Q: I am very upset about my recent performance review. I received an overall rating of satisfactory, even though more than half the individual items were rated outstanding. This doesn't make any sense, and I feel like I'm being short-changed.
My manager said I was doing a good job and offered no suggestions for improvement, yet I still got an average rating and an average raise. The same thing happened last year. How do I keep this from happening again?
A: Without more information, it's impossible to know whether your rating is appropriate. But since employees often have a limited understanding of the appraisal process, let me suggest a couple of things to consider.
First, most organizations restrict the number of top ratings that managers are allowed to use. Since appraisals must typically be approved by both upper management and human resources, your boss may not be able to distribute many outstanding scores.
Also, the overall rating is not usually determined by averaging all the sub-ratings unless a weighting system is used. The reason is that some goals, tasks or traits may be more important than others. Therefore, your overall rating of satisfactory might not be as inappropriate as it seems.
If you have questions about how the appraisal system works, your human-resources manager will undoubtedly be glad to explain. But the person who really owes you an explanation is your boss, since he has failed to provide any useful feedback. Your wimpy manager is apparently trying to escape an honest performance discussion, so you must take the initiative to ask for one.
For example: I appreciated your positive comments during my last performance review. However, I was disappointed with my overall score, so I need to know how I can improve. Because I hope to get an 'outstanding' rating next time, I will do my best to accomplish any objectives that we establish.
Since his appraisals will be reviewed by others, your boss probably can't guarantee a particular rating. But if you are able to meet his expectations, your odds of being outstanding should certainly increase.
Q: I was recently invited to have lunch with the president of our company. I would like to make a positive impression, but I'm not sure what to talk about. Can you suggest some good questions to ask?
A: Because top executives always like to discuss what's happening in their industry, the best questions are those that involve business trends and conditions. If you are not currently up to speed on the latest developments, take time to do some online research prior to your luncheon engagement.
On the other hand, questions about pay, benefits, and working conditions may not be advisable, because they can sound critical and self-serving. Executives tend to be impressed by employees who are interested in helping the company, not those who care only about what the company can do for them.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com.