Performance Calibrations at Tech Companies: Part 2
Lifting the lid on calibrations in Big Tech: the politics, strategies, allies. Advice for managers and individual contributors preparing for this key process.
In Part 1 of this mini-series about performance calibrations, we covered the theory: the importance of budgets, types of calibrations, and bucketing/stack ranking approaches.
Today, we dive into what really happens inside a calibration meeting.
We’ll walk through a pretty typical Big Tech calibration and offer advice on how to better prepare to stand your ground as a manager, and how you can tilt the odds in your favor as an individual contributor – to whatever degree possible.
A “typical” Big Tech calibration. What happens? Why do calibrations take weeks to complete?
Preparing ahead of time. As a manager – or a manager of managers – how can you prepare for calibration?
Inside a calibration. Politics, deadlocks, strategies, allies. What are the typical situations which arise, and how can you respond to them as a manager?
Biases during calibration. Common biases at play during calibration, how to spot and counter them as a manager in the room. Also, ways you could help promote fairness by pushing back against biases.
Advice for managers. How can you set up your direct reports to get better feedback from others during the calibration? Also, what should you share with your directs and what should you keep private?
Advice for individual contributors (ICs) in preparing for calibrations, ahead of time. It turns out, you can tip the scale in your favor by helping your manager, if only by a limited amount.
1. A “typical” Big Tech calibration
So, you’ve joined Big Tech as an engineering manager. It’s likely that during your first six months, an invitation will arrive for a performance calibration. When I joined Uber and received this meeting invite, I was scrambling to ask my manager and peer managers about what to expect. So, based on personal experience of a few calibrations, and after talking with dozens of managers, directors and VPs at similar companies, here’s what I wish I knew then about how calibrations typically work at most Big Tech companies.