Your Performance rating sucks. Is there a magic-bullet solution?

You expect the first bucket. Your boss hands you a second or third bucket rating. You are angry, confused, frustrated- and other words that are too colorful to be posted here.

How should you handle this situation?

Well, I have a hack for you. We’ll cheat a little – but it will work.  I hacked it up many, many years ago, when I faced a similar dilemma. And it subsequently earned me a series of top ratings and indeed changed the way I look at the world.

Ready? Let’s proceed.

Let’s agree on one thing. You aren’t unhappy with the rating. You are upset because Mr.X, who you believe deserves an abysmal rating, has been rated above you. Your anger stems from comparison. And bell curves are models of comparison.

This insight helps us with our hack. Close your eyes and imagine you are working in a group with the person you most admire.  Pick a leader you look up to in your organization. Or choose your favorite celebrity leader (e.g., Seth Godin for Marketing, Elon for Product builds, Arianna Huffington for Leader roles). Ask yourself:

“What rating would I be comfortable with if this leader was evaluated alongside me?”

Chances are you would be comfortable with a rating 2 or 3 bands lower than this person. Suddenly you don’t feel so bad.

But this is just part I. If you stop here, you’ll probably face the same problem the next year – and at that time, you won’t be able to trick your mind into accepting this hack again.

So let’s move on to part II.

You study this person’s skills and attitude in detail and start imbibing the learnings into your work routine. Your goal is to raise yourself as much as possible to their level in a year. Read books about them, follow their social handles, watch them on YouTube, speak to them in person if they are a leader you can reach. Learn from them and put your learnings into action.

Give yourself a year, and I am sure Bossman/ Bosswoman will hold you as a role model. Even better – you have just developed what Charles DuHigg calls keystone habits. These habits will have positive ripple effects on your entire life – not only help with the rating.

Try it. You can thank me later!


  1. Good one Subra. I like the part II even better. With part I, you’re just getting yourself into contended mode and part II really makes you pursue and realize

  2. The field level work never goes out of style, what we sow in this prep work, we will definitely reap .. that too with two benefits !

  3. Subra, a great share and quite timely too. Very touchy topic indeed. Can’t agree more that the best way to deal with this cyclical stress event is to channelize the emotions into stay positive through the entire process and to convert the strong emotions into positive action (almost as if you had a converter and a battery to store the energy). An approach that has served me well over the years is never to doubt our own self-esteem in the process. Trashing the organization’s performance rating process as biased and self-servient doesn’t help either. The solution, thus, is to introspect and identify actions one must do, not with the intent of getting the top rating, rather with the intent of genuine development…..top rating will follow. Everytime the topic of performance rating comes up, I cannot help getting philosophical and advocate “focus on action” and not on result 🙂

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