It’s February and if your organization follows a calendar year (Jan-Dec) cycle for employee performance evaluations, chances are, you have completed your 2010 assessment and filled out goals for 2011. How did that go?
Did you hear something like, “you are doing great, but there’s still room for improvement on <fill whatever here>?” and a host of other comments that pretty much pointed to another unrewarding year at work?
You’ve just spent the last 365 days focusing on the most important things for your business (applied the 80-20 rule to prioritize what is to be done and what is to be ignored) and produced remarkable results in a tough economy. Just when you thought you should be rewarded for that effort, you hear the same story you heard the previous year about why you are still not A+ because you left out that 20%. You wonder why there’s always a bar that you can’t seem to leap over.
You take a moment to reflect on this whole performance review process. To begin with, over 80% of the goals for the year were a cut and paste from the previous year. And those goals were entered on the day they were due in the HR system company wide. Not only that, because your boss forgot to enter his goals until the day before they were due, you had to wait to enter the same until after that.
That was just the goal entering process. As for regular feedback and interim assessment, none existed. The only time you looked at this whole thing again was when you had your performance evaluation discussion this year. You remember all those weekly 1-1 meetings your boss blew off at the last minute because something urgent came up and he had to just cancel it. You also remember how the goals themselves changed many times throughout the year because you had three ‘re-orgs’ and half the time your boss was in a meeting figuring out what the next re-org was all about. You also realize this annual performance review is a one way street. There’s very little for you to provide input on your boss’ performance. It seems to be a heads you win, tails I lose situation. You feel like this whole performance review process is a sham.
You are not alone
Guess what, you are not alone. Almost every smart person that works for a dumb boss faces this each year. I’m using dumb here as a fairly broad term as described in the excellent book
by William Lundin & Kathleen Lundin.
How to deal with the situation?
You have three ways to deal with your frustration arising out of a performance review like that:
1) Quit working for dumb bosses and find smart ones. You’ll realize dumb bosses are really products of institutions and leaving dumb organizations is the real solution to your problem. The longer you stay in a dumb organization, the more likely you yourself would become another dumb boss!
2) Become your own boss, build that workplace where people love to come to work, and remember not to inflict dumbness on others. This is a tough proposition but a worthy and admirable pursuit.
3) Find a workplace that is peer driven rather than hierarchically organized. There are plenty of places like that – start ups (flat, lean and purposeful), consulting firms (up or out policy) and projects where innovation, meritocracy and meaning define the organization’s culture (e.g. open source projects, non profits), where experience is irrelevant and performance is everything.
Actually, there’s a fourth option – challenge the status quo. If millions of suppressed people in the Middle East are revolting today to overthrow systems that don’t work anymore, why can’t you? Andrea Di Maio of analyst firm Gartner makes a compelling argument cautioning tech execs on how power is going to shift from organizations to individuals and technology companies are no exception.
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