Opinion

To corporate? Is to love performance reviews | The Latte Guy | Dec. 4

It’s that time of year again. Time for that annual exercise in sustained peevishness and that once-a-year opportunity to engage in petty humiliations and random nitpickings.

The coveted chance to seek revenge for 12 months of accumulated slights and minor indignities.

That joyous time when people who have been preaching teamwork and togetherness all year long get to face off and tell each other exactly what they really think about each other and where they can put their plans and their little memos and their caustic emails.

I’m speaking of course of that hallowed corporate rite, the Annual Performance Review.

While many people dread this time of year, I actually look forward to it. Having managers and their direct reports participate in open and frank discussions about each other’s work performance holds out the promise of potentially volatile and incendiary personal exchanges and the possibility of explosive interoffice caterwauling and unchecked unflattering invective leading to a cacophony of slammed office doors and early lunches and the balkanization of the office into surly factions.

In that sense, the performance review has very nearly the same allure as the sacred Open Bar Office Holiday Party, but without the potluck casseroles and the “secret pal” gift exchange featuring purloined office supplies and accumulated vendor swag.

I’ve been both a reviewer and a reviewee in recent performance reviews, and I don’t find that being on either end of the process does much to nourish my soul or make my heart sing.

Mostly what I feel at the end of a long day of serious performance reviewing is a burning desire for a hot shower and a cold drink, preferably at the same time.

Theoretically, the corporate performance review is an opportunity for management to tell workers what they did well in the past year and what they can improve on in the coming year.

However, most of us already know only too well our own personal strengths and weaknesses (not to mention the strengths and weaknesses of the person reviewing us), so we tolerate the whole demeaning process only because the results of the review might determine how much of a raise or bonus we can expect to receive in the coming year.

In part due to the economy, but mostly due to bad decisions by our company’s senior management (who all may have been too busy writing up performance reviews to worry about things like profitability), my fellow employees have not been offered raises of any sort for the past two years, and the word “bonus” has yet to enter our company’s lexicon.

Without the galvanizing presence of a potential bonus or raise, the already-thin justification for doing performance reviews at all evaporates.

Consequently, this year my employer has announced that instead of performance reviews, each employee will write out his or her three top goals for 2010 and then discuss them with a supervisor.

I had no trouble quickly coming up with my three goals:

(1) optimize my core competencies and proactively grow a robust suite of deliverables; (2) re-engineer and right-size my work platform by enhancing my interfacing in a user-centric dynamic and fluid environment; and (3) calibrate the metrics on my performance bandwidth and synergistically incentivize my direct reports to onboard them with some blue sky touchpoints I’ll be championing later this year so that, at the end of the day, I can circle the wagons and strategically leverage and spearhead some game changers and goal-post movers.

I’ve told my boss I’m available at her convenience to go over my goals in real time at an off-site sitdown or, if she preferred, at an ad hoc powwow.

I have not yet gotten any formal feedback on my goals from my boss, although preliminary indications are that I found my goals considerably more amusing than she did.

I’m afraid I may have set myself up for the dreaded Reverse Raise.

On the plus side, I’ve conveniently established my goals for 2011: figure out what my goals for 2010 really meant and then convincingly explain why it wasn’t my fault I didn’t achieve them. On a going-forward basis, of course. While taking the temperature of the room. On a macro level.

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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