Monday 22 October 2007

that's the word out on the town....

I had my performance review at work the other day. It wasn't the big review that we get at the end of the financial year, but a smaller interim one to cover the first six months of the year and to let me know how I have been getting on. Like most people, I don't take these things terribly seriously. In fact, I only sat down with my boss to write the performance contract I was reviewed against about 3 weeks before the actual review, for heaven's sake. I suppose I would care more if I felt that I had any great influence over the score that I get, but this is controlled more by quotas than by individual performance, so I satisfy myself with trying to do the best that I can. Doing the job. That's the really important thing, right?

Hmm. Perhaps this defeatist attitude is the reason why my career has only reached the dizzy lowlands it currently occupies.


In the session, I discovered that I now get scored slightly differently. "Delivery" is now only one part of my performance measure. If I only exceed in "delivery", then apparently I will only be doing half a job. What other measure can be as important as delivery then? Why, "Behaviours", of course.

I suppose that would be reasonable enough, if the "behaviours" in question were the ones I used with my customers to support my "delivery"... but no.... the way I behave with my customers has got nothing to do with it. Those "behaviours" are part of my "delivery". These other "behaviours" are a measure of how much I conform to the "culture" and "people charter" of my department (both of which are new inventions) and how much I adhere to the department's "process" (which is both insanely complicated and largely pointless).

Oh bugger.

The second I heard this, I knew I was likely to be in for a rough ride. I work really hard to try and make sure that I support my customers. A rather large part of that work involves me trying to protect them from the needless complication and confusion that my department tries to foist on them as it struggles to operate in a difficult outsourced environment that we keep making more and more complex. I know it's a horrible job to come up with a perfect process, and I try to follow this one as best I can, but with the best will in the world, I reckon it's actually now impossible to make head or tail of any of the detail of it. You simply cannot explain it to anyone. It just can't be done. Dilbert and David Brent have got nothing on my lot. We have endless briefings where this already convoluted process is made yet more labyrinthine in an attempt to "clarify" and to "simplify". I tell you, if Sisyphus worked in our department, not only would his boulder be made bigger every time he tried to push it up the hill, but it would also be gradually "improved" into a less rollable shape, and the hill would be gradually made steeper and bumpier. Eventually he would be trying to push a giant cube up a greased right angle.

It's utter rubbish, and the people responsible for it should be shot.... well, perhaps that's a bit strong.... but they certainly keep on trying to vigorously polish that turd and they sure seem to be enjoying themselves.

My problem is that I tend to point this out whenever we have these endless bloody meetings to try and work out what's going wrong and how we can move forwards. I can't help it. I have an analytical mind, and although I know I would be better just shrugging my shoulders and ignoring the whole steaming pile of shit, I can't. I want to understand why someone thinks this is a good idea and why they think this is beneficial for the business. Unfortunately, the more questions I ask, the more people think I'm attacking them for being ignorant tossers. That may be true, but it's not my intention: I genuinely do want to understand and to see what they are trying to do.

So when my boss told me that this was a key measure of my performance, I asked him if I was being assessed on my behaviour with my customers, or my behaviour with my colleagues. He smiled and asked me who I thought had done the scoring.

Shit. My colleagues. The ones who think I think they're fools (incidentally, a big hello to any of them who happen to be reading this!)

Behaviours like these are important to some extent - I don't have any argument about that. But are they really equally as important as what we deliver? Really? a 50:50 split?

I like my boss, and I think that -- although he's far too professional to say so -- he is sympathetic towards my views. So I asked him which me he would prefer: the employee who was really good with his customers and had a good record of delivery and good feedback, or the one who was not so good at that, but said all the right things in team meetings. Not surprisingly, although he smiled suggestively, he simply said that he wanted a combination of the two. Fair enough.

My overall score was okay, but my "behaviours" were right down near the "fall short" mark. I've got six months to learn how to bite my tongue to get a better performance grade at the end of the year.

How do you rate my chances?


  1. How badly do you want to join the Borg?

  2. The performance review system has changed slightly in my place, and my manager left a completed form (his) with me so I could get to grips with the new method before having my meeting. One of the key criteria related to equal opportunities and human rights. My boss had written "Too touchy feely for me - I don't go in for all that crap" which made me laugh. While I hate my job a lot, I love my boss.

  3. Shit. Reading that was like having an acid flashback to my last job.

    I love the way our cultural artefacts celebrate rebels and outsiders, but then our culture attempts to squash even the mildest signs of an individual point of view.

    Do you get to exact revenge by rating the behaviours of other people?

  4. what a load of bollocks. I feel for you Swiss.

  5. Performance reviews?

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!

    A manager once tried to performance review me. I cut out his liver and ate it with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

    Apparently I am really great on the phone, exude confidence, calm and intelligence to the customers and am a complete sod (or is that a t*sser?) to everybody in the office.

    Such is life.

  6. Not only do I not think you're going to do well in six months, I actively hope you don't do well.

    It's your integrity and fight that make you wonderful.

    Don't let the turkeys take you down.

  7. Bob - there's a thing called the "wider leadership team" and they do all of the "peer reviews" - i.e. they decide who is a behavioural role model and who is not. I'm not on it, so sadly I don't get to do any peer reviews.

    The funny thing is, in the course of my conversation with my boss, I mentioned that there are no consequences for not following the process, so actually I could make life a lot easier for myself by just ignoring it all and keeping my mouth shut.

    Is there any danger of that? Nah.

    I'm not the perfect employee by any means, but I'll never be able to keep my trap shut in the face of such cobblers, especially if it can't be explained to me by the people who dreamed it all up. I just want to know why.

    And seriously, if any of you are reading this and are tut-tutting at me, please come and explain it to me. I'm all ears.


  8. maybe I should just shut up, eh?

  9. Fill up your diary with fictitious, yet plausible meetings and appointments. That way, you can avoid upsetting people in meetings by having a prior engagement.

    But what would I know about climbing a greasy pole. Altenatively, there are other jobs. Or you could retire and live off your wife.

  10. "I tell you, if Sisyphus worked in our department, not only would his boulder be made bigger every time he tried to push it up the hill, but it would also be gradually "improved" into a less rollable shape, and the hill would be gradually made steeper and bumpier. Eventually he would be trying to push a giant cube up a greased right angle."

    That, sir, is a great image.

    Having at long last entered the world of work, I'm now exposed to business-speak mumbo-jumbo on a regular basis. You can pretty much guarantee that any process or procedure described as designed to simplify or explain something will only muddy the waters...

  11. Pynchon: my heart belongs to your way of thinking

    ST: I feel for your plight but you write with such eloquence on this matter that I could not help but enjoy this post.

    I have similar problems of being politic - I wish I could be better at such matters. Your boss is (kinda) right to want you to maybe achieve a better balance of pleasing people in and outside the office, but I know from experience that can be very difficult to do when you are surrounded by the sort of people who enable you to create wonderful imagery like the Sisyphus piece.

  12. Oh dear god. I think I had those meetings. The last one I had before I finally chose not to comprimise my integrity and leave the building tood-sweet went along the lines of "Technically you're faultless, you deliver on time or early, you are helpful and supportive to the end users and have shown great iniative in setting up global policies. However, you made a girl on the team cry so we're marking you down as "needs improvement" and recommending anger management courses."

    Apparently "she's a fucking idiot" is not a valid reason for having a go at a team member and it was nothing to do with the fact that she was seen snogging the (married) manager in the back of a taxi cab at all, oh no.

    I'm so glad I work for myself now.

    On a side note, CD sent and one received from the lovely Lisa. Ta.

  13. That is insane.

    I love that they have now built into the review system a way to ensure that things continue to be completely inefficient. Wow.

  14. I am mildly resentful of the notion that to be successful in business you can't have integrity and can't retain some of your ideals. I have more integrity than I did when I started my job and as much fight (although the methods I demonstrate these by have clearly changed.)

    Perhaps it's because it's a smaller business and so the decisions are made by someone nearer in the hierarchy to me, I don't know.

    I'm just saying, you don't have to sell out to get on, that's all.

  15. Perhaps the commentators (as I am sure ST doesn't need to!) should look at C, for example. I haven't met anyone with more integrity or prepared to argue a point (in a good way!) and she is doing exceptionally well career-wise....

  16. thanks for all the comments guys. I feel as though I've been misleading you all a bit though. Although I stand by what I've written here, I'm not a rebel without a cause. I've actually been trying hard to focus this negativity into a more positive form and I've been trying to take control of those parts of the process that it might be within my gift to change. I'm not out to make anyone look a fool, and I don't sit in the corner making snide remarks (well, not too much...).

    It's just not as interesting for me to vent reasonably here. It's more fun to just let rip.

    LB's right about integrity too, and pretty much whatever I think of some of the nonsense at work, I hope that I fundamentally remain an honest and decent person and I'm sure that everyone else there is essentially the same too.

    Shall we have a group hug now?


  17. Reading this reminded me of why I've been so much happier not at my old job.

    I used to love it when I'd get a review back, about how all of my departments were putting up great numbers, how I "challenge upward," and "am not afraid to voice an unpopular opinion" but then get knocked for not enthusiastically taking on new processes and procedures (even though the "new" ones were dropped company wide within six months... when I worked for the second largest retail chain in the us as low end as imaginable.)


    I hate large corporations.

    but I'll leave you with a song lyric.

    The elite.
    All of which..."

    Yeah, listen to that old rage song before your next meeting...

  18. At certain large corporations I could mention, they have separated the review process from the payrise formula.... Apparently questioning this with the concept that I could "perform" as well or as badly as I liked and it would have no effect was "not conducive" to, err, something or other. I wasn't paying attention any more.