Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Guess what I didn't get this year...

I wasn't expecting a raise actually, I moved cost of living zones, and I am well above the comp midpoint of my grade. I talked with HR about this when I moved, and they basically made it clear I wasn't getting a merit or COLA for 3-4 years.

However, my now former manager (since October I've been officially under someone else) who was my manager for less than a year, came from another group that worked in a completely different area, never really understood what I did, barely communicated with me all year (from October on, I think I talked directly with him about my job twice... maybe 3 times, before my performance review), didn't set any goals objectives or metrics for me or for performance measurement; pretty much deliberately spiked my bonus.

You may also remember, this is the guy who took the promotion my manager and managers manger, were planning on giving me; when he lost his previous position in the late 2009 re-org, and his former boss, got put over my bosses boss (yeah, I know, byzantine. Big business is big business). She needed a slot for him, so she pushed me out, and put him in.

I didn't and don't, hold it against him; and I don't think he held it against me... but he never really knew what I did, what to do with me, or how to deal with me; and I think that was a factor.


Our performance reviews consist of narrative comments, plus numeric ratings on a 1-5 integer scale. I've been working there for five years, and up til now, I've never received less than a 4 in any rating.

On my performance ratings this cycle, he initially gave me a 4 (all goals met some goals exceeded) in the grade for my core job responsibilities, a 3 (all goals met) for the two other most important categories. Unfortunately, he also gave me a 2 (some but not all goals met) in one of the ancillary categories, and a 1 (no goals met) in the least important category; both related to paperwork and administrative items, and neither justified.

Admittedly, I had some personal and medical problems in 2010, and it definitely impacted my performance negatively, which I acknowledged freely... but not THAT negatively.

I reviewed it with him, and by the literal definition, he was justified in giving me a 2 in one category (the literal definition is "some but not all goals met", which was true... excepting that we never actually set any official performance goals for me for 2010... but I didn't successfully complete all the reporting and paperwork assignments he gave me so I concede the point).

Technically yes, that is the exact definition of a 2 according to the handbook; but the customary usage is that a 2 indicates very poor performance, and a 3 indicates acceptable performance.

The reasoning there, is HR policies concerning the numeric ratings. Two consecutive performance reviews with any 2s at all in them, and you get put on a "turnaround plan".  Also, critically, any 2s in a review, no matter how high your other ratings are; you get no merit increase, no bonus, and no stock options. You could have 5s in every other category, 22 points total and an average rating of 4.4, and you'd still be SOL.

Basically, a 3 is acceptable performance in a category, and a 2 is unacceptable performance in a category; but any 2s at all in a review, and you are in effect saying unacceptable performance overall.

So, naturally, because of these policies, a good and reasonable manager only puts 2s in your review if they find your overall performance unacceptable.

On the other hand, it's also very easy for a manager to spike a good employee, by putting a 2 in an "unimportant" category.  They know it means you get screwed, but they can point to the review and say "well, these were very good, it was just a slight issue here in this relatively unimportant bit".

The 1 rating was not at all justified (a 1 is "no goals met"), and was based on the fact that somehow he didn't know the results of a major project that took 30% of my time last year; even though I reported to him about it regularly (but even then should have been a 2 not a 1; because some goals were met).

After our discussion, he said he would fix those categories to reflect acceptable performance.

I argued with him that even then, the overall review presented a worse picture of my performance than was actually correct; especially in light of the fact that I actually received several awards during the year for exceptional performance (those awards came from senior management, or the management of other groups).

Basically, the problem was that I did very well working and communicating with everyone else, and a poor job working and communicating with him... which again, I freely acknowledge.

...and he agreed, saying that he would modify the review to reflect our discussion.

I took that to mean I would receive a 3 in those categories we discussed, for an overall 3.4 rating.

So, last week, I received the updated review that he filed with HR.

It turns out, he modified the narrative text to be much more positive (though still with some negative points), and upped the rating...

...So I ended up with TWO 2s instead, for an overall 2.8 rating.

Ratings are rounded down, so 2.8 becomes 2, which is "unacceptable performance".

I asked him about it, and basically he said he left the 2s, because he felt that I prioritized work assigned by senior management, over work that he assigned, and thus didn't successfully complete all the tasks he assigned me (and technically, by definition, that resulted in 2s)

Which is technically true...

... but, that's the way it was SUPPOSED to be.

This guy was never supposed to be my boss for technical functions, only for administrative. The way the structure was supposed to work, is that he was supposed to be the admin/finance/hr guy, and I was to take technical direction and assignments from senior management, and work directly with my business partners and vendors; and to be the technical lead and mentor for the group.

That's what a chief architect does (and why I got a 4 in my core competency rating).

...Unfortunately, he didn't see it that way.

Thus, I received an overall performance rating of 2.8; or what could be thought of as a 70% in a system where 4 is equivalent to 100% and 5 is equivalent to 125%.

Frankly, based on how numerical ratings are generally assigned, I believe I should have received a 3.4; or an 85 if you will... basically a B instead of a C-.

The upshot of all that is, no bonus, and no stock options for me this year.

Now, for those of you who say "so what, it's a bonus, why should you get a bonus if you weren't exceptional"; particularly, why should you get a bonus for 85% work not 100%...

...that would be true in other industries, but this industry is different.

In the financial sector, you take a lower base salary, in exchange for great benefits, long vacations, and a significant element of "bonus" pay.

In terms of job responsibilities, I'm effectively the chief architect and consulting manager for a 500 person IT consulting company, servicing the Fortune 50. If that were my actual position, I'd be making about 20-30% more than I do (plus substantial bonuses and stock).

If I were still consulting, I'd be grossing 50-60% more than I do, maybe more (though you keep a lot less of it).

In fact, I took a 20% pay cut when I quit consulting (and thats only because my manager brought me in at one grade higher, and over the midpoint otherwise it would have been a 30% cut), and signed on with the company full time (though the bonus, vacation, and benefits, and the associated improvement to my quality of life, more than made up the difference); and I've been promoted three times since then, with responsibility for four times as much as I had when I started.

Were I still consulting, this gig would be something like $120 an hour on W2, $140 on 1099 personal, or $160 inclusive corp to corp (presuming no travel and no outstanding expenses); and that's even with todays recession suppressed rates.

Presuming the same number of vacation and holiday days (1800 billable hours), and adjusting for the higher costs of taxes and benefits (corp to corp, it works out to about 20% higher tax rate overall, and about $25,000 worth of benefits); that would be like earning a conventional gross salary of around $205k.

So yeah, in this industry, they pay us a LOT less than we could otherwise earn.

In this business, the target "bonus" is not really considered an optional extra for exceptional performance; it's what you get when you and the company both perform to targets. You get a higher percentage bonus for exceptional personal performance, and a higher percentage when the company performs exceptionally well.

My "target" bonus is 15%, and as the name says, getting 100% of that 15% is predicated on meeting targets. Those targets are: a personal performance rating of 4, the division meeting 100% of performance goals, and the company meeting 100% of its performance goals.

The bonus is then modified up or down, based on my performance, the divisions performance, and the overall performance of the company. No bonus is granted if personal performance is less than 3; or if either division or company performance are less than 80%

The company performance is calculated first, then division performance. This sets the base bonus amount. The target performance for the company is 100%; you get 20% less for 80%, 10% less or 90%, 10% more for 110%, 20% more for 120% and 50% more for 125% or more. The same for division targets.

Finally the adjustment for personal performance is applied. The target for personal performance is 4; you get 20% less for 3.0 to 4.0, 20% more for 4.1 to 4.9, and 50% more for 5.0.

So, theoretically, in a year where I received one; I could get anywhere from a 7.7% to a 50.6% bonus.

In addition, in years where we meet 100% of goals or more, they grant stock options; pegged to the bonus amounts.

Finally, in years where we exceed our goals by more than 10%, they've also given a restricted exercise grant of a few hundred shares (which can't be sold for three years); and a profit participation grant of company stock into your 401k; again both amounts also pegged to bonus amounts.

The company had a record year. We exceeded our goals for the year by over 20% My division exceeded it's goals by over 20%

Even if I only got a 3, instead of a 2.8, I'd still be eligible for a bonus (well... if I'd had no 2s, which because I also had a 4 would average me out to 3.4).

So for those two points or .2 points or .6 points (depending on how you look at it), if this years bonuses and stock were roughly similar to last years; I'm out something between $25k and $30k in cash (pre tax), another $8k or $9k in stock options, $2500 or so for the 401k, and something like $15k for the stock grants.


If it was just screwaround money, I'd be a lot more sanguine about it; but it's not. I'm looking at $16,000 in legal and medical bills due in the next two months, and that was how i was going to pay them.

Well... at least I've got a job.