Concerns about an Upcoming Performance Review? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I manage a global team of extremely talented scientists. It is clear how the work we do benefits our organization. I got a new boss about nine months ago, and I’m pretty sure my unit was the only one that wasn’t a dumpster fire.

I have been left completely to my own devices. I don’t know if my boss even knows what my team does—and he hasn’t shown evidence that he cares. I was given my budget for 2024, which is fine since it is almost exactly what I had for 2023 and nothing is changing. All our goals are the same because they are all phased out over multiple years.

My annual review is coming up in a month. I want to prepare, but I have no idea what the boss is looking for or what he is going to want to know. I’m not sure how to operate in a vacuum like this. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Left Alone

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Dear Left Alone,

In some ways, this is a best-case scenario. So many people wish they could just be trusted to do their jobs without constant interference. The downside to this situation would only become apparent if you needed resources you couldn’t get, or if you were hoping for recognition you might need to be considered for promotion. If neither of those two things is an issue, I would say no news is good news.

That being said, I think this moment might be an opportunity to:

  1. Make sure your boss knows what you do and how critical your team’s work is to the business.
  2. Reassure him that you have everything you need to continue your stellar performance.
  3. Find out what else he wants to know.
  4. Plant some seeds for future plans, if you have ideas.

You might consider writing an email or even creating a presentation that outlines what your team accomplished in 2023 and how those accomplishments contributed to the company’s strategic imperatives. Include answers to questions you think he might have. Then share your goals for 2024. It might also be a good idea to give your boss monthly updates on what has been accomplished, what obstacles you face, and what, if anything, you need from him.

In preparation for your review, send your boss a list of topics you think he might want to hear about from you and ask if it is accurate.

If you do all this, no one can accuse you of not keeping up your end of the manager/employee compact. And you might learn a little bit about how your boss thinks and what is important to him.

You don’t seem to require a ton of affirmation or acknowledgement, which means this kind of arrangement could go on indefinitely. So that’s good. But you don’t want to be surprised, either, so a bit of advance scouting to ascertain what is going on in your boss’s head wouldn’t hurt.

Happy New Year to you!

Love, Madeleine

About Madeleine

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

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