Tag Archives: career

Your Performance Review Isn’t Fair

I was talking with a co-worker the other day about my company’s performance review system and they were venting about some of the problems with it.  I pointed out in fact the entire system was structurally unfair, so why bother getting upset about the details of it?

You see the system does mean well in some regards.  Overall we have four ranks in the system: exceeds expectations, meets expectations, developing and doesn’t meet expectations or in number form the highest rank is 4 and drops down to 1.  You can tell someone tried to make the system meaningful by limiting the number of people in the company that can be assigned a 4 rank or exceeds.  Which in theory I agree with otherwise the rank becomes sort of meaningless if half the company get the exceeds rank (trust me this does happen…everyone likes to think of themselves as better than average).

Then you are supposed to set your annual goals.  Then you rank yourself on your goals at the end of the year and your boss does the same.  Then you compare notes and discuss the areas of disagreement.  Up until now the process is somewhat fair in the fact if your goals clearly outlined the criteria of exceeds. Unfortunately I have yet to see that happen all that well or consistently in my company.  So the unfairness starts to creep in.

Then it gets worse, because your boss then takes your draft rating to a calibration session where all the managers and your director discuss the proposed ranks and adjusts them as required.  On one hand I appreciate the concept here.  You shouldn’t be able to suck up only to your boss and screw over everyone else in your work place and still get a good rating.  But all to often I can see these turning into popularity contests which sort of negates the point of calibrating the ranks.  The people that are liked best end up with a higher rank.

In effect, the title of the process, performance review, is rather correct.  This isn’t about how good you do your job, but rather how good of a actor/writer you can be to make yourself look better than everyone else (ie: your artistic performance).  This isn’t to say results don’t matter, but rather their presentation of those results are more important than most people realize.  Oddly, I’m sort of shocked that more people haven’t clued into this fact already.  Thus the most proficient players at this game will purposely let their projects go a little off the rails towards the start of the evaluation period so by the time they do the review they can point to the fact they brought everything back on track just last week.  The look like a hero and managed to also exploit the fact we have a significant bias to more recent events rather than what happened at the start of the year.

Then the final insult to this entire mess of a complex process if each department is given a set budget to offer raises out of, so the amount of money on the table between each range is rather tiny.  I learned this year the difference between the top of rank 4 and top of rank 3 was a mere 1.5% raise.  Seriously, you want me to work my ass off for an entire year to get only 1.5% more than just coasting along and doing an ok job?  Are you nuts?  Do you not understand the idea of diminishing returns?

Then on top of this entire mess I was told the following: because I do such good work already the expectations for me are higher than my co-workers.  Pardon?!? Did you just tell me I’m being held to a higher standard than everyone else because I do good job?!?!  Um, perhaps the people doing crap work should just do a better job…nay, that would sound like actual performance management.  Or god forbid actually fire the crappy performers.

So rather than bitch with my co-worker about the process I have decided instead the sweet spot in this insane system: coasting.  Since I only have another 30 or so months less the entire appeal of getting my income to compound is much less important than getting my investments to compound.  After all the tax rate on most of my investment is less than my job income anyway.

Therefore I have said goodbye to the following:

  • Extra effort to get the job done.  Why bother when I have been informed that won’t be rewarded anyway?
  • Working late or coming in early.  Nope. My contract stated 40 hours a week and I’m sticking to it.
  • Going above what was asked of me.  Again why put in the effort when my only reward is more work?  Which seems to get dropped on my plate anyway, so why add the stress?
  • Speaking of work, I now will try to actively avoid extra tasks.  No volunteering to help out with a project that isn’t assigned to me or saying yes to requests.  My default answer is now: no.

In HR lingo I’m now ‘actively disengaged’ or in plain English:  I just can’t scrap together the motivation to give a damn about what I do.  I show up, do my work and then leave and never think about it much beyond that.  Which I could perhaps feel bad about it until you Google workplace engagement and realize that majority of workers (depending on the study 60 to 70% of your workplace) either are just apathetic to work or outright hate their jobs.  On the spectrum, I’m not into hating my job at this point I just refuse to put anything resembling like extra effort into a system that only punishes people who try and be engaged.

So that is the tale of my lack of motivation at work.  How is your workplace?  Does it also choke out extra work for no actual benefit to the employee? Or worse yet give extra work to the high performers because they are more productive? Or do you just game the system for all its worth?

The Month Off Report

So today is my last day of my currently month long vacation.  This will have been the third time I’ve done this now and I have to say I’ve learned a few things that I found interesting.  Perhaps the most telling thing is this I’m just starting to think about bit about work now and what I have to get started on when I get back and oddly enough I’m not dreading it.

I think what happens to me after taking off a longer period of time is I actually managed to detox from work.  I really do cease to care about it, think about it or even want to do anything about it.  I was contacted once during my vacation via text to confirm one small fact which I was able to answer in two sentences.  Perhaps the most difficult thing I had to adjust to was since I had a work issued cell phone was getting in the habit of not even reading the subject lines of work emails as they came in.  Otherwise, I didn’t do anything related to my job and as I mentioned to my boss: work had become a hazy memory.  I recalled it, but I no longer felt it effecting me.

In my case, I can detox fairly quickly from my job since I have set it up to be lower stress and have learned to let go of things that happen there.  I can’t control much at work, so why waste the energy pretending that I can.  Also it helps that I have a great boss now that really just cares about the results.  He is the kind of guy who gets when you say: I’ve finished what I need to get done and now I’m leaving early to my kids swimming lesson.  He replies: sounds good, have a good night.  Yes, I’m very lucky in that regard…I know.

Of course I did do some traveling on this trip, but rather than being a burden of trying to shove in too much we took it easy and did two main trips: one to Vancouver Island (where I got the chance to meet up with long time reader jon_snow, hi jon) and the other to visit family in Alberta.  Both were fun and I enjoyed doing them but at the same time we did have a week at home as well in there so it was nice to get a few things done around the house and of course play some video games (it is a vacation after all!). I even managed to be interviewed for story for CBC see here.

Yet if this life were to continue on in early retirement I can easily say I don’t think I would ever get bored.  I mean I had full days as is and could have easily tried to cram in more stuff, but resisted the urge and made sure to have some relaxing time in as well.  I have so much that I want to read, watch, write, or do around the house that I can see just going along forever with out running out of things to do.  I noticed my to do still filled up rather quickly without much effort on my part.

So in the end, I think I’m ready to leave work at least mentally able to do it.  I won’t be begging to come back after getting bored or even worry about it after I go.  Only about 20 more months of work left…I’m looking forward to the end of it.

Did you ever take an extended break from work?  Did you enjoy it or what did you learn?

A History of Labour – Part I

I once heard that: life is the sum of the decisions we make.  Which does hold a certain amount of truth when I look back at my career at least.  My current job is very much the sum of everything I have previous done and learned.  So I thought in the interest of sharing a bit of history of my jobs over the years might be useful on what worked and where I screwed up to help me along my path to early retirement.  Yet because I believe I am now on job number 12 or 13 (my count is most likely wrong) since I got my degree, I won’t just be writing this for the next few months.  Instead I’ll try to provide a new episode each week and we we eventually get around to my current job.  I will caution many of these posts will be very long, because it really just takes that long to tell the tale.

To start, we will skip past my various odd jobs growing up and my teenager years and instead jump right to the beginning of my career.

Year 0 AD (AD = After Degree)

I learned at and early age I tended to be further ahead of most of the people I know in life experience. So while every else just got their degree in the spring of 2000, I also was planning to be married that fall.  Which does makes sense in the respect I met my future wife for my first day at university in 1996, so after four years of dating. (Which by the way dating an engineer while getting their degree is like dog years…honestly we are shitty boyfriends as we tend to have horrible schedules with just 40 hours of week of lecture and lab time and then homework on top of that.  My wife likes to say she earned her engagement ring and it is basically true.)

Anyway the odd part of getting married was I wasn’t looking too hard for a career job at that point in my life.  I didn’t particularly want to move to Alberta as many of my classmates were at that time, but I wasn’t going to be supported by my parents anymore, so I fell back on my old skill set and got a job at a local pub in the kitchen.  The pay suck and I was grossly over qualified for it, but as I explained to the kitchen manager I needed to pay rent.  He decided to take a chance I won’t be around long.

It worked out well for him.  I could already cook because my mother insisted we learn that skill (god bless her foresight on that one) so I learned the menu in like two weeks.  Perhaps the only real downside to the job in general was I worked the evening shift so I started late afternoon and didn’t finish until after midnight. Beyond that I actually like my boss and co-workers overall.  Nice people for the most part which was just about required to deal with our weekly hell: wing night.

Normally cooking an order or two of wings on any given night wasn’t a big deal.  Yet this particular pub they had a wing night and a cheaper beer night on the same day, so in an university town your business tended to be outright nuts on those nights.  We literally went through  tens of thousands of wings those nights in several hundred orders.  The entire thing was a stress inducing hell hole of work which to this day provides me with a measure of respect to serving and cooking staff in restaurants.  Getting slammed sucks, but doing it for three hours straight ever week is just insanity.

Yet during my basic training at that job, I started to make a few changes just to help me do the work.  I started a closing checklist as I could never keep all 26 steps straight in my head.  I helped reorganize a few things around the kitchen to make the work go a bit smoother.  Then by chance about six months in the night shift kitchen manager quit and I was offered the job.  Despite being one of the newest guys on staff (yes this pissed off a few of the more senior kitchen staff members).

I initially said: no.  The job did pay an extra buck an hour which was nice, but I was concerned I would be settling in here which when I still hadn’t even started my career yet was freaking me out.  In the end after a few weeks of realize I did half the job already anyway.  So I ended up training the new staff and getting used to managing people around who were mainly older than I was.  Oddly I realized early on that if you treat people as well people, they don’t give a crap if you are ten years their junior.

All in all the job ended out working just fine to help us pay our bills until after we got married.  But for an additional complication I was also trying to stay in Saskatchewan…mainly because all our family was around either Saskatoon or Regina.  But I was rapidly finding that wasn’t going to be possible.  So just when I got my head around starting to apply for jobs in Alberta then I got a interview out of the blue for a job that I didn’t even apply for.

Summary

Lessons Learned

  • Do a good job regardless if it isn’t hard.
  • Learn to cope with stress or go insane.
  • Being competent is a good way to earn more.
  • Make things better where you can.
  • Service level work is an excellent motivator for getting an education…thinking of doing wing nights for the next forty years was an excellent motivation to keep applying for jobs in my field.

Financial Progress – Almost none.  I covered expenses and made minimum payments on our $60,000 in student debt that my wife and I had.