posted Wed, 02 Mar 2005
My boss went over my performance appraisal with me this morning. As I suspect happens in most big companies, we write our own appraisals for our bosses to review. I outline my results for the year, which I don’t have a problem doing, and then identify where I need to improve.
This is where I have a problem.
I’m surprised someone hasn’t opened – and become rich from – a chain of corporate re-education camps.
This “opportunity for improvement” area is not where you say, “I really need to get better with excel” or any other technical issue. It is where you are supposed to confess your sins, expose your weaknesses and identify the character flaws that are keeping you from being CEO.
Let me back up a bit. My company has implemented what it thinks is a scientific approach to human resource management. Everyone is in “the database” with “key competencies” identified (you know – the things you are good at). There is a book with about 800 competencies and I guess they cover the spectrum of human ability. Each competency and weakness and over-reliance on that competency are defined, along with suggested corrective actions for imbalance.
Examples of competencies are things like patience, political ability, sense of humor – pretty much anything you would use to describe someone’s personality.
The whole thing is based on this notion of perfectibility – that if we just work hard enough at it, we can make ourselves perfect. Eliminate all our character flaws. Develop a sense of humor. Become someone outgoing.
Poppycock, I say. I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses, but I don’t think I can change my essential personality. I can change my behaviors, but really, I’d rather be in a job that requires someone who is already like me than try to change to fit a job for someone else.
So back to my appraisal. I am supposed to say something like, “I just can’t seem to play well with others” and throw myself on the mercy of the court.
Forget it. This year, I wrote that I thought I had done a great job – that I had far exceeded expectations and that this project would be nowhere without me.
I was very curious to see what my boss would write.
He wrote, essentially, that I had done some things that were good but that I needed to work on patience and composure. Sure, that’s true, but how about some recognition for the incredible job I have done?
He told me out loud that he loves working with me and thinks I do a great job, but he didn’t put it in writing. How sad is that?
Before Christmas, I wrote a separate note to each of the five guys on my team. I told each one how much I enjoyed working with him and why – both a professional reason and a personal reason. I also told each one that he is essential to the success of this project, which is true.
Recently, I was very touched to notice that two of these guys each had his note pinned to the wall of his cubicle.
I have yet to have a performance review where someone says, “You’ve done a great job. Keep doing what you’re doing,” without going on to say, “but…”
It would be so nice to get some praise without the criticism sandwiched in – just once.