Newsletter: Unfortunately, your boss is not Santa Claus

year-end reviews

I’m entering Q4 with a bit of guilt. Santa Claus did not come to our house last year. That fun tradition was a victim of the pandemic, as our access to the village of colleagues and neighbors required to hide, wrap, and then secretly drop off gifts was disrupted. Yet, while my children abruptly adjusted to presents solely from mom and dad, Santa was alive and well in discussions with clients.

Like most years, I was again surprised by the number of successful people who treated their boss like the mythical Santa Claus – going into year-end review or compensation discussions with the assumption that she had been keeping a comprehensive catalog of their contributions. And further, they expected that she would use that perfect information to correctly determine their wish lists for advancement and compensation. Does that sound familiar?

This common misunderstanding that our supervisors observe or remember all our accomplishments disadvantages many ambitious, hard-working people. Keeping our heads down and doing great work without making others aware of it typically leads to disappointment or a mismatch in expectations.

I made that mistake once with the actual Santa Claus and still have the faded Polaroid of my dazed expression, holding a toy that was not the Cabbage Patch doll I was certain Santa knew I had earned. After that debacle, I began writing detailed, annual letters chronicling the nice things I’d done and the specific toy rewards I wanted. While I did not get everything requested, the gap closed substantially. Similarly, as professionals, we should track our contributions and telegraph our expectations. Fortunately, since your boss is not Santa, she is accessible to discuss your updates throughout the year.

Have you made your list, checked it twice, and shared it with decision makers? If not, now’s the time.


Precious Williams Owodunni | CEO & Founder of Mountaintop Consulting

This letter was originally published in Mountaintop Consulting’s monthly newsletter. You can read the full newsletter here.

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