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11:04 a.m. - April 27, 2006
Annual Hell...er...Review
Well, I feel totally caught up.

What sayeth thou? Forsooth, thy was on Myspace and writing about tunes yesterday during the work day. (Or something like that…)

Well, when you run reports and wait for some things to burble over to your desk, then you have time to write a paragraph or two, or go harass your friends, or other such nonsense.

But I actually had a lot of work to clear off my desk, and have my annual review.

Ulp! The REVIEW! You may be asking, “Smed, did you run in fear? Did you hide your head in the sand??”

Nah.

But I used to really hate the annual review process. It was big time fear and loathing. Only a few years ago did my antipathy for the review process wane and now I look at it as a positive experience.

Of course, that’s because my boss, FBI, has decided to scrap all of the big time paperwork nonsense, and just concentrate on your accomplishments for the past year. He knows when you screwed up, and tells you about it THEN, and doesn’t hold it over your head like an anvil when it comes time for your progress review.

All he asked from us was a listing of our accomplishments for the review period. We talked about them. He asked for some feedback about the leadership and how things were going with my employees and the entire staff, and then sometime he’ll write it all up and we’ll sign it and skip to m’ lou for another year, m’darling.

All I asked from my employees was the same, plus three goals they wish to achieve in the next review period (I like to have my employees think ahead – and I will shape my conversations with them towards meeting those goals.)

It wasn’t always the case here. In the past, here at the College, we used to have to fill out this long-ass questionnaire with questions like:

• Given your performance objectives, please describe how well you felt they were met?
• Describe three (only three) accomplishments during the review period. Why are they significant?
• Think back to three (yes, THREE) things you wish you could have done better. If you could do them again, how would you do them differently?
• Name your greatest strength and weakness as an employee? (What is this – a job interview?)
• Do you feel your job description needs revision?
• What is working well amongst the division? What needs improvement?
• What specific performance goals do you propose for next year?

Madon’! (I even cut out a few questions…)

After that treatise was nailed to the door of my boss' office written and emailed, we had a conversation. It was a long conversation, of course, because we went over everything, and I mean everything.

Then I got the actual written review, and had to sign it of course. Because the conversation was so rambling, and there was so much to cover, it was hard to remember if these were the salient points OF the review, or not.

And of course, because this is a wacky academia thing, our performance review is NOT supposed to influence our salary increase. I thought we were the weird ones here, but other of my colleagues talked about the very same thing.

No, really, your raise is not supposed to be related to your performance.

We have a certain salary pool for raises (it could be anywhere from 2 to 5 percent, depending on how our endowment has done, etc.) and you are to slot everyone on your staff in that general area, and they have to average at the salary pool percentage. So, if it’s 3.5 percent, then you give employee X a 3.75 percent then you have to make sure the others are less so that you average 3.5 percent. At least this is how I think it works. But of course, you give employee X a 3.75 percent raise, so it HAS to be tied to performance, a little.

But it’s OFFICIALLY not tied to performance. We’re just nice in giving employee X a bigger raise, right?

Confusing, I know. I’m a math major and my head spins around during this time of year. I just got my employee salary pool and numbers and have two days to figure it out. Gack!

But this is cake compared to the review process of my other jobs, and the review process Liz had at her job.

The company I worked at before basically lied to me. They agreed with me that because I was giving up a bonus (I was) at my old company that I would have a salary review at six months in addition to my annual review.

Well, six months came and I got a little bump. It was nice. I then had an annual review. It was OK, but the company was in turmoil and morale was down.

But my annual review came and went, and I got no bump. I changed supervisors in the interim and she was going to look into it for me. But in the meantime, before she had a chance to look into it, I changed jobs and moved here.
Before that company, I had reviews that had no purpose, no insight, no focus, nothing for me. The review process at my first job was just a rehash of all the things I had done wrong during the year, with action steps to correct yourself but no goals or training included.

My second job was better, but the reviews were always informal, and since we were flying by the seat of our pants there were no objectives or focus, either.

The next job (the last one before the one that screwed me over), the reviews were always focused on your goals and objectives. However, if the parameters of your job changed or the basic doings of the business model changed in the interim, you got blasted for not meeting your review goals, even if they were no longer your responsibility or impossible to do. I was chewed out for taking too long to figure out this one complex issue using our new warehouse information system at the new distribution center, when the data didn’t come out right for six weeks and then I had to adjust my calculations constantly. But it was my fault the model was a month late. Sigh.

Oh, and I reported to two supervisors once, and they conflicted on what they wanted ME to do. That was a fun one. Hah!

So I’ll take this chaos any day.

Then there was Liz, at the big Financial Company.

When she was a manager, she usually had a team of 8 to 12 brokers working for her. They had to deliver QUARTERLY reviews with specific goals, performance measures, and scales (you know, exceeds most, exceeds some, meets all, etc.) and they had to jigger it so only a certain percentage was at the very top, even if most of the employees did a really good job.

And they had to get the quarterly and annual reviews in by X date, or there would be repercussions. They had to get the paperwork filled out properly, signed, sealed and delivered. The review was read by four people before it was delivered as well. And this happened ONCE EVERY THREE MONTHS!

You wonder if Liz ever had time to do her job.

Of course, Liz’s review from her boss could be 3 months late, and that was OK. Because the pay raise was supposed to be retroactive, allegedly.

We tried to give our employees quarterly feedback. What it did was just increase their angst and stress that we were big brothers watching their every move. That’s not good at all.

I really wish companies would cut out the paper work BS, the meaningless scales, the cut throat competition amongst employees, and get right with their employees.
Because that’s how you get great teams of people – you allow them to grow and take pride and ownership in their work. Sure, some people will be total doofuses and morons, but you deal with them if you have to.

There’s only one position in our department that keeps turning over, and it’s only because it’s an entry level position that we fill with a younger person just fresh out of college or fresh into development, and that person keeps finding a new, different opportunity somewhere else but leaves reluctantly. Other than that, my entire staff has been here longer than I have, and I’ve been here since August of 2000.

So for those of you in the annual review rate race, take your Maalox and try to enjoy it if you can. It could be a lot worse, believe me.

 

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