It’s that time of year again. The trees are blooming. It’s getting warm outside. Daylight savings time has come. Baseball is picking up steam. Yep, it’s Spring and I love it (well, not the allergies). Do you know what else is going on in the walls of Corporate America? Yeah that’s right, the dreaded performance review.
I know they are a fact of life in the office. I know they are the basis for raises and god forbid layoffs. I know that they are a tool for motivating the team. I know they are a method for reflecting on what you’ve done and looking forward to what you should do. I get all of that. They are important and necessary. But, I hate the performance review process.
Most people I’ve worked with hate performance reviews primarily because they are uncomfortable. It’s you and the boss. The boss
telling you what you did wrong provides constructive criticism. And, frankly most people have a hard time taking constructive criticism.
I can deal with the constructive criticism part; however, I dislike them because of the process.
Full disclosure: Some years ago and a couple jobs ago, I refused to sign my performance review. Yes, I’m a rebel like that. The reason was I fully disagreed with the “grade” my boss gave me. In Boss man’s defense, he had only been my boss for maybe 3 mos (previous one had left the company) and had no material to work with. Anyway, point of this is that I believe it should be a dialog vs. shoved down one’s throat. The process should be about getting the most out of the employee – and hopefully rewarding them as well. A review should never be a surprise and should always have logic and supporting material. In this case it had neither. So, I didn’t sign it. Never did by the way and I stayed there 3 more years and got raises. So yes I take them serious.
So, now that we have that covered, it’s that time again and here’s a flavor of the process at my current gig as shown in a conversation with me and Bossman during our 1 on 1 and the events that follow…
Boss: CV I’m sure you’ve seen the email from HR outlining the process for the 2011 Performance Reviews. Do you have any questions?
Me: Yes I’ve seen it. Basically, I need to write my own review, submit it to you, you’ll review, edit and we’ll get together to discuss, you turn it in, and we move on.
Boss: Yep, that’s pretty much it.
Later that week, I started the process with completing the form. It’s kind of like a combo multiple choice/essay. Rate yourself then justify it. Not a big deal, kind of weird stating how good you are, but being realistic at the same time. Anyway, I finished it and turned it in to Bossman.
Two months later (yes 2 mos) we meet again.
Boss: I’ve read your review and have some concerns. You’ve rated yourself an avg of 3.85. That’s excessive don’t you think?
Me: No, honestly I don’t. The scale is 1-5 with 5 being excellent. I think I have many things to improve on as you can see from my “areas of improvement section on page 9 (yes 9 of 10). But, I also believe in virtually all areas that I’m “above average” (3 on scale).
Boss: CV you are very good. You’ve done a great job. But, as you know we hire only top notch people here. And, as such you are average – top notch if you will, but average.
Me: Thanks, but in all honesty if I’m very good I believe I should be noted as very good. Not excellent, but also not average.
Boss: CV I understand. But, look we use a bell curve in grading people and about 80% fall under average. 10% are above average and 10% are, well, below average. Be happy you are average.
So, I guess that’s about it here.
Me: So what you are saying is even if we all kicked ass here, we would still force people into “average” and also into the 10%below average?
Boss: Yeah that’s pretty much it, but it is what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it. (Looks at watch, we’ve been here maybe 15 minutes and he showed up 15 mins late) Look, I’m late for another review with WikiWally and you know that ones going to go long because he’s a talker, so are we done here?
Me: You don’t have any comments to add to the written part of my review?
Boss: No not really, you wrote it all up very well.
Me: So after two months you have nothing to add?
Boss: No. Listen CV, look it’s not like it matters…pretty much no one is getting a raise.
Me: So some are?
Boss: Well, yes. But only the top ones.
So there you have it. No one takes it seriously. We’re all the best, but some are not so much. There’s no raises, except for the chosen few. Lots of time spent just for a file to go in an electronic drawer. And, should times change, 90% of the people are average or below and therefore first pickens for the layoff process should it come to that. And, the only thing Boss did for me was to demoralize me.
And, you wonder why I don’t like reviews?
P.S. – Some advice for current or would-be managers. Take reviews seriously. You owe it to your employees so they can better themselves. And, you owe it to yourselves, so you can get the most out of your team. Don’t make a joke of it.