Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stormed Out of my Performance Review

Today, I did something I have NEVER done in my career.  I stormed out of my performance review.  The thing is, it's not exactly what you think.  First, a little back story.

Let's make an imaginary rating system where you can get anywhere from a 1-5.  A 3 means you did your job, nothing more, nothing less.  A 5 means you did awesome things, and a 1 means you failed horribly.  In theory, the distribution of employees, if objectives are written properly, should be somewhat like a bell-curve, possibly skewed to the higher-end a bit (with the center around 3.2 maybe).  Ok, that's all fine and dandy.  But wait....we don't want to hurt people's feelings, so we need some rules.  If you want to give someone a one, you have to tell them months in advance, to give them a chance to do their job.  You have to repeatedly tell them "You suck" and do that over and over again until they fail or finally get motivated.  Even then, they can fight the rating and cause you headaches.  To give someone a 2, you at least have to warn them months in advance.  This all means more work for your boss, so it is easier to give people a 3 and just be done with it.

Alright, so now we have a 3-5 scale realistically....but wait....we can't give out 5s.  No one deserves a 5.  You have to walk on water to get a 5 and no one can do that, so we are down to a 3-4 scale, with 3 being everything to sucked ass->did your job and the rest of the scale (with one decimal point precision) is exceeded your expectations.  But Managers won't want to rate someone who succeeded with the same score as someone who failed, so it really becomes a micro-chasm of the overall scale from 3.0-4.0 being similar to 1-5.  Now stick a roughly bell-curve in that, and ~3.5 will become an "average" employee.  This is how the system ACTUALLY works, but not how it is supposed to work, so imagine all scores skewed to this reality.

Next, in steps a manager that is going to use the 3-4 for what they are supposed to be AND FOR THE EXTREMES.  So, if you really should get a 1-3, you get a 3.  If you should really get a 4-5, you get a 4.  Now you are lumping the employees who do their job with the worst of the worse.  This is where it gets complicated for me with my impostor syndrome, but if everyone keeps telling you that you do great things, you come to expect a score that is good (on the 3-4 with 3.5 being average scale) and you get a score that is good on the 1-5 w/ 3 being average scale, you will be disappointed and at a strategic disadvantage to those who were scored on the idea that 3.5 is the average.  So, that brings us to the first problem, wherein I found myself in this situation and my boss seemed to shrug off my concerns.

Rub # 2 was me stating that I was feeling that management didn't appreciate the work I have done (specifically the boss I was talking to, the deputy actually shows appreciation).  My boss reacted as though I was a head case that needed constant reassuring that I was doing good work.  That wasn't the point of my statement, I just want you to acknowledge I do good work, considering how much the customers say that.  If all I ever here from you is negative stuff, that will shape my opinion of you.

At this point, I was very frustrated, so I said that I was getting to the point where I was ready to head out the door (of the organization).  There are lots of people who will attest that I have done good->excellent work, and my project is where it is largely because of my hard work.  If I were to leave, there would be a significant impact on the project.  My boss reacted, not by saying "Let's talk through this" or "what can we do" but instead saying "do what you have to do."  WOW!  Feeling the love again there.  Apparently you care so little for me or my project that you don't care if I leave?  Wow.

Slight interjection - I don't handle anger and frustration well unless I have an outlet.  That outlet can be the ability to flog my car around a race track, yell at the top of my lungs, or punch something inanimate.  None of these are possible at work.  When I don't have an outlet, I tend to start shaking, my voice trembles, and my eyes tear up out of frustration as I try to hold in the massive yell I want to let out.  This is the point I was at.

With my trembling voice I said "This conversation is not going to be constructive, I need to go." and got up and started walking away.  My boss tried to stop me and I said "I have learned that when I am this happy, I need to walk away."

This was in the afternoon after I had been at work about 8 1/2 hours.  Two hours later I had a meeting that my boss was also planning on attending.  My boss showed up a bit late, and left early, but fortunately was there for the part of the meeting that was largely praise of my project, my efforts and my team.  It felt like a bit of vindication, and after one of the compliments, I am sure I had the biggest grin on my face when I said thank you as my boss looked pissed off in the back of the room.  That said, I still need to "do what [I] have to do" and am weighing my options.  It is obvious that my boss either doesn't have my project's best interest, my best interests or both in mind and it is becoming a toxic situation.  I don't want to leave my user base, but this is the last straw.  I am exploring my outs, and will be talking to the boss one level up to see if there are any tenable options that involve me staying there, but that is unlikely.

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