How Are You Being Measured?

I can’t underscore the importance of knowing how you’re being measured at work.  First: you should spend the lion’s share of your time on those tasks, functions, or competencies on which you’re measured.  Second: it’s very rarely clear, so it deserves some of your attention on a regular basis.

You’ll be measured both actively and passively in every job you have.  Active measurements are easy to recognize because somehow your performance is measured against a benchmark, another employee, or something that’s well defined.  Passive measurement is more difficult to detect, though we all know it’s there.  Examples:


  • Sales revenue (sales people)
  • Schedule slippage (project managers)
  • Budget targets (department managers)


  • Do you seem like you’re always organized?
  • Are you trustworthy and reliable?
  • Do other people on the team like you?

Active measurements often use numbers, especially when there’s money involved.  Many companies also use a performance scale to score traits against expectations.  For example, you may be graded on your “creative solutioning,” and the scale could be (A) Needs Improvement, (B) Meets Expectations, or (C) Exceeds Expectations.

It’s very important to know how you’ll be actively measured so you can focus your efforts in those areas.  Employee reviews rarely involve a critique of the tasks you perform every day–tasks like building spreadsheets, communicating with clients, or (heaven forbid) animating presentations.  Instead, they evaluate traits that will potentially benefit the company no matter what role you’re in.

If you know you’ll be graded on how you bring other people into the team and enable their success, you can focus on developing that skill throughout the year.

Passive measurement is harder to uncover, but it may be more prevalent.  Do you pay attention during meetings?  Do you keep a level head?  Are you a hard worker or a freeloader?  These judgements form your reputation and can impact your career just as powerfully as active measurements, which is why they need as much, if not more, attention.

Every month or so, it’s a good idea to take a temperature check.  Have you been prepared for all your meetings, or have you been so busy that you’re always a few steps behind?  Have you been getting enough face time with the right people?  Have you sent out any creative thoughts or ideas?

It’s easy to tell how other people are passively measuring you, because you’re probably doing the same to them.  Every time you notice someone speaking before they’ve thought something through, ask yourself if you commit the same crime.  Figure out if your boss has any pet peeves and work on correcting any that you perpetrate.

If you have a working knowledge of how you’re being measured, both actively and passively, you’ll be better able to exceed expectations on all fronts.  In addition, you’ll be working on the manager frame of mind and developing important leadership skills.


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