The Elusive Annual Review
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Title:The Elusive Annual Review
When you agreed to come on board to your current employer, you were likely promised some kind of annual review, maybe even a 6 month or 3 month review. While the word ‘review’ may have actually shown up in your offer letter, it’s likely that the word ‘raise’ did not. In fact it is much more likely that your offer letter used the word ‘discretionary’, multiple times.
Words and phrases like ‘probationary period’, ‘discretionary’, ‘terminated at any time’, ‘right to alter terms of employment’, etc… have all crept into the formal exchange of employment terms. It seems the more employers can distance themselves from committing to anything but base pay for work done the more relief they feel from potential risks and overcommitting.
You may actually receive the review you were waiting for. But there’s nothing in writing that says this needs to be accompanied by a raise. You may have made your employer heaps of money on the last project you managed, and you may feel you are due a bonus. The word ‘discretionary’ is such a remarkably diverse term, that it could mean ‘life changing bonus’, ‘holiday ham’, a ‘pat on the back’ , or ‘nothing at all’.
There is no legally compelling reason for an employer to add a set amount to a bonus, or raise in an offer letter. And frankly the companies that do promise a raise, are typically multi billion dollar international corporations who have structured growth in place. What is structured growth? Typically that would be COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment), or a standard 2%, etc… Not very exciting, but perhaps that stability is less likely to cause you the agita associated with the wildly varying definitions of ‘discretionary’.
When companies look to alleviate risk by downplaying their financial commitments to their employees, however, they may be developing another risk by even more—the risk of losing high performing assets, or the risk of even acquiring them in the first place. Hard working employees like a road map to success, milestones to aim for, and rewards to accompany those accomplishments. Our early childhood fascination with a treasure map is no different. Our brains are just wired that way. If we are told we have a certain ‘path’ to follow, but the ‘reward’ is simply that ‘this is doing our job’, we are less likely to be engaged in our work—generally.
That’s not to say that employers should incentivize employees for doing the bare minimum. But there is a value to having an employee who performs beyond expectations, and employers would likely benefit more by acknowledging that effort, and sharing in the subsequent reward.