The last week has been a touch stressful . When I say stress I don’t mean stress of an obvious kind. I’m not about to face eviction. Not am I dealing with an unexpected diagnosis of ill health. The stress has been more low-level and irritating. You see this week I have my yearly performance review at work.
This is an experience that any office worker in a multinational company will dread. Regardless of the company you work for, earlier the previous year your goals and objectives will have been set. And it is your success, against these goals and objectives on which you will be judged and rated. And they are pretty meaningless.
If you are a customer service agent in a call centre of doom (for example) then the judging criteria are pretty easy to ascertain. Did you meet the target of twenty cases per hour? Easy to determine. If your job involves tasks too complex to be recorded as a number, then that’s where the trouble starts. You are tasked with ‘driving continuous improvement for the brand’. Or ‘facilitating market growth by reducing transit lead-time’. Vague, unquantifiable targets that neither you nor your manager understands. But they sound serious. As if they require a level of dedication and commitment (and a bit of thinking outside the box, if you are corporate-speak inclined).
Of course these targets mean absolutely nothing. Your ability (as opposed to your rating) is determined by your manager asking colleagues for feedback about you, and observing how you are working. Nothing difficult about that at all.
If only it were that simple though. As well as the indecipherable goals, there’s the evil ratings system. The highest rank possible is where you ‘exceed expectations’. This is virtually impossible. In order to achieve this you either have to sacrifice your entire social life. Or your left kidney. Often both.
Then there’s the sliding scale. You can ‘fully meet expectations’. You can ‘mostly meet expectations’. Or you can ‘fail to meet expectations.’ This last one is relatively rare and means you’ll be put on a ‘personal improvement plan’ where you’ll be given a series of time tagged objectives. If you fail to meet these you will soon be free to explore exciting opportunities outside the firm. I’ve never received this low grade. Anyone I know who has, has not lasted more than a couple of months longer. It’s sort of an early warning signal to get your CV in order.
The vast majority of people ‘mostly’ or ‘fully’ meet expectations. As is only to be expected, considering that the percentages of grades is handed to the reviewers, before the actual review conversations with the plebs take place.
We are told our salary increases are dependent on our rating. Which has never been true in any company I have ever worked for. These had also been predetermined. They usually land at around the rate of inflation.
Yet each year the employee and the boss do this tango of gloom. They have a ‘serious talk’, talk about stretch goals. And wish they were anywhere but here. It’s a rite of passage for an office lard-arse.
People less cynical take these conversations rather more seriously than I do. I have a hide like a crocodile skin handbag when it comes to them however. Even if I go that extra mile, when corporate in the US or Berlin decide to ‘retrench’ or ‘reorganise’ or ‘streamline’ then my sacrificed left kidney will be instantly forgotten.
I work hard enough to get my work done. And after my forty hours per week has been clocked up, I am out of there. I have never vocalised this to any boss, but I have a moral objection to overtime. You probably can’t guess , with my occasional complaints about the swamp of work I am flailing about it. Mind you, this swamp has never prevented me from checking our a cheeky little weekend break.
As for today. Well? Nobody ought to use me as their model for career advancement. But I fully meet expectations right now.
Quite right too.