in my first “professional” job, with the first annual review coming up soon (October?) and I am absolutely terrified and unprepared.

    As far as I know, they don’t have us prepare any kind of self-evaluation here, but I think preparing one to have in mind would be good mental armour.

  6. I just read this over the weekend. Way to go on your negotiations! I seem to be unable to move past step 1, but I don’t think my salary is so out of line, just a bit on the low side for someone who has good performance.

    This is a really useful post and shows that how someone should take these salary things very seriously and be well prepared!

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