It’s performance review time!
Ah, yes – that time of year when employees can finally receive valuable feedback and career guidance from their engaged, involved managers who
It’s the time of year where supervisors need to assess a large group of employees within a ridiculously small time frame. (Hey, HR would give you MORE time, but let’s be honest here – you’re not going to actually DO the reviews until the last minute, no matter HOW many weeks I give you. So let’s not pretend that you rushed the process due to lack of “time,” mmmkay? It’s more a combination of procrastination, poor time management, and Murphy’s Law spitting all over your inbox.) This leads to a frantic pencil-whipping of the evaluation form that results in a largely ineffective – if not entirely inaccurate – assessment of job performance.
The end result? You hastily assign each team member a largely subjective “rating” that drives the entire trajectory of each employee’s future with your organization.
No, really. Don’t sweat it. It’s more than likely that you’ll quit, get laid off, or be transferred before there’s any possibility of your employees getting promoted, and once THAT happens, you’ll be persona non grata with your company, rendering all of your feedback null and void.
So why do companies still DO performance reviews?
Great question. And no…I don’t have the answer.
I think the intent is good – it’s meant to ensure that employees get at least ONE session of individualized feedback per year. It also provides a mechanism to require the lazier managers to document performance – good, bad, or meh – annually, at a minimum. (The good managers are doing this throughout the year, of course, but when you have 45 employees reporting to you, it’s hard to remember to actually DO this unless your company forces it. Frankly, it’s a broken system, not unlike other political systems <coughcoughAmericacoughTrumpcough> that we’re all quite sick and tired of discussing at this point.)
Regardless of intended purpose, the performance management process invariably results in some cringe-worthy comments that serve to thoroughly entertain your HR team. (In other words, yes, we are, in fact, laughing AT you.)
So let’s chuck professionalism completely out the window <crash!> as I share with you some of our Fiscal Year 2016 Performance Review gems. Below are actual excerpts from real-life performance reviews that are now permanently preserved in our HRIS system for all eternity. (Or until there’s a clever hacking attempt, a nuclear war, or the next software upgrade mysteriously yet completely obliterates several years of company history, which they assured you could NOT happen, yet here you are, staring down blank screens and swearing like an angry football coach.)
Names have been redacted to protect the innocent, but otherwise, these are the unfiltered, unedited comments in their raw, unpasteurized glory.
Safety: One of the requirements we have in our review process is that “everyone gets evaluated for working safely.” From the 15000-foot level, it makes sense – everyone SHOULD be thinking about safety as part of their jobs, right? If it’s important (which it is, OSHA, in case you’re trolling this blog) everyone should be held accountable for it. And what better way to hold people accountable than to make it a score-able section on the review? (Avoiding serious, permanent injury clearly isn’t incentive enough – it’s only when it might impact your whopping 2.5% raise that people pay attention.)
When it comes time to write something in that little box, though, some managers are at a bit of a loss, as referenced by this manager’s answer to “Does Bill work safely?”
Bill still uses a little knife.
That’s the comment in its entirety.
Normally, I strongly discourage managers from openly discussing the sizes of their team members’ knives. Because harassment, ya know. But…is using a small knife a good thing? Bad thing? Dangerous? Should he be using a machete, or is a scalpel a better tool for running a cash register? (Yep, that’s his job. So I’m unclear why a knife needs to be mentioned at all, unless that area has REALLY gone downhill in the last four weeks.)
But clearly, it was important enough to mention. As you can see, we have insanely rigorous standards for safety:
This is a category that the company can honest say…No one lost a finger, or was electrocuted.
Evidently, the only way to set the bar any lower is to bury it. But speaking of raising the bar….
Room for Improvement: Before I begin this section, let me just say that the annual review is NOT the place to introduce performance issues. Ideally, the manager’s been discussing any concerns with the employees immediately when they occur, and uses the review to reiterate and reinforce the message, and to document progress.
Success on this item, though, might be a bit of a challenge to measure:
You can get lost it seems in the break room for a variety of reasons
Let me be clear – our work sites are not the elaborate engineering feat that is the NYC Subway System. Our “break areas” aren’t exactly palatial – they’re much closer to a glorified utility closet furnished with a small table and a microwave. How one gets “lost” in a room equipped with not much more than the two required means of egress is mildly concerning, given the other complicated tasks that need to be accomplished every day, like feeding oneself or remembering to zip your fly after you use the rest room. The remainder of the review was a solid “meets expectations,” though, so I guess he’s doing just fine. (Or our expectations are at zero altitude. Not sure which.)
Now, if you DO have to provide negative feedback, common management coaching recommends serving the “feedback sandwich.” Essentially, you provide the constructive criticism (the “meat”) in between two layers of kudos (the “bread.”) Here’s a solid example. (I think.)
While a superior leader, John could use some improvement on employee development. While not just his fault, the receptiveness of the employees is partly to blame.
Waitwaitwait. What??? Employees don’t always want to do what you ask them to do? WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?!
Praise and Progress: Performance reviews aren’t just a vehicle to provide correction. They’re also an opportunity to share what your employees are doing right. For example, if your employee is TERRIBLE at, say, humidity and horticulture, you might write something like this:
There is no moss growing under this manager.
To be fair, I totally get why this is a good thing. I mean, if you stood up at work and saw moss under your chair, I’m 94% certain you’d have a problem with that. (The other 6% of you work in a forest, with Snow White and the Three Bears or something. Cool gig if you don’t get eaten.) But I had NO idea that workplace moss was such a real hazard. Wasn’t the Affordable Care Act supposed to help prevent this? How would OSHA fine a moss-sighting, exactly? And do you need HAZMAT training to correctly remove it?
If dirt algae isn’t your employee’s strongest suit, don’t despair. Perhaps he has other magic tricks up his sleeve.
Ted is good at lessening to his crew.
So I’m envisioning that dude from Thinner (which is the only Steven King novel I’ve read, because it’s the only one that has anything to do with weight loss.) Or the Incredible Shrinking Woman (which I have GOT to find and watch again, because I haven’t seen it in probably 30 years, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s as horrifically bad a movie as I remember.)
Supervisor: “Hey…anyone seen Ted today?”
Employee #1: “He was in the break room getting coffee a few minutes ago….”
Employee #2: “Oh no! Did he get the 20-ouncer and end up trapped under the cup again?”
<group rushes to vending machine>
Employee #2: “Dammit, Ted!”
Employee #1: “We only needed two more accident-free days to earn a pizza party. Jerk.”
On second thought, maybe it’s not quite that bad. Maybe Ted had bariatric surgery, or a really successful run with Weight Watchers. Either way, perhaps this is a sign that we need to lay off the high-pressure wellness programs we’ve got going on.
Anyway. When you do provide positive feedback, try not to kill the mood with overly dramatic platitudes:
The trajectory of the facility is headed in the right direction, and the future looks very bright. I think we are one lead away from having a nearly perfect staff. The driver of this ship in maintaining the staff is you. I will not be here forever or for that matter very long.
Wow. First of all, I had no idea I worked for NASA. Because apparently, this employee is an astronaut. Or a firework. <cue Katy Perry>
But dear heavens. Is her manager terminally ill? Did he get an unfavorable reading from a psychic? Either way, your departure from Earth really isn’t relevant to your employee’s performance – it’s part of YOURS. And we frown upon unscheduled absences, so please pick up a leave packet from HR later today.
Whatever the feedback, just remember to make it clear and concise so your employee can really appreciate the compliment:
You are able and willing to run the Packing Department when your lead in gone our out of the department. Continue to be that asset for us this next year.
Employee: “Thank you, sir. I’ll be sure to keep doing…um…”
Employee: “…keep being….uh….”
<squints and rereads>
Employee: “wait, what was I doing well again?”
Supervisor: “Thanks! You’re a great asset. Keep up the good work!”
Employee Development: The performance review is the perfect time to discuss professional growth and career development. Be sure to let your manager know about your future aspirations so they can be documented:
Kyle has asked to be more evolved in business operations
(Well, for starters, Kyle, you could quit dragging those knuckles. Blood is hard to remove from office-grade carpeting.)
And if your employee HAS stepped up, don’t be afraid to point that out:
This program has been taken to the next level for your department. You presented several key faucets of this in our recent team meeting.
Believe it or not, they actually exist.
Honestly, I don’t know WHY they exist, or how they have anything to do with…well…anything. But they were presented, so <head tilt> I guess that’s one less thing I have to worry about that I didn’t know I was supposed to be worrying about.
Finally, as you wrap up the review, don’t be afraid to share some of the wisdom you’ve accumulated through your years of experience:
If everything’s coming at you too fast, it might just be because it is.
<holds fist to chest, blinking back tears>
Words to live by.
I was so moved <coughcoughSNORT> by this workplace proverb that I promptly shared it with my team.
Me: This is why you shouldn’t be eating fortune cookies while you’re writing reviews.
Team Member: …and you know what they say about the fortunes from cookies, right?
If everything’s coming at you too fast, it might just be because it is. In bed.
I love HR so hard.
And next, the CEO wants us all to write SMART goals.
I CAN’T WAIT.
Remind me again why I quit teaching….?