The performance review

Hello! I got wrapped up at work doing my job and didn’t have time to post for a while. Sorry!

Anyway, having been at Bureau Kensington for a year – how did that happen already? – last week I had my annual performance review.

The only other performance review I’ve ever done was about ten years ago for a menial job I held at a certain mega-corporation which shall remain nameless. The point of that review, at least from the point of view of the employee, was to determine how big of a raise you got. The employee was graded on a scale of 1-3 – 1 being inadequate; 2 meeting expectations; and 3 constantly exceeding expectations. A review of mostly 1s meant disciplinary action/firing; mostly 2s meant a 5% raise (about $0.40/hour); mostly 3s meant a 25% raise, which is huge if you’re making just above minimum wage. Sounds fair, right? Well, it’s hard to “constantly exceed expectations” in a food service environment – the expectations were basically “prepare the customer’s order to standard, tidy up the store, and be friendly and welcoming to people”. How do you go up from there? – and suffice to say hardly anyone ever got it.

I didn’t. While I did the job perfectly adequately, I lacked the interest or motivation to go the extra mile – the only exceeding expectations I ever did was to track down and contact a lawyer who left his jacket behind in the shop. (As a reward he offered me 30% off legal services if I ever needed them. Sadly I’ve lost his business card, so if I ever commit a crime I’ll have to pay full price for my defense.) So I got mostly 2s and a 40 cent raise and quit a few months later, which was probably exactly what the company wanted.

My performance review at Bureau Kensington was obviously very different. For one thing, it involved a self-evaluation as well as a managerial evaluation. For another, it was much more about finding areas of growth, development, and improvement than in finding fault or weeding out bad employees.

It’s probably inevitable that a large company like Nameless Mega-Corporation would have to have a more or “top down” performance review process. There’s a big difference between reviewing the performance of several thousand employees in a heirarchical, low-wage environment, and reviewing a handful of professionals working collaboratively. However, as the one being reviewed, I can tell you a learned much more from the kindler, gentler, less loaded-against-the-employee Bureau Kensington review.

Judging from that entirely scientific tool, Google’s autocomplete function, performance reviews in general are not viewed favourably. When I typed “performance reviews are” into the search box, 3 of the 4 suggestions were “useless”, “bad”, and “a waste of time”. And my experience at Nameless Mega-Corporation made me share that opinion. The performance review I got there was all about making sure the company got its maximum value out of the princely $8/hour I was getting paid, nothing more.

But, you know, feedback is necessary for growth. If you want to get better at something – whatever that means – you need to know how good you are at it now, what you’re strong in, what you need to work on, what you’re missing entirely. For example, being without a conventional work history I know I have – along with some impressive skills and experience – some major gaps in my understanding of the customs of the corporate environment. (Remember the pink boots?) I went into my performance review last week somewhat nervous and apprehensive and came out feeling both affirmed that I am doing my job well and that I had tools and direction to improve and grow.

Starting next week I’ll be reading and responding to some more group relations texts. Stay tuned!


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