Step into my office....it's time for your performance review.

Step into my office....it's time for your performance review.

There are a few things I miss about being a part of corporate America. The steady paycheck was always nice, as were things like stock options and company-paid vehicles. More importantly, I miss the quarterly sales meetings which meant an afternoon break consisting of mouth-watering treats followed by an evening of gluttony at a fine restaurant such as Gibson’s or Morton’s. Drinking martinis with both hands while at those dinners was also quite enjoyable…all on the company’s dime, of course. Nice.

One of the things I don’t necessarily miss, however, are the annual performance reviews which are taking place in offices all across America this month. Millions of Americans are at this very moment dragging themselves into their boss’ offices in order to be told, in essence, how much they are liked….or not.

In theory, the concept of a mid-year performance review is a noble one; to set goals and objectives and basically keep employees on track for a successful year. Many times, however, these reviews turn into a manipulation of data in order to justify the boss’ subjective feelings for their employees. I’m sure there are some bosses who can separate their personal feelings from their business ones…I just haven’t met him/her yet.

I once had a boss who was a devout follower of the “bell curve” approach to evaluating his staff. To sum it up, the bell curve states that ten per cent of the staff are great, ten percent of them stink and the middle eighty per cent are pretty much average. As I was part of a relatively stable and mature organization with little turnover, there was always someone who had to take a turn in the boss’ dog-house, so that the parameters of the all-important bell curve could be met.

I can recall going to my manager’s office for my annual review and arriving a few minutes early. One of my peers was already there, receiving their annual going over. I have to admit, it was somewhat a relief when my co-worker emerged with a sullen look on his face as he left the office. That meant someone other than me was going to take the hit and even out the “bell”. That wasn’t always the case, however, as I (like most people in any large corporation) fell into disfavor on occasion and got sent to the rock pile to make little ones out of big ones.

I suppose there is a lot that goes into receiving either a good or bad performance review. I was a member of a large sales organization, therefore most of what we were evaluated on were the sales results. In addition, there were “competencies” that fell into the evaluative process. This is where the boss could find reasons to “ding” us, even though the sales results might be stellar. “Yes Tom, your team’s sales results last year were outstanding…tops in the company. Unfortunately, you charged too many color printer cartridges to your expense account, so we’ll have to deduct a few points from your overall score. Now if you can just cinch up that little detail for next year, I think you’ll be well on your way to an ‘A’ rating. Go get ‘em, buddy.”

I recall one of my fellow employees receiving a poor review because, he felt, he yawned during one of the boss’ diatribes in which he associated sales with ancient Chinese war.

It was bad enough to have to endure this exercise in evaluative futility on an annual basis, now most companies are also doing “mid-year” reviews. I guess this is the company’s way of providing some sort of a sneak preview of what to expect, be it good or bad. In today’s corporate environment, the results of the mid-year evaluation are pretty much a tip-off as to whether or not the old resume’ should be dusted off.

I caught up with one of my former co-workers recently who said she had attended one of those sales meetings not too long ago. She said that she took full advantage of the artery-clogging dinners and numerous snack breaks during her time there. A week after the meeting, she announced that she was leaving the organization in order to accept a position with another company. I wonder if that went into her final review.

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