Friday, February 26, 2010

A job performance review is a charlie horse to the ego.

Before I go on this rant of mine, let me clarify a few things. First, I would like to say that I love my job and I love where I work. Secondly, I am not anti-performance review, even though it may seem like it in the following paragraphs. With that being said, as much as I love what I do, it is hard work at times, and I may let my human elements leak through. I work hard with full dedication, working towards the best job ever done and although I think that performance reviews are necessary, the current approach is antiquated and could use a tune-up.
I thought I should lay that on the table first so you understand where I'm coming from.

So, as you have probably gathered I was lucky enough to receive a job performance review as of late...... that's right, just the sound of makes your butt pucker doesn't it. Keep in mind that it was about a year and a half over due but who's counting the days for a performance review anyway? I would love to tell you I liked it, you know, because it was full of constructive criticisms to help me improve myself, but I'm going to be honest and say I didn't like it one little bit. It is like giving your ego a charlie horse, afterwards you really have to rub it out and it is sore for days. You've worked hard and your dedication is appreciated so here is a swift kick in the you know what to let you know your not what we would consider a perfect employee.

Don't get me wrong, this is not my first dance by any means. I have been get performance reviews for the last 28 years, not counting parental reviews and pre-college reviews. I have been reviewed while in the military (brutal), I have been reviewed on many assorted jobs, in college as an Resident Assistant right up to my current job as a story board artist, and I can honestly say that I have never felt good (comfortable) during or after the meeting. Now listen, I have always tried to be a great employee and I have never received a poor review, but that is not the point I'm trying to make, reviews make you feel like crap and they shouldn't.

I believe the problem lies in the paradigm in which most business use to.... uh, uh.... compare you with or better yet to grade you with, yeah, that's a better term. The paradigm is based on the perfect or ideal employee (notice I did not say human or person), one who is always happy, always loves his job even when it becomes work, one who never has an off day, never has any personal problems such as family, finances or illnesses, relationship issues and so on. The paradigm chooses to acknowledges only certain human emotions as acceptable (robot employee) and that is fine but it cannot ignore the others. Because we are HUMAN we have a full range of emotions that go with that said condition, whether we like it or not. Sometimes humans get angry, sometimes humans get there feelings hurt, sometimes humans just don't like the situation they are currently in or they are not on the top of there game. The cool thing about humans are their ability to have loyalty, passion, and concern for their employers.

We have all been in situations at work (whether we like our jobs or not), that we are not liking so much; basically, what I'm driving at is that you know when you are being jerked around and/or when you are being taken advantage of. The correct response according to robot employee is to take it as it comes, right on the chin and take it with a smile, no less.
I want you to know that I'm really good and I mean 'good' at dealing with anything that is thrown at me, even if I know it's not good for me or my career, what I'm terrible at, I mean 'really bad' at is smiling about it! It's a shame that our society would rather you be a phony yes man and only give the task 50% of your ability than to be up front about how you feel and understand that you will still give it everything your all. I'm sure I can find a middle ground here and I'm working on it, but you would think that after years of exposure to me working hard and producing great results, my over seers would lighten up a little and understand I'm gonna give them everything I can.

This sounds like I had a bad review, doesn't it? I didn't, it was actually a pretty good review as a matter of fact. The problem is, it still does not correctly reflect who I really am or what I'm capable of doing or adapting to. It didn't relay my passion for story telling or my determination to satisfy my bosses know matter what. It doesn't relay my dedication and loyalty to my project and my employer. It does make people think that I'm not capable of recognizing and changing areas that need improvement in my work habits and it never relays or recognizes that the work environment may be part of the problem, sometimes their are unrecognized or forgotten factors that are cause specific situations or behaviors in the area.

Here is one of the things that doesn't make sense to me - waiting until the end of the year to point out an area that someone can improve upon. Really, waiting to ask somebody to improve in an area that is bothering you right $%@* now is just down right silly. They would probably be more than happy to make an adjustment immediately. Most people at minimum would express their frustration and the boss might get some insight of the current situation from a different perspective.

Most performance reviews are very impersonal when it comes to your actual job performance, using words like: usually, consistently, always, needs improvement, sometimes. These usually never have any written statement that accompany them. Now, on the other hand, when you get to the critical parts of whatever didn't work for this particular group of individuals, it is written out in detail and given as much weight as possible.

I will concede that at times reviews can be helpful, but let us remember, human beings (notice I didn't say the robots) are giving you an account of situations (through their personal observations) that they have gathered through that process of memory or recall, then they try and making an assessment of how you can improve your performance. Again I will point out the idea of doing this well after the events are over. Their perspective of the whole year can be skewed by one event or situation that is current. I also want to point out that it is virtually impossible to remove personal opinion from the reviewer's perspective. They may have preconceived ideas of how a person should think, and behave. I would not want to be reviewed by a pastor or priest, would you? We also have no way of know the experiences or personal issue that a reviewer may be caring from their own past. That's another whole can of worms. Another big issue for me is that they tend to be one sided, again misrepresentative, not giving the whole picture of an employee's work existence.

With all that said, I still haven't got to the subjective managing issue. Because managers are human, it means that they will have subjective ideas about managing. There is the constantly changing of managing styles that we as employees are always trying and expected to adapt to. What I'm saying is that what is good or important to one manager may not be good to another. All managers come with their own style of managing, some are micro managers, some are politically correct crazy managers, some are buy the book (no free thinking)managers, and some are the what is it going to take to get myself promoted managers, but occasionally when we are very blessed we get a manager who really cares. A human that is genuinely concerned with the people under them, and has compassion with the human they are dealing with. A person that wants others to be at their best and to succeed in life wether it be at work or at home. A person that doesn't think of others as a number or pay check that is in the same building. That would be nice wouldn't it?

So, here are some of the things that have been said to me in the past in regards to performance reviews, these make me feel uncomfortable with the current process. I'm paraphrasing some of these but this is what they stated for the most part. "I know that you don't necessarily agree with how we have stated this but remember just because you sign it doesn't mean you agree with it". REALLY! Are you kidding me? In my world signing something means everything. "You know we don't need your signature to put this in your file, but we would really like you to sign this to make it official, then you can write an addendum to it." No thank you, I already look bad enough with out a disgruntled letter from me attached to it. "I read your resent performance review from your manager but I kicked it back, it was a little too good, I think it needed more criticisms to be helpful to you." Uhn.......ah, maybe, just maybe I was a pretty good employee this year, maybe just for once, for just a little while I got it right or as close to right as possible, just for a little while. "Before you go right to the negative stuff, read the good stuff first." Well, I wasn't thinking that the criticisms here were bad or negative until you said that, I thought this was suppose to be a positive experience to help me improve myself, not a, hey check it out you suck so bad in these areas, experience. "You shouldn't take these personal we are saying things to everyone, not these specific things, but everyone is getting something on there reviews". Okay, what.... yeah, I am taking it personal, it's about my sub-par performance not somebody else's review, besides, you never said they had anything negative on their reviews or is it standard practice to crew everyone up a bit? What ever, eventually you sign it.

I think most people have all the intentions in the world of trying to do the best job they can where ever they are for their employers. I would also venture to say that most people are striving to be better employees and better people. I don't think there are many people out there that want to destroy their reputation or damage their work environments. I understand that there is always that one guy, and I guess that one guy has made all this necessary. If I could have a sit down every once in awhile and my manager would be kind but honest about ways for me to improve myself that would be fine with me. I know for fact that the motivation and morale of an employee are to major parts in their work performance and most of the time performance reviews help little in those two areas.

I know that I just skimmed the surface of the necessity of job performance reviews in the work place. I know what they were designed for and what they are suppose to achieve, so I try not too get too bent out of shape on the criticisms or too cocky with the positive strengths pointed out. Let's face it, nobody wants to hear that they need a little polishing up, although we are all willing to admit that we are not perfect.

This is a colored sketch that I did on a road trip.

Hey, give me a break, they aren't all gonna be interesting, and besides coffee is good, lattes are good and cappuccinos are good, all I'm saying is, that I don't dig on teas, that's all.

These are from "MULAN", it was all exploration for a traveling sequence.

This a workbook drawing that I retouched in photoshop, this is what I wanted it to look like.


  1. I’m going to need to reschedule your Husband Review…

  2. I'm going to give that post an Achieve +. Performance reviews are awkward and no, we are NOT robots! I was just talking with my wife about that last week. Sometimes 9-to-5, 9-to-5, 9-to-5, 9-to-5 just doesn't gel with the fact that we're human!

  3. Come work at Home Depot, you get 2 reviews a year. 1 that's real and the other that is scewed. First one is non monetary, so they praise all your efforts and thanks for everything. 2nd is the monetary review and you become the guy who's bout to be fired for everything you've done wrong(or they feel is wrong) but hey its retail, right? I get emails from customers 3-4 times a week thanking me for the great help ive offered, funny little things like that which drive the company's success are never noticed or refered to in the 2nd review.... just today as March 1st was my anniversary and I'm up for my 2nd review anytime now, my dept. manager in front of 3 customers yells at me telling me he can't believe how SLOW I was at doing anything, yet the past hour I had unloaded 3 trucks, restacked 4 bundles of lumber, and loaded by hand over 3 full bunks of plywood by myself onto a customers truck. This was because I didn't have 5 minutes to breathe while hammering 2 pallets together to cover up a saftey hazard this manager created the night before. Good thing though, the customers nearby heard this all and immediatley asked to speak with the manager. When he stated he was the manager, they all asked for the # to the corporate office so they could inquire about how a hard workin employee is treated with this kind of disrespect while sweating (48 degreees at the time) and busting my #$#!!!

    Sadly this is a daily occurence in my life now...and people wonder why I'm sop gung ho about moving and starting new somewhere...

  4. I loved this Craig..... so true! Once on one of my reviews, it stated I did not say "good morning" as happily as I could have to all in the office EVERY DAY..... Well, quite frankly, I don't like to say good morning to very many people each day........