Why You Should Pursue a “Meets Expectations” Rating in 2015.

I’m going to ask you something that might seem contradictory to everything you’ve ever learned. Everything you have ever been taught is that to succeed you need to give 110% effort. Get to work early, leave late; do the jobs that no one else wants to do; be the leader when everyone else is following. Lead by example.

I want you to stop doing all of that. Stop showing up to work earlier than everyone else. Show up on time and leave on time.

Don’t do the jobs no one else wants to do. Do the job you were hired to do.

Don’t lead when everyone else is following. Let someone else lead this time.

Stop saying yes to every work assignment that comes to you. Learn to say no. Better yet, learn to avoid situations where people ask you to do more work.

Stop offering new suggestions to improve a process.

Stop coming through the front door. Come through the back door and be as invisible as possible.

While you’re at it, take that stupid inspirational quote off your cubicle, too. Newsflash, you’re not Winston Churchill. You’re a miserable worker who currently has no idea what to do with your life. For god sakes, look at what you are reading right now.

Today is the day you actively pursue mediocrity in your current job and you’re going to love every second of it.

I’m asking you to work as if you wanted a B on your report card. I want you try your hardest to NOT get an A on your year-end report card. In the corporate world, the report card is the year-end performance review.

My biggest fear when I was on the receiving end of a performance review was receiving a “you did everything we asked for and more. That’s why we’re giving you an 8/10” rating.

Human Resources call this rating a “meets expectations.”

Here’s how a typical meeting would go during my performance evaluation:


Me: Did I do everything I asked you to do?

Boss: Yes.

Me: Didn’t I do a few things that went above and beyond my expectations?

Boss: Yes.

Me: Didn’t I make your life easier by being loyal to you and the company?

Boss: Yes.

Me: So, after all that I all I get a “meets expectations.”

Boss: Yes! You have done a fantastic job and I want you to keep up the good work. Don’t change anything.

Me: Humor me for a second. What did I need to do to achieve a “exceeds expectations rating?”

Boss: You could have done blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and don’t forget about blah blah blah blah. Take Jennifer as an example. She did a lot of blah blah blah blah.


I would stop listening after I asked that question. I knew whatever came out of my boss’s mouth didn’t matter and to be honest, I didn’t care. I just spent a year doing everything I could do and more, and all I got was a “meets expectations.” I felt cheated. I felt I deserved more. I would always leave early after my performance evaluations.

The fact is, in most corporations a “meets expectations” rating is a GOOD rating and viewed positively.

It means you’re doing exactly what they told you. If you look at a bell curve, meets expectation is the top of the bell curve and the “exceeds expectations and below expectations” are at the end of the spectrum. So if you receive a “meets expectations” you should be happy. Right?

So why is it every time I received a meets expectations rating I wanted to punch someone in the face?

To me, “meets expectations” meant that I failed. To my boss and human resources, “meets expectations” meant I was doing a good job.

This is actually great news for you. You can do what you perceive as a mediocre job and your employer will be satisfied with your work.

Kind of like the series finale of the TV show Breaking Bad (Don’t worry, no spoiler alert), the ending of the show was satisfying. It didn’t blow me away with complete awe and shock, but it didn’t disappoint me either.

It satisfied me. I was content with the ending. When it was done, I moved on.

Your employer should feel the same way about your work: Satisfied.

Why pursue mediocrity?

meets expectations 2

All of the above activities require energy of some sorts for you to do. If you suggest a new process to make something more efficient, guess who gets to implement that new process? You do! This takes time and energy.

In order to achieve career freedom, the first step is to limit the amount of energy you spend on something that doesn’t get you closer to your career goals.

It’s the difference between working until 9 p.m. to put additional finishing touches on a task and leaving at 6 p.m. when it was done and meeting up with old colleagues for dinner.

It’s the difference between enjoying your weekend doing what you enjoy and working the weekend because you weren’t able to finish all of your tasks during the week.

You need a B on your report card. That’s it. Not a B+, and not a B-. You just need to shoot for the 3.0.

But Robbie, I’m not the type of person that goes for B’s. I either go hard or go home!

A’s take a lot of work, energy and dedication. A typical student who gets A’s in every single class often has no time for anything else. If your goal is to keep advancing in your current company and to achieve greatness in your company, then you probably should be reading something else.

What do I do with all this new energy? You just need to know it won’t be on your current job. It will be on activities that YOU want to do and actively get you to where YOU want to be.


How to make this a reality: Act like an independent consultant

An independent consultant is a person who is self employed and gets paid by working at other companies on a contract. An independent consultant is unique in the sense that they can work on one client or multiple clients simultaneously, but it’s their responsibility to find clients to work on. If they don’t have a client, they don’t get paid. It’s that simple.

Achieving this goal is a big task and requires a different frame of mind.

Here is what you need to tell yourself:

You are no longer Michael Smith the full-time employee of Acme Corporation. You are now Michael Smith, the independent consultant who was contracted to perform a specific set of activities. Acme Corporation is no longer your full-time employer; it is your client who pays you for every hour that you work. You have a 6-month contract with Acme Corporation in which they pay you for 40 hours of your time each week. Any time worked outside of these 40 hours must be pre-approved by the client.

Here’s the difference between the full-time employee and the independent consultant.

Michael Smith, full-time employee:

  • Hired to perform one activity, often gets involved in many other activities not specifically related to job function
  • Jack of all trades, master of none
  • Expected to work all day and night, including weekends even if the work doesn’t require it
  • Pay is based on salary, not value of his services
  • Attends all required employee meetings, whether they directly pertain to his work or not
  • Has a secure job for a successful company and doesn’t need to look for next gig
  • Doesn’t take responsibility for something that went wrong if it wasn’t his fault

Michael Smith, independent consultant:

  • Hired to perform one activity. Contractually not allowed to work on other work specifically not defined in the Statement of Work (SOW)
  • Master of a specific function; Knows a little bit of everything else, but is known for his specific function skill
  • Expected to complete the deliverable based on agreed hours in the SOW — If he goes over those hours, it will require more difficult conversations and approvals in budget to perform those activities
  • Hourly rate is determined on how valuable his specific skill is and how important his skill is to the organization
  • Attends few to no company meetings so he can focus on what he was contracted to do
  • Forced to continually look for new gigs and maintain his relationships with other companies to see what opportunities they have coming up
  • Will stop getting paid once this contract ends, so is always thinking 2 steps ahead and planning for next gig
  • Takes responsibility for something that went wrong, even if it was the client’s fault. Puts an action plan together to fix the issue and fixes the issue once the plan is approved.

See the difference between the 2? They were both hired to do one thing, however one person ends up getting pulled in a million directions while the independent consultant has a clear vision on what his job is.

The full-time employee Michael Smith has more stability than the independent consultant. But since he doesn’t have to look for new jobs, he isn’t expanding his network and forming new relationships.

2015 is the year of meets expectations.

PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.