This week is my annual review at my workplace. I’m sure anyone that has an office job understands what an ordeal this is. The post is already written in your head for those of you that have been through it. So, what I’ll try to do is just give some insight as to our company’s brand of ineffectual review.
The process starts a few weeks out from your anniversary date. This anniversary date is actually not your start date, because when you are hired contract-to-perm, the “contract” part of your time there is not as an employee. Your actual start date is when you convert from contract to perm employee. Yeah, I get it, I just think it’s kinda dumb. If I really wanted to be bitter about it (which I guess I am internally, but you can’t blame fate), I could say that the difference between my first day of work and my first day of employment also means the difference between getting an annual holiday bonus based on my pre-raise salary or my post-raise salary.
Timing issues aside, what you get is a self evaluation document to fill out and return. You need to return it something like a week before your review. I always return it within a couple hours of getting it. I never understand what the big deal is.
This eval form. Because our department is considered administrative, the things we do can’t be evaluated, performance-wise, the same. So we have a short list of statements and we have to choose how well we think we met the statement’s metric. Is the scale 1-10? No. 1-5 stars? No. It’s three options: Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, or Needs Improvement. This is the second year we’ve had the 3-option scale and the second year that I have been unable to indicate where I feel I am good or bad. Everything is “Meets Expectations”. I don’t think I consistently exceed anything and likewise, I don’t think I suck all the time either (just lately). But there’s no way for me to say I suck a little, but that’s ok, because I make up for it in other ways.
On review day, we all meet in the conference room and the weirdness starts. I get a copy of the self evaluation I did, then I get a copy of an evaluation by my boss. And while my boss and his boss silently watch me, I read the evaluation silently to myself. It’s truly an awkward silence.
But what’s weird to me about it is that my boss consistently ranks me higher than I rank myself. Maybe that’s supposed to be good. I understand they want to find cases where someone thinks, “I am on fire” and their boss has a totally different perspective. BTW, the only time you can self-evaluate yourself as “I am on fire” is when the statement is literal and not colloquial.
So because of the useless ranking/rating system, what ends up happening is everything useful goes in the comments section, which as any programmer will tell you, is absolutely useless for extracting any useful metrics. I’ve mentioned before that I worked on a survey engine. One of the interesting sections of the report was a keyword search in the survey’s comment fields. One interesting application of this would be to see if the survey taker “spoke the lingo”. Anyway, that’s a pointless (and self-promoting) comment because we don’t do anything like that.
My comments are a list of higher-profile projects that I worked on the last year followed by some pity statements about how I didn’t meet my own expectations and that I’ll do better next year. I’m not sure if my boss’s review of me is based off what I said, which would make his part super-easy. But generally, it says kind of the same thing I said, just from a managerial standpoint, as if he’s pleading with HR to justify me remaining hired and even deserving of a raise.
And as time goes on – this is year 7 – this entire process becomes more and more irrelevant. We aren’t so huge of a company that any IT person is unknown to management. We all have high-profile projects. We all save the day at one point or another. Everyone knows who we are. I list my biggest projects for the year like I’m releasing a greatest hits album and people are like “Oh, I remember that one! Sick beat!” But the greatest hits releases are the moneymakers, because that’s all people care about – the hits. They honestly don’t remember the ones that never charted. And they probably don’t care, because that’s not where we are now.
So, because I really want to beat this topic to death so I never have to talk about it again, I will say that we tried something to catch the failed hits, so they wouldn’t be forgotten at review time. Or at least, they wouldn’t be a time bomb building up so your review wasn’t a shit shower blasted from a fire hose. We tried quarterly, informal reviews.
This process was walking into my boss’s office, him asking “You got anything?”, me saying, “Nope.” and that was it. To be fair, I was a lot more engaged when these reviews started, but there was more to talk about then, too. Our team is quite stable and we all work well together, so there’s no changes worth discussing, like how the new guy is working out or OMG, there’s a female working with us now.
So by the time I got to the point of saying “nope”, they had scrapped the whole idea and the truth came out that these reviews were only implemented because some managers refused to talk to their subordinates. I assume that problem cleared itself out through attrition.
But anyway, this year, I have an ace up my sleeve. I’m taking the entire department out to lunch for the holidays and it happens to be on my review day. As long as there is no food poisoning, I can’t lose.