The following is not by me but rather is a comment repost that I exclaimed "Ooo!" when it came in. Even Dare linked directly to the comment. I'd like to take a break from the financial angst and repost this comment - thanks to the anonymous individual who put together their point of view of basic survival skills in the Microsoft landscape.
How it works: FAQ on reviews, promotions, job changes, and surviving re-orgs
What do I write in my review?
You must accept the Matrix-like realization that your score was decided long before you even started your review. You have already gotten what your manager decided to give you. Your manager is not going to base anything in their feedback on what you wrote unless they want to argue with something you wrote. What they write is only to justify the score they gave you. Advice: Write your review so it looks like you did what you want your next job to be so new hiring managers think you’re great and qualified for their job, but are currently just in the wrong group.
Who gets bad review scores?
Nobody ever wants to give out bad scores, but somebody’s got to be the bottom and it makes it a lot easier on a manager if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You really, really, suck at your job. You’re making more work for your manager. They just want you to do your job and leave them alone. Many people suck but are either good at hiding it or their manager is afraid of them.
- You leave your job late in the review cycle. You get included in your old group instead of your new one and it’s much easier to ding someone you’re not going to face everyday.
- You get a new job in a different group. You could not possibly be ready for the demands of doing exactly the same thing you did before.
- You get promoted during the year. You will not be able to perform above a 3.0 at your new level. No matter what.
- You complain to HR about them. I don’t think I need to go into detail here.
Okay, I filled out the manager feedback form and nothing appears to have changed. Why isn’t it taken more seriously?
Because it doesn’t actually count. That’s why it’s called a feedback form. If it counted, in the review process the score would be mathematically calculated in your manager’s overall rating. It’s not.
Manager feedback forms should only contain encouraging, nurturing, positive comments about how happy you are to have this wonderful human in your life. If you want it to look legitimate, say your manager should delegate more work to the rest of the team. The biggest risk is giving actual criticism or mentioning specific instances and they are able to recognize your writing style. Then you’re doomed. Advice: Never fill them out – remember there’s no penalty and only downside. Don’t take stupid chances like that again. You’ll never get promoted.
So how can I get promoted?
There are only so many promotions available; that’s why your manager won’t tell you specifically "If you do X and Y, you will get promoted." They will go to great pains to tell you that good performance only gets you a ticket in the pool of people that become "eligible" for a promotion. "Eligible" means one thing - your manager decided they want to promote you. Period. They have to fill out a form and then win the "who gets promoted" argument with the other managers at stack rank meetings, which is where they write everyone’s name up on a board, decide who is 4.0 or promotion material, pick out the bottom feeders they want to weed out, and then fill in the rest of the 3.0-3.5s. What anyone actually accomplished during the year is irrelevant. Advice: Focus all your energy on making your manager want to promote you. Do this by making them love you. You don’t have to do more or higher quality work. You can also do this at the expense of satisfying customers, decreasing costs, or generating profit for the company. It is up to you to find out what you need to do; all managers are different. Some want you to do more of their work; others simply look at how long you’ve been at your level, but remember that managers are employees too, so all will want one of those precious promotions first.
What happens if I do get promoted?
Words from my manager during my review this year (4.0, promotion): "Now I’m supposed to be sure to tell you that it’s going to be really, really hard for you to get a 3.5 next August." This means I’m getting a 3.0 no matter what I actually do. Advice: If you get a promotion, leave your group immediately. If you wait too long to move you’ll be included in your old group at review time which we’ve learned is not good. If you get a high score but no promotion, pour on more love and start mentioning an out-of-cycle promotion. And if your manager recently was promoted, it just might happen. If not, go find another job.
How do I go find a different job at Microsoft?
Very, very, carefully. Remember your job is to make your manager love you by making their life easier and you just added two types of action items to their list:
- Bad action item – they have to find a new person because you’re bailing on them.
- Not so bad action item – they can give you one of the crappy review scores.
Bottom line is to not tip your hand unless you are sure you’ve got the job. Sometimes the reaction of a manager is to take it personally and think you don’t like them or their team anymore, but it’s also a sigh of relief because you just signed up for the bottom of the curve. Either way if you don’t get that new job, things are going to be unpleasant in your old job. Why? If they really liked you they’d promote you to get you to stay. Technically permission to interview is good for like a month or something so once you ask for formal permission the clock is ticking (and that bomb is real). Advice: First, only look at jobs for which you are actually qualified. Make informational interviews become the real interviews. Tell the hiring manager that your group is not going to be happy once you tell them you’re looking. They will nod in agreement. Set up informational interviews with everyone else that would be on the formal loop. Tell the hiring manager that you won’t formally interview unless you know you’re the leading candidate going into it. And don’t ask for formal permission until HR tells you they can’t continue the process without it.
I just got re-orged. Should I worry?
Re-orgs generally seem to make sense ("Networking and wireless are now together. That will help our wireless networking initiative."), but in reality it’s just how VPs trade power with each other. Most of the time you will experience absolutely zero change – the obligatory all-hands meeting with your new VP (go because it will be the only time you see them in person), announcements of who is in charge of doing what now, a change in co-worker taglines, and most of the time, the same manager. The danger is a new manager. One that decides on changes in your role. These changes will always line up exactly with what the manager was doing before. If it doesn’t line up, they will simply turn your Customer Escalation team into the Customer Escalation Marketing and Branding team and tell you to write new commitments that they’re going to judge you with even if there’s only two weeks left in the review cycle. Dev, Test, Admins, and those in a true PM role are generally safe from role changes; that leaves the other gazillion of us that are not. Hired for a specific role that actually brings value? Re-org! Oops, now you’re not. Meet your new manager. Advice: Recognize a role change when you see it. Managers show value through improving processes, which means change, which means changing things that generally weren’t broken before they got there. If you can’t convince your new manager that they need you in that role, leave immediately. Your review should be prepped for that next role anyway.