I too have experienced "merit" raises. It was at a hospital (although I was not working as a nurse at the time). I'd go in for my review and sit down with my boss to go over the review, and I'd be marked all "3"s on a 1-5 scale (with one or two "4"s thrown in for good measure). I'd ask, "So you think my work is only average?" and she'd say, "Konni, there's only enough money for me to give everyone a 3% raise, so I have to mark you as average to justify it. If I gave you all "5"s I'd have to give you a 5% raise, and someone else wouldn't get as much or any at all." So then I'd say, "But if you think I deserve all "5"s then you should give it to me with the raise." So then, of course, she'd say, "Konni, nearly everyone in this department has a family to support. You don't have any kids, so why would I give you more than anyone else? You're lucky to get as much as you do. By the way, you need to re-do your self assessment and mark more "3"s and "4"s and get rid of all these "5"s so our reviews look more the same. HR always wants to know why employees rate themselves highly while the supervisor calls them average."
I wish I was making this up, but that was the ******** I heard at my first real full-time job. After that review, I was determined to finish my degree and get the hell out of menial office work. It took me awhile, but I've finally made it.
Merit raises are crap. No manager has the balls to give more to the people who deserve it, and less to the people who do nothing. Everyone gets the same thing, and it's fair. Sounds like communism to me.
My, that was a long time ago. I can't believe I'm still so bitter!