My manager is asking me to do a complex piece of work spanning multiple months. When I ask him exactly how it maps to my Job Description or Ladder Expectations he dodges the question saying "not to worry" about it. Last year when I did a similar project it was not at all considered in the annual review( I followed the suggestions given here in the [Masterclass] How To Navigate Your Performance Review In Tech) but my manager refuses to do his part at all in giving any actionable input/feedback about performance until the rating is finalized. Last year the rating was meets expectations. In my opinion and my Senior ICs opinion , it was exceeds expectations(if not outstanding) given the peer feedback that I received. He downplayed all such feedbacks and didn't include those in the analysis for the year. The manager is very hard on the team and none of the team members are fond of his unrealistic expectations for the tasks.
I can only thing of below options:
Talk to skip about how it maps to the Ladder Expectations. Will it raise eyebrows with the manager? Skip is a great guy but I don't know if he will keep my such questions confidential and only to himself.
Give up. Change the team. Impossible given the hiring freeze.
Give up. Finding a new job, very difficult given the economic climate.
Continue to do the work and be content with meets expectations rating despite the work is very complex.
Take help from others including Senior ICs. Mgr views this negatively and points them as negative traits. I am L3 level in my company
Can you please suggest what you would do in this scenario?
I sense you are feeling very frustrated about this situation, especially since it seems like it's happening again. I empathize - this isn't easy to deal with, so kudos to you for posting this question and asking for help here. Your manager certainly won't be stalking these pages :D
My initial gut feeling is that you are doing well, and that your manager is indeed off the mark. Any project spanning multiple quarters is considered a L4 level project at Google, so if your last project took that long by design or difficulty, that demonstrates "exceeds expectations".
That being said, it's important to figure out first what is your "accurate" rating and then to align with your manager about it if possible.
Since your manager isn't really able to explain your company's performance system to you (this happens more often than we all would like, unfortunately), you need others to do that.
Skip managers are generally great resources for this. Just don't mention to them that your manager hasn't done a good job with yours, tell them that you just want to understand it better for your own career growth. They should be able to help you chart what it looks like to go to L3 to L4, and maybe L4 to even L5.
Similarly, go to your fellow peers (especially more senior people) with similar questions and figure out what being "meets expectations" at L3, "exceeds" at L3 look like, and what "meetings expectations" at L4 look like, in your company based on their experience. Asking them career-related question is very, very normal and should never be looked down upon, it's a great thing. Of course, don't tell your manager about it if you don't feel comfortable.
Once you have a more objective evaluation of these ratings look like, take a hard look at what you are doing, pretend to be your own manager and see which criteria you think you've satisfied. If you are not sure, keep going back to those other folks for more specifics. Again, just for your own curiosity, if you wish to not share your frustration with your manager. Did you do enough for L3 Exceeds? L4 Meets?
You can then put all your findings into a doc. You goal is first to find consensus with your manager about the criteria of evaluation. If you are able to do that, you can together discuss to how evaluate your past (and future) projects along these axis.
If your manager still refuses to have a conversation about it then... it might be time to go. Having a manager that doesn't want to teach you the system when you've done so much homework seem very problematic. But at least by now you would've gotten a much better sense of how well you've performed.
Best of luck!