in DevOps

Rands In Repose: No Surprises

In my ideal management world, a review is simply a documentation of well-known facts, your performance over the year. It also contains constructive advice and insight regarding how your boss believes you can improve on that performance. My dream is that you already know all of this information because you’ve been getting year-round feedback from your boss.

I wish.


Fact is, you’re never fully going to get your boss on-board with your year. There are opinions he has which aren’t going to change which means if you don’t want another surprise next year, you have to change.

A review’s value lies not only in the documentation of what was observed, but also what was not.

Rands In Repose: No Surprises.

I’ve always found yearly reviews to be moderately annoying.  Not because I’m placed under a lens and scrutinized, but because all too often the feedback I have gotten is “You’re doing great, keep up the good work!”

I can tell when I’m doing good work.  I can also tell when I’m doing bad work.  The problem I have is when the only constructive criticism I hear is “you’re doing great!” because that means I have attained oneness with the universe and have become the all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-anticipating the needs of my customers and supplying said needs correctly, ahead of schedule, under budget, and always with a smile.


It’s amazingly difficult to grow professionally when your weaknesses aren’t pointed out.  Everyone has an area that needs to be worked on.  It’s the constant struggle for improvement that makes you a better contributor, not the yearly whitewash of “you’re doing great!”.  On the flip side, this isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for managers to hammer on their employees.

Remember, the criticism must be constructive.  Pay attention to what’s going on in your group or organization.  Pick one or two things that you’d like to see someone improve upon and let them know in their review.  Like Rand, I’d rather see:

“You’re doing good.  I’d like to see you step up and work on your presentation skills to customers.  It will make you a more effective communicator and help give the organization even more of a polished look.  Here’s where you should start …”


“You’re doing great!”

Doesn’t the former sound more fulfilling?  It means someone is paying attention to what you’re doing and paying attention enough to want to see you improve.  The latter?  “I’ve heard no complaints so I have no reason to think you’re doing something wrong but I’m too busy to dig in and make sure.”

if you’re not getting the feedback you need, ask for it.

Travis Campbell
Staff Systems Engineer at ghostar
Travis Campbell is a seasoned Linux Systems Engineer with nearly two decades of experience, ranging from dozens to tens of thousands of systems in the semiconductor industry, higher education, and high volume sites on the web. His current focus is on High Performance Computing, Big Data environments, and large scale web architectures.