Preparing for a performance review is never easy. Particularly if it is not clear what to expect from it. It is no wonder a vast majority hates the phrase performance appraisals.
It is not possible to narrow down the causes to a single/ universal problem. There could be multiple reasons leading to the entire process being dysfunctional. However, gossips at the water cooler usually seem to be centered around discussions about the inefficiencies of ‘managers’.
The situation at Acme Corp is no different. Employees are getting fed up of reviews where their manager spouts random corporate jargon to sound smarter than they actually are. These managers fail to touch upon the actual problems taking place in the workplace.
Not just problems, but they seem to be completely unaware of what their team is currently working on. Ray’s team is particularly not sure where they fit in the bigger picture.
Ray (to himself): I need to find out what all did John do at the start of the year. There’s a chance he may fudge the numbers to demonstrate he performed better than he actually did.
John (to himself): Better search through the archives for all the tasks that I performed this year. Ray will probably try to downplay my contributions significantly.
Ray (to himself): Or I could wait for him to submit the details. Then I simply need to cut down on some of the imaginary achievements. Should be simple enough.
John (to himself): Last year he had simply deleted some of my contributions from my list. Better make sure I rank every task as a High Priority, just in case he gets any funny ideas.
Ray (to himself): In our last meeting, John had argued that some of the team’s achievements were solely due to him. We can’t have that now, can we? Just because you took the burden of fulfilling one of the team’s main KPIs does not make you responsible for its success. It has to be considered a team achievement.
John (to himself): If I take the burden of the team’s main KPI, and achieve it then I’m responsible for its success! How is it the team’s efforts when anyone barely contributed to it?
Ray (to himself): Why bother going into this much depth anyway? As it is people don’t change. He had a average performance rating last year and I don’t see any change this year. Maybe I’ll be a bit generous and award him an exceeds expectation. After all, he did take printouts for me whenever I asked him to.
John (to himself): I swear if he brings up another topic about taking printouts, I’m going to punch him!
Performance reviews are not about fighting to prove what may or may not have happened. Neither about shifting the blame. But too often that is what happens.
At Capsule Corp. the situation is entirely different. As they have already conducted 3 quarterly assessments, Rebecca and Matt only have to review the work done in the last 3 months.
Rebecca (to herself): Let’s see. Matt had 1 major and 3 minor goals for this quarter. The numbers look quite good and we have almost hit the target.
Matt: Rebecca probably has all the information, but I should prepare a detailed report of what all I have achieved in this quarter.
Rebecca (to herself): He has also assisted Chloe and Jim when they were strapped for bandwidth. It helped the team deliver the output right on time. That’s a big plus.
Matt (to himself): I should also mention the where we could be in the coming future based on our current initiatives and progress. It may be helpful for Rebecca to decide how to best proceed ahead.
Rebecca (to herself): Matt has been here for 2 years and will probably look for a promotion given his contributions and level of commitment. I should check with HR and let them know we have a candidate for the position of team lead.
Matt (to himself): Probably should have a list of questions regarding growth in my position. This seems like the right time to get more visibility in the organization.
Here, Rebecca and Matt are considering the best ways to ensure they bring relevant information to the performance review. They are trying to anticipate the questions and expectations of each other so that they are better prepared for it.
Performance reviews are not just a question and answer session where the managers ask questions and employees answer them as best as they can. It is more of an open communication between them to assess expectations our of each other.
In the next episode, we’ll talk about the actual meeting. What happens when the characters in both the above mentioned situations come face to face with each other. Spoiler alert: Expect fireworks (metaphorical)