Bad Review in a Tech Job: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Dear Work Coach,

I just came off of the worst job review of my life and the funny thing is I have had regular one-on-ones with my manager and everything had seemed to be going well. The guy has recently stepped down as manager.

Anyway, while I agree some of the stuff he wrote was true, I do not believe that he presented to me the information in a timely manner…waiting six months to tell me that I’m not doing well while each weekly meeting has been fine is a shocker!

I’m not sure what to do at this point. The guy is no longer my manager but still works in my group and is a respected IC. My new manager says I’ve basically got a couple of months to prove myself and he’s going to help by giving me specific things I need to accomplish and changes I need to make. The problem is I’m not really sure I feel like I want to stay at this point. I’ve been with the company for a little over a year and haven’t really meshed well with anyone.

The work is uninspiring (writing code to test more code) but the reason I stay is because we were bought out a few months ago and I’m going to make an extra year’s salary for the next 3 years I work (work 3 years, get an extra year of pay for free due to vesting options). While it’s not a LOT of money, it’s still rather substantial and I’d kinda like to extract all of the value before I call it quits.

Any advice?

Anon Geek

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Dear Anon Geek,

Thanks for writing. I just want you to know that I’m really sorry this review came at you with no warning. You are wise to use this as an opportunity to think about your options.

You wrote “While it’s not a LOT of money, it’s still rather substantial and I’d kinda like to extract all of the value before I call it quits.” This raises several thoughts for me. I hope you will permit me to share them, even if none of what I say rings true for you.

The word value has so many ways of being interpreted. If you don’t like the job (you call it uninspiring) and you don’t feel you match well with your environment or the people you work with, than the only value I see is the promise of that extra money, which even you say isn’t all that substantial. But there would be HUGE value in spending your days doing something that feels good and gets your juices flowing, rather than slogging through just to get a carrot that may never come. (I will address that point soon.) A different perspective may open some doors for you.

Real value could come by finding a new job that you actually feel good about! That value is priceless; it is your health and your mental well-being as well as your future career opportunities. (One door leads to another.) We are not enhanced by slogging. In a new job where you feel energized, you could move ahead to the point that the monetary gain you would have stayed for would be well-surpassed in about 5 years. By staying, you will only etch into yourself an attitude that you may not see, but potential employers will. Choices like this can shape your whole career. Shaking off the mismatched environment and moving on may be the wisest move, both from an emotional and monetary point of view.

But let me throw in one other factor. This poor performance review that came out of the blue may mean they don’t see you being with them the whole 3 years and therefore that extra bonus you are in effect selling your life for may never materialize! Before staying 3 whole years for that purpose, I would want you to make sure you have support from the new boss and a real sense that you are wanted there. (Finding a mentor would be a great idea if you choose to stay.) I like that your manager is willing to set goals so you aren’t shooting in the dark, but they may already have formed an opinion of you. In fact, your former manager may have simply reflected the opinion of others in his review and have been trying to help you see what you need to pay attention to.

Now, looking at it from yet another angle…you might choose to use this wake-up call as a chance to challenge yourself and wow them! Maybe there is a place for you there after all that would be good for you – as well as for whatever job you wind up in next. (By the way…I’ve worked in IT as a PM and good people move up to get more interesting assignments – but the secret is they also treat the less exciting assignments with the same thorough professionalism, good attitude, and enthusiasm as the more challenging ones.) Maybe they haven’t seen all that you could be yet. Maybe you know you have more to offer, but you need to find ways to show them just how much you can shine. If you choose this path, find allies. Ask your manager for more help. Be sincere and then give it your all! (This path can never be a losing one even if you later decide to leave. At the very least, it gets you good references!)

There’s no way, of course, that I can know the real circumstances and how they truly view you or what your ideal move would be. Only you can know that. Trust your instincts and not just your “logical” head. But if you feel the way you describe about your job, I am sure of one thing: you will be rewarded on many levels by choosing to either stay and do your very best (working with them in the most positive way you know how) or to find a job that feels better for you as soon as possible. I think the idea of just hanging in and staying for that bonus without you deciding to change things for yourself may only bring short-term gains and lots of continued dissatisfaction. (And again, you may never get to that bonus unless they decide you’re a “keeper”! Many companies weed out people before such deadlines to avoid paying the bonus. These are instituted to encourage good employees to stay; the others, unless they make the effort to show their worth, are expendable.)

I hope something I said has helped you think this through for yourself. Jobs are rarely perfect – but, if you are lucky enough to have options, please don’t settle for just “getting through each day”. I want so much more for you. )

Good luck with whatever you do. Please let us know what happens!

Ronnie Ann

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Note: This post comes from a comment and response found in:

When Bad Job Evaluations Happen to Good People

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

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