When it comes to performance reviews, most companies have unwritten rules and criteria. Often if you ask, this inside info has been around so long they don't know where it started.
In particular, your own boss may have a hidden agenda. You can spot the agenda by asking these questions. But there's a catch. You just can't ask these questions out loud. You have to listen between the lines.
(1) What skills and departments does your company value? Is HR taken seriously or treated as a joke? Does marketing drive everything, including R&D?
You need to know who's the favored department because they're the ones who get rewarded. A volume-based manufacturer probably rewards the bean counters. A consumer goods company (think detergent and cake mix) probably gives priority to marketers, especially brand management.
(2) How does your company treat newcomers?
In some companies the new people are so golden-haired the old-timers resent them.
In others, newcomers are expected to perform badly and will probably get lower reviews, just because it's what people see. Alternatively, your performance level can become a self-fulfilling prophecy; you're expected to be bad, so you are.
Most important ...
(3) Are you being set up to fail?
Believe it or not, some bosses will hire you in the expectation that you'll perform so badly you'll be fired, demoted or transferred. They want to prove a point.
For instance: "There's no way we can get the market to accept our Blue Widget Specials."
You come on board and manage to sell a gazillion of them. Will they love you? Nope. You made your boss look foolish.
Bottom Line: Your performance review isn't always about performance. You need a context of the organization's culture.
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You might like these blog posts 5 Ways to Turn Performance Review Feedback into Goals for Improvement, Kings of the Wild Frontier: Taking Risks in Your Small Business, Five New Guerilla PR Techniques for Small Businesses, and Apprenticeship Programs: A Solution to the Skills Problem?.