Thursday, May 12, 2016

Annual Performance Reviews

I have always disliked Annual Performance Reviews. Doesn't matter if they are spectacular, I do not enjoy sitting in a face to face meeting with another person listening to them talk about me. Being the center of attention was something that always made me uncomfortable as far back as I can remember. If the review is good, I get embarrassed and hear my mother's voice in the back of my mind saying "stop showing off dear", or "don't boast dear" and I have to bite my tongue to prevent myself denying that I am worthy of praise. And, if the review is not so good, I have to bite my tongue to not go on the defensive, but also get equally embarrassed and either way my tongue gets bitten.

I might add that in my working life I have only had one bad review, and that was a complete farce, a result of, I am certain - no excuses intended - personality clash, multiple clashes in a short period of time. What is particularly odd about that occasion was the fact that I consider myself to be very easy to get along with, and I had then, as I do now, a very precise work ethic. But for some reason this particular manager did not like me and he was not a good enough manager to prevent that from clouding his judgment, I got a very strong impression that he wanted nothing more than to put me down. That opinion was supported by my colleagues in the same department. And of course because I knew that, I frequently tripped over myself trying to satisfy the bar he kept raising just out of my reach.

Perhaps he didn't like me because my transfer to his department caused difficulties for him. It was the 80s and I was working as a secretary in an investment bank in Dublin. I had managed to introduce word processors into the bank, to replace the electric typewriters we had been using up to then. Because I was the first to acquire one I became the 'go to' support person when the other secretaries had issues with their machines. I found that I loved working with computers and started to learn to program. I enrolled in a 4 year Computer Science degree course, which required me to attend college 4 nights a week, and all day every Saturday. Slowly I managed to convince the less than computer literate accountants in power in the bank that moving me to the computer department was a good idea, after all I was already doing much of the support for the secretaries and I could take over all of that releasing the programmers from the task, and I was already manually preparing many reports that were in the process of being computerized.

My reviews up to this point had been exemplary, and I had been promoted with each review. My first review in this new role was not so good. I had continued to support the secretaries, taken over other hardware support tasks such as upgrading memory in computers, troubleshooting printer problems, and at the same time computerized some of the manual reports required by the Treasury department.

Up to the time I applied for the transfer, I got along very well with my boss, the head of the Treasury Department, and also with the soon to be boss, a lower ranked Accountant.

As soon as the impending transfer became common knowledge my boss apparently took it personally and became vindictive. My guess is that he made life difficult for my soon to be boss also, being so much higher on the food chain, so while I was not sure that I would get the best of reviews after the transfer, I was not prepared for the extreme criticism I received.  The most ridiculous thing of all was that he finished up by telling me that I was 99% perfect and they were looking for 100%. Therefore I was getting low scores and no increase in salary.  Really? I admit, I was very flattered to think that I was considered 99% perfect, though I had a problem believing it - I mean who on earth is that perfect? and if they were looking for 100% then I was most definitely not in the right job, because I was, and am, human - therefore never going to be 100% perfect.

That review still  lingers in my memory and pops up its head every year since, at review time. I do firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and it was that review that finally pushed me to take charge of my life. If you read my book, you will see how I achieved that and ended up in the US where I found that I was appreciated a whole lot more.

One of the things I found refreshing when I moved to the US is the 'peer review' process. After all, who knows you better than the people you work closely with every day? In some companies you can select those you wish to supply feedback. This, of course, means that you will select those you believe will give you good feedback, so it can be lopsided. In other companies I have worked in, the manager requests feedback from his / her selection of people. This assumes they know who will have had experience working with you. And yet another  company, anyone and everyone can supply feedback at any time - good bad or indifferent. This does ensure that throughout the year you are aware of the possibility of your actions, or lack of actions, having an immediate effect on your end of year review. At that company you can also request feedback at any time, and of course at review time. The result is a much wider view of your achievements, or lack thereof, and a much better cross section view of your overall performance.

Of course, no matter how you perform,  or what your peers report about you, the quality of your performance review will still hinge on the quality of the manager responsible for evaluating you and delivering this evaluation. Here is a really good document for reviewers.

Here is an excerpt from a great article from


Accenture, GE, Adobe, Netflix, and dozens of other organizations are killing annual performance reviews as they aren't enough for today’s workplace. As Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google, recently wrote, "Performance management as practiced by most organizations has become a rule-based, bureaucratic process, existing as an end in itself rather than actually shaping performance. Employees hate it. Managers hate it. Even HR departments hate it."

And another very good article in SHRM quotes Rose Mueller-Hanson, HR practice leader at the CEB

According to this article in the Huffington Post, the annual performance review is on the way to extinction, and I for one, will be more than happy to see it go.

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