The Pain Of Performance Reviews

21 Sep 2022
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Every three months, I have to sit down with my boss and assess my previous quarter’s work. I don’t like these. Included in this review is a self-penned personal statement, a summary of how things were for me.

 

I don’t like these either. I don’t like doing them, talking about them or thinking about them. I always do them at the last minute, normally on the same day as my quarterly review. I feel no sense of relief having finished it, more a sense of concern that I’ve had to do it at all.

 

I sit in my reviews listening to my boss going over the details of something I’ve done and have to concentrate on not drifting away. My boss is a bit of a waffler. She details at length my shortcomings with the reasons behind them.

 

I think of a Shakespearean quote “Give to a gracious message a host of tongues, but let ill tidings tell themselves when they be felt.” It’s from Antony and Cleopatra. Like most Shakespeare it needs a bit of clarification but when explained, it just works.

 

What this is saying is when delivering good news, be as flowery as you want. Bad news should be given without waffle.

 

I refocus on the meeting where we’re still going on about my wrongdoings. At length. Internally I am screaming. I feel like interrupting saying ‘Look, I am not stupid, I have letters after my name. I understand English. You have been making the same point now for ten minutes. Can we please, in the name of all that’s Holy, MOVE ON.’ But I don’t. I sit there with an attentive expression looking like I am interested. If only the Boss knew.

 

When it does come to the good stuff, my memory is that is comparatively glossed over. More a reverse of the quote. It’s not what I take from the meeting.

 

When did all this start? When did we move to this longwinded style? If it’s supposed to make me feel better, it doesn’t, and if it’s there for my Boss then the focus is all wrong.

 

Performance reviews aren’t easy for the Boss or me. I know that. But shouldn’t they be about messages to me and not making the Boss feel better in giving them?

 

I spoke to a Doctor once who said that they used this quote when giving bad news. Get it over quickly.

 

Am I alone? This quote reminds me of how to give good or bad news. And how I want it to be given.

Alex

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

Adam G

Sept. 22, 2022, 4:12 a.m.

This sounds like a waste of time to me and poor management (may be systemic, not necessarily your boss). I am retired now but always felt that my primary role as a manager was (a) to work out how I could better support my team, and (b) to make myself redundant, ie - empower them to potentially do my job (succession planning). I ended up on the board of a multinational, so presumably got something right in someone’s view (albeit at a huge cost to my mental health!). Naturally there were odd occasions when performance management was required (with due warnings from HR about constructive dismissal!). There should be no surprises in a routine review meeting because communication in the interim should be good enough that both parties already know about and have discussed how to deal with any issues. Why save them up for a review?!

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Bearofliddlebrain

Sept. 22, 2022, 7:06 a.m.

I should have read all the comments first - you have put it better than I - that’s why I wouldn’t be a good reviewer!! Ha ha ha - Bear x

Paul

Sept. 22, 2022, 4:42 a.m.

Hi Alex Gosh every 3 months is ridiculous, I wonder could you ask this to be extended as it causes distress. I hate criticism and couldn’t cope with having to go through this ordeal 3 monthly. It must be very stressful for you. Paul

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Moodie

Sept. 22, 2022, 5:03 a.m.

Love that quote - thanks for introducing me to it Alex. As for your boss, she obvs needs her own performance review! grrr xxxx

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Oli

Sept. 22, 2022, 6:28 a.m.

This blog hit the spot Alex. I had a line manager who was new to the position and while being smart and a good clinician, had little finesse with managing people -- me in particular. Their excessively long emails, the excessively long f2f reviews eventually overstepped the mark and the matter is with HR. I wish you well with your situation. Don't hesitate to seek somewhere else if you need to. I know that as soon as my own matter is resolved with HR then I'm getting out. All the best.

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Sally

Sept. 22, 2022, 6:36 a.m.

Hi Alex, I pity you having to go through this every 3 months. It’s not sensitively managed, and sounds to me more of an ego trip for the manager. Shakespeare got it spot on. I think we’ve headed down a blind alley with this sort of management fiasco, not beneficial or motivating for the employee. A blunt instrument indeed.

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Daisy

Sept. 22, 2022, 6:54 a.m.

Hi The quote is beautiful thank you I find receiving and giving feedback very difficult- but your reviews sound excruciating and too frequent. Are they helping you or hindering you? Is your performance improving? I guess you could say you want to be good at your job and improve but you are not finding the current approach helpful. If the manager says but we have to meet every 3 months you probably are stuck with frequency but there should still be an onus on your manager to find out the best way they can help you (as Adam G. Said) Good luck

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Bearofliddlebrain

Sept. 22, 2022, 7:04 a.m.

Hi Alex, Me thinks the lady doth protest too much! Ditto a company that Mr. Bear worked for - an American one about 17 years ago. Reviews were even worse there: you had to be peer-reviewed as well as the three-monthly boss reviews and an annual review. One of the worst things was being reviewed by his peers - because some of them had nothing to do with the work he was doing, but he was warned by others early on, that he had to ‘be nice’ to everyone so that they had good things to write about him! And of course he had to do the same for them. Thank goodness he left but not before this all made for terrible working practises and drove him to his suicidal thoughts and depression. The pressure to fulfil these ridiculous reviews was immense and should have been stopped - but I believe it still goes on. Businesses need to go back to how it used to be done with an annual review. If a worker has problems they should be told what the problems are and what they need to do to correct them and likewise, if they are doing well or do something outstanding - they should be told. It seems to be form-filling and making up work and stress for everyone involved, where there is no need. Personnel departments became HR departments. A new title came along with new ways of justifying the roles and the money spent on the department. The silly amounts of money and time wasted is incredible - especially in government departments and the NHS…a waste of our money. Only a few weeks ago we saw an advertisement for a ‘Diversity Officer’ with a salary of circa £60k - at Great Ormond Street Hospital!!! Makes me so angry! What a waste of money - money they desperately need as they are always always fundraising! It’s just another virtue-signalling, tick box filling waste. (Rant over!) Your boss, however, needs to be stopped in her tracks with a review of herself by someone up the chain - but they won’t know unless someone tells them… Thank you for writing for us - there are so many things that bring on depression and anxiety - maybe you could step out of your comfort zone and suggest that your reviews are done less frequently, unless there is something urgent - and then surely, your boss can just take you to one side?? Go well - hope you see you are not alone in this. Love and Bear hugs x x x

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Tutti Frutti

Sept. 22, 2022, 7:31 a.m.

Bear Re the diversity officer at the hospital, the job may involve looking after patients and their families as much as staff. There were also concerns during the pandemic that cultural differences made it difficult for some ethnic minority staff to speak up about inadequate PPE with direct impacts on their chance of catching COVID. £60,000 is a lot of money but GOSH is a large organisation serving a lot of people. It's possible that this salary may be justified. Love TF x

The Gardener

Sept. 22, 2022, 9 a.m.

Bear, I think 'peer reviews' are positively wicked, gives leave for bullying, vindictiveness, and personal spite (or sucking up) knowing that they might report on you. x

Bearofliddlebrain

Sept. 23, 2022, 10:19 a.m.

Hi TF thank you - there are often two sides to a story! I just worry that with all the virtue signalling going on, that people are ticking boxes to ‘look good’ in the eyes of those who complain and stamp their feet!! Yes, TG - peer reviews are positively (or maybe negatively!) wicked - it was an awful period of employment for Mr. Bear tbh. Love to you both Bear xx

Tutti Frutti

Sept. 22, 2022, 7:45 a.m.

Hi Alex I have much the same system and I don't enjoy reflecting on my performance, particularly as I tend to be excessively negative about anything that has gone wrong and it can lead towards ruminating. (Having also line managed others in the past I know that there are also a sizeable chunk of people who try to present the most positive possible view of themselves rather than reflecting honestly.) I am much luckier in my boss though so in general a lot of the review meeting focuses on reassurance or sometimes on how to shift me sideways into roles that I can more helpfully do. I actually prefer quarterly reviews to the old system of annual reviews as I get less anxious about the annual box marking if the comments have been drip fed over the year. I certainly don't enjoy this system but I am not sure what a better alternative might be. I imagine that, given your boss, you wouldn't want your boss to just allocate a mark with no record of your views at all.

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Sue

Sept. 22, 2022, 8:22 a.m.

Hi Alex, Oh boy did this resonate with me. I worked for an American company where reviews were every 6 months. I had one boss who seemed to have a mental list of everything we had done wrong and maybe throw in one good thing to end with. And another who gave me half a percent pay rise one year, telling me he didn't even want to give me that! Fortunately, the managers played musical chairs quite frequently, so I had some very good managers/reviews as well. As things were looking shaky at the time, our team were convinced this last boss had been put in place to make us all leave. As it was it didn't work and they made us redundant shortly afterwards, with the manager being 'downgraded' to a support person again. Can't say we were sorry! I hope you manage to sort something out with your boss, but it sounds like you are stuck with the system for now. Good luck.

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The Gardener

Sept. 22, 2022, 9:09 a.m.

Adam, I find your blog quite appalling in its content. Are these reviews 'official', that is, if you have not mended your ways (in the opinion of the reviewer) you get a warning at the next review? In my days of staff management the strict employment regulation - three written warnings came in quite a long time into our business career. It did stop the bosses I have known who came into the office with a hangover or a row with the wife and sacked somebody out of hand to make them feel good. We had a lot of Sicilian workers - complicated by language, little education and temperament. We could dismiss on the spot for violence. One Sicilian pulled a knife on another. Out! Months later he came to our house - he was being done for beating up his wife, he came to me for a character reference! Staggered at his cheek. Wish, from what you say, that reviews were 'positive' what you can do for the betterment of the company in general.

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Teg

Sept. 22, 2022, 9:37 a.m.

Hi Alex During my last 15 years of a long Civil Service career (now 15 years retired) we grappled with a performance management system. It involved an annual performance appraisal between jobholder and manager. I was involved in both sides of those discussions. Importantly it was linked to pay. I remember writing my annual self assessment and finding it difficult. A balance was required in making subjective decisions about one's own performance but trying to take an objective view. As others have mentioned the system you are using seems basically flawed. It is used too frequently. Quarterly is far too frequent in my opinion. No wonder you find the process such a chore. In your position I would be inclined to find the previous assessment, make a few tweaks and use it again. Unless something really dramatic had happened in the previous 3 months. I don't know how long your quarterly discussions take but they must be a significant chunk out of your working time. Txx

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Valerie

Sept. 22, 2022, 9:53 a.m.

I have either been self-employed or in the kind of lowly jobs where such reviews did not take place.To me every 3 months sounds intimidating,patronising and highly inefficient.Maybe it makes everone feel they are covering their own er..backs in case anything goes wrong. Does your manager have a line-manager who puts her through this torture? I have no sympathy for snowflakes,but is making people feel sick with nerves several times a year good for morale or productivity? If someone is consistently in trouble,give the required warnings and sack them.Otherwise leave them in peace to get on with the job. x

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Sally

Sept. 22, 2022, 1:38 p.m.

I do love your last paragraph, Val. It expresses what I feel.

Valerie

Sept. 22, 2022, 4:07 p.m.

Great Minds think alike Sally ***

Orangeblossom

Sept. 22, 2022, 4:28 p.m.

Hi Alex, thanks for the blog. Having to undergo performance reviews every three months is a complete ordeal & to cap it all you seem to have a self-centred waffler for a boss. I definitely do not envy you. Hope that you find your job worthwhile. Hope that your company drop these 3 monthly performance reviews. They seem unnecessary & time consuming.

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Dragonfly

Sept. 22, 2022, 8:45 p.m.

This sounds quite terrifying! I’d only just be getting over the last review before the anxiety of the next one loomed! I honestly don’t know how you contain yourself during those sessions. Like Val said, I’ve also never risen to the elevated position of being reviewed (despite having a certificate to prove I was certainly once quite clever) but I can’t see how such a system can be any good for moral. Some people just live the corporate dream, don’t they?!

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Mary Wednesday

Sept. 26, 2022, 6:12 a.m.

I feel for you in joint sympathy. The joy of running your own business is a freedom from these reviews. My husband has that pain though. One does one's best and somehow that best is never good enough. Demoralisation and depression follow, and one is no longer capable of performing at one's best. Sending hugs.

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