There is a great article on Yahoo! today about the counter-productivity of Performance Reviews. For the fellow employee, this is definitely worth reading. In the economic and job climate that we are in, this truth is perhaps even more poignant today. Employers everywhere are announcing that there will be no annual raises; decreases (or omission) of PTO payouts, bonuses, 401K matching programs; and reminding us, either by inference or in plain words, that we should be grateful to be part of the 90% of the population that is still employed.
There is something inherently asinine in management’s delivery of bad news. Perhaps it’s the impersonality of political correctness, perhaps it’s the dry delivery, perhaps it’s the fear of retaliation. Managers do, however, have the difficult job of having to get their employees’ buy-in if they want their department/company to run well, that is. That’s what they get the big bucks to do, and some are better at it than others. Regardless of how successful a manager is at delivery, Samuel Culbert is right: “[Performance reviews are] a pretentious, bogus practice that produces absolutely nothing that any thinking executive should call a corporate plus.”
Let’s face it. Performance Reviews aren’t going anywhere. If it is important to you at all that your review be more “straight talk” than “firing squad,” start straight-talking with your boss now. It’s a two-way street. For better or worse, you have a relationship with your boss. Whether it’s a good one or a bad one is, at the very least, partially up to you. Look, some manager relationships are beyond help, but some aren’t.
Bosses aren’t supposed to be our friends, but we can still be friendly. You may not see eye to eye on a certain procedure or process, but that’s where you may have to invest extra time, energy, and research to duplicate the process in your proposed change to demonstrate that your way is more efficient or cost-beneficial. Sometimes attempting to reason with someone isn’t enough, and he/she just doesn’t perceive your way of reasoning. That’s human. Again, it is a two-way street. At the end of the day, you may have to agree to disagree. What is important, is that you not take the disagreement personally, because more likely than not, it’s not personal. We are all there to do a job, and at the end of the day it’s about the job.
Instead of waiting for the review, you can casually discuss how the department is doing, how the weekend went, that new Thai restaurant around the corner, the recent change to the standard operating procedure, theorize about Lost and purgatory, your new idea about how to process batch payments, and that one time at band camp. (OK, maybe not that one time at band camp, unless everyone kept their clothes on in your story.) The point is, you may have to take matters into your own hands and demonstrate to your boss how to have shop-talk without it being so “shop-talk” all the time. So that when it’s time to have the Performance Review the trend continues.