back to article Annual reviews: It's high time we rid the world of this insanity

An inescapable and widely dreaded fact of life for people employed in the financial industry is the annual review. Unlike the way this process might have worked a few decades ago, and still does in most other industries, it’s not a simple matter of sitting down with your manager at the end of the year for a casual discussion of …

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Anonymous Coward

And this is why I'm an IT contractor

My appraisal process is easy. If they like me I get renewed. If they like me a lot or are scared of me going I get renewed with a rate-rise.

Anonymous Coward, obviously...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

It's not so much different on the "permie" side of the fence. Seems we now have an annual redundancy process, and if you make it through that, you can assume you did okay on your annual appraisal. Of course, zero expectation of a bonus in the spring - if the firm was making any money they wouldn't have had to have the redundancies.

Anon, for the same reasons...

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Happy

Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

Nearly-

if the firm was making any money after the Chief's Bonuses are paid out they wouldn't have had to have the redundancies.

FTFY.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

+1 It changes your mindset and you have less stress about such things.

As well as letting people go, "you're unexpectedly rubbish" is also handy if the bonus pot is rather small this year.

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Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

Totally agree - I used to contract and I saw the pain permies went through year on year at various companies, it was sorrowful. As a contractor the best bit was that I didn't have to care about all that

And it worked well for management as well - they didn't have to appraise my character, team play, and a load of other impossible to quantify vectors, and write paragraphs about them, they just signed a sheet every month and I showed up again the next month. They loved it, frankly so did I.

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Mushroom

Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

Mr Edwards Demming - the man who got the Japanese industries going after WWII - in his profound cleverness said, "Annual reviews are bullshit" (shortened and refined somewhat).

He said, (more or less) that Annual Reviews are just total fucking mental illness gone haywire.

http://deming.org/

Some of these videos are parts of series - but they are worth downloading as a higher quality video and studying much.

Much better than all these fucking morons in management.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehMAwIHGN0Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67B1DZlDTF4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MJ3lGJ4OFo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfkQHEBYJjk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jc5fDsgVw0

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

I agree, one of the big advantages of contracting is avoiding the monkey-wank of the annual review.

Two of the sickest cos' I have worked in also had the most broken annual review schemes.

The first one was the use of the "annual bonus pot", a fixed percentage of profits was allocated for the annual bonus thereby creating the manager mentality that the less I give to you the more there is for me. My experience of that was a manager who would ask if their pet project X implemented yet, to be told that it hadn't because projects A B C D E and F had highest priority (usually the roll out of service pack to address critical problems). The manager then goes to managers meeting and announces that employee is holding up project X. No bonus for employee. When I announced I was leaving I started hearing other horror stories like the employee who was refused a bonus because they didn't do enough unpaid overtime. The reason that the employee didn't do any overtime was because they the only person in the section capable of doing their days work within a normal working day. Company eventually went tits up.

Company two allocated bonuses according to the dreaded bell curve. To score a 4 and be eligible for a bonus you had "exceed all your targets", Exceed only 99.999999999% of your targets, well that not all so no bonus again, but I did consistently score what managers call a "high 3" whatever that is, it's still not a 4. Still I'm glad I never scored a 4 because it meant that somebody else didn't have to get a 2 to to keep the bell curve balanced.

And managers wonder why the plebs are cynical of the review process?????

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Facepalm

Quoting dead people is for the lazy

Remind me again how well Japan is doing ? While you're at it, do me a favour and explain the similarity between manufacturing and finance that leads you to believe Demming's view is relevant.

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Buy yourself out

I stated to my manager that I was buying myself out of the process.

He said that wasn't an option, that there was no process for buying out of the process, that it was the only way to get a raise, etc.

I told him the annual raise that I wasn't going to get would be what I'd use to buy myself out.

Got him, and the HR department, in a right old tiz.

Thoroughly enjoyable experience, that was.

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jai
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Re: Buy yourself out

that's brilliant! i'm so going to try that next week!

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Pirate

Re: Buy yourself out

I tried that and the management and HR went completely froot loop. Then went barmy 'cos their bonuses were calculated on the percentage of completed assessments. It got as far as being threatened with written warnings but I held out as they could not actually sack me. What spoilt the management attempts to get me to take part was their reluctance acceptance that the whole assessment process was an utter waste of time for anything except to get the percentage figures up.

Course they didnt know that I was going to hand my notice in with a couple of months

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WTF?

Re: Buy yourself out??

OK, I don't understand. Can someone explain this concept?

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JDX
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Re: Buy yourself out??

Effectively saying he wanted to pay not to have to go through the process. He was going to pay with the bonus he wouldn't receive for not complying.

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Thumb Up

Re: Buy yourself out??

@Gene - didn't see your question. JDX answered it more concisely than I ever would have.

I see I've a downvote - who knew my manager read the register!

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Anonymous Coward

Hehe...

As someone needing to keep stuff going all year round as a sysadmin I consider an anual review completely and utterly pointless... And I have stated this to my manager this year when I had it. After sleeping on it she actually agree on it. If I wasn't doing my work stuff wouldn't be working and it would be blatantly obvious. So for me it now really is a nice chat with a few forms to copy from last year and adjust some things.

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Anonymous Coward

Is it really just the financial services industry that follows this kind of process? I work in IT in the FS industry and go through this rigmarole, but I assumed it was common in any large company?

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FAIL

I blame the MBAs

They seem to have crept into management positions like fungus and all seem to come armed with the conviction that if they have a number for something, they have an understanding of it and they're managing it. So everything is reduced to a number, whether it's implicitly numerical or not.

Classic examples from my past: assessment grades based on whether or not 'objectives' were missed badly, missed, met, exceeded, exceeded impressively. And then an objective that had a 100% requirement to meet, like 'fills in time sheet every week'. And an annual pay rise that depended on a significant number of 'exceeded' or 'impressively' grades. Or objectives to do a certain number of training courses, the funding and the time for which were assigned (hah!) by someone other than me and beyond my control.

I think I refused to accept the appraisal five years on the trot.

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Thumb Up

Re: I blame the MBAs

"......if they have a number for something, they have an understanding of it....." Never a truer word has been spoken! I'd upvote your post a dozen times if I could.

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Busted!

>>All the “exceeds expectations” rankings this person had received were lowered to “fails to meet expectations<<

I've seen that situation; someone changed the definitions to show a below acceptable score resulting in the person being fired. However, the person had managed to keep a paper copy of all of the forms; these were handed to a legal advisor. Once the company had received a letter detailing the exact information and realised they had been caught out, they quickly agreed to a very handsome settlement out of court. The person concerned is now quite happily enjoying an early retirement with many years still to go and no need to ever work again. (And it was someone working in HR!)

The review process should be a very valuable way of motivating staff; sadly, we have too many PHBs that know bugger all apart from what bonus they should be getting.

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Silver badge

Re: Busted!

".... someone changed the definitions to show a below acceptable score resulting in the person being fired....." I was once asked to "find something we can fire that guy on" and refused as it was constructive dismissal. The guy concerned (who was simply a pr*ck rather than being incompetant) left soon after of his own accord, someone having (allegedly) pointed out to him it was probably better to find another berth.

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Thumb Up

Re: Busted!

"However, the person had managed to keep a paper copy of all of the forms; these were handed to a legal advisor. "

very smart move.

Should be SOP when dealing with PHB's.

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Anonymous Coward

you (the author) obviously had bad experiences. every goal has to be numerically measurable, without any subjective points. I find them beneficial, if you don't need to spend more than 1 day per year with your own review. I agree though the these reviews are a weapon when needing the fire somebody in a company with a strong work union.

Some companies though need to line the goals of that employee at the beginning of the year (sales: sell so much; research: take that and that course to be compliant and be allowed to work).

Also these discussions are also used to help the employee find her way in the professional life, if done properly.

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Anonymous Coward

Not at RBS it wasn't

When we went into our appraisal meetings they'd already decided our pay-rise and bonus. By 2008 they were already assigning departments a "quota" of how many 1-5 they could have. Our department was told we couldn't have any 5s, so the best you could hope for was a 4. That was motivating.

As a line manager but not a departmental head it was doubly frustrating, as I got told by my manager what grades to assign to each member of my team, regardless of what was actually written on their appraisals. We spent half the appraisal meeting talking about this and how I was going to break this to my team. Needless to say, I got killed when I did my appraisal meetings with my team.

Unsurprisingly, we all left RBS within about a year of each other.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not at RBS it wasn't

yip

It was a bit like the current Kwik Fit adverts.

It was "mates ratings" when it came to what you got - nothing was based on what you did.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not at RBS it wasn't

They've solved this at RBS now. They fired most of the permies.

Anon, as I'm still there

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Re: Re: Not at RBS it wasn't

"When we went into our appraisal meetings they'd already decided our pay-rise and bonus. By 2008 they were already assigning departments a "quota" of how many 1-5 they could have....." Saw something similar when contracting at a non-financial a few years earlier. What was worse was the managers' scores were largely based on savings made on their departmental budget, and since training and pay came out of the departmental budget it was in the managers' own interests to restrict payrises and ensure the reviews did not highlight any requirements for training. It was a sure-fire way to drive the good staff out of the company and I picked up two of them as contractors at my next gig.

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Anonymous Coward

Bull..

I agree though that these reviews are a weapon when needing the fire somebody in a company with a strong work union

No, no, no. You live in cloud cuckoo land, sorry. It's a weapon for a company which doesn't like paying redundancy. If they can engineer a bad performance review for you, they can dismiss you without that unwanted impact on their bonus pool. To cloak what is happening, they usually have some "performance improvement" process which means you get to report so often and so detailed you are actually not in a position to do your wrk properly.

I'm not sure if you could suggest companies to inspect, but if there is a government department that could investigate this sort of activity (for instance, to establish eligibility for government work) I know where I could point them. Plenty of witnesses.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not at RBS it wasn't

Ooooohhhhhh....... How did Stephen Fester et al do in their reviews this year after the massive fuck-up due to off-shoring CA7 work to India?

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Re: Bull..

"but if there is a government department that could investigate this sort of activity (for instance, to establish eligibility for government work) "

Most government departments do this themselves now!

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Pint

Contracting definitely has its appeal

I have a project. If I do the project on time and to a good standard we're done. Maybe I'll get another, maybe I won't, maybe I'll take it, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll raise my rates, maybe I won't.

But there's no bullshit appraisal based on management opinions. There's no writing down your useless goals for the year which are irrelevant a month later, never mind a year later when you have to try and twist what you actually did into a narrative that somehow supports what you said you were going to do, despite the fact those goals were discarded ages ago and you did an awesome job on whatever the hell else it was you were doing but somehow that might not count because it doesn't align with the agreed targets and anyway you haven't been engaging with the wider company and perhaps we can push for a little more leadership training in the next period and would you like to write an article for the staff news letter next month and by the way we've got an all-hands staff meeting this afternoon that's going to take three hours but be entirely content free because the visiting that exec has mastered the art of saying long strings of vaguely encouraging sounding words without conveying anything close to what might be considered a fact, factoid or piece of information in them......

Bugger all that for a lark.

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Facepalm

Ironic

Nice article about rating colleagues and peers on the very day El Reg brings in Badges.

Badges which are awarded based on contribution record, and at higher levels on peer rating.

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Joke

Re: Ironic

This might be taken as meaning that you are taking these badges FAR too seriously

OOH! Shiny!

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Black Helicopters

Re: Ironic

"based on contribution record" and thus how little time you spend doing your real job ;)

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Devil

Re: Re: Ironic

"based on contribution record" - I note you need to get so many upvotes for a gold, so maybe that should be how much popularist ar$e-kissing you post?

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Stop

Re: Ironic

Two things:

1) Lighten up, Francis.

2) I just upvoted *Matt Bryant.* I may faint.

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JDX
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Re: Ironic

>>I note you need to get so many upvotes for a gold

No you don't. That's the kind of comprehension failure that would be marked for "needs improvement"

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This post has been deleted by its author

Devil

Re: Ironic

Do down votes count against for the total?

I think I feel a guerilla anti-badge campaign in the offing.

Now all we need is a motivational tool to encourage down voting. Perhaps awards for services to negation honoured by badges...

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FAIL

Having participated in this lark at a very large bank for nine years...

I can definitively say, that it is simply the biggest load of bullshit. For two months of the year, there is intense focus on "reviews", and the number of reviews that one has to do can vary from 10-30 reviews (other people's in addition to your own.)

Most end up being a cut-and-paste job, and really, if you want to stitch someone up, it's the perfect way to do it (I know, I got stitched up* - and by that point, it's too late to do anything about it.) I really see no point in them, if your manager sees what you do day in day out, why is a written essay required to re-highlight your activities throughout the year. It's for this and budgeting that middle management exists because once the reviews are done, the next activity that keeps them busy is budgeting.

It's great if you are a junior though, means those without a clue stay out of your hair for about half of the year.

* - not sour at all about it, got a nice little pay-off when I was made redundant...

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Anonymous Coward

Should be mandatory declared

Perhaps if the shareholders had to be informed of how many expensive man-hours were wasted on this crap rather than doing something productive.......

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Joke

Re: Should be mandatory declared

Good idea. Some appraisal systems I have seen could very efficiently be replaced by throwing darts. You simply take the score modulo 5 and there you are!

Some employees might prefer throwing darts at senior management, however.

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Re: Should be mandatory declared

On the other hand - given what a mess the banks make of things when they are only working 10mnths/year, perhaps the reviews should be made monthly?

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Go

Re: Should be mandatory declared

"Perhaps if the shareholders had to be informed of how many expensive man-hours were wasted on this crap rather than doing something productive....."

Like.

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Black Helicopters

It normally gets you sacked but not promoted or that illusive bonus..

My experience is that no matter how well you do by the time the bonus pot gets to the IT boys its all spent!

Promotions, well only if you are cut from the same cloth as those cloned middle managers and none of us really are. Besides do you want middle management promotion? Doubt it you only want the reward for you skills.

I am still kicking myself for being such a fool thinking if I worked like a dog I would be rewarded. The good thing is I noticed my mistake after a few years and switched to contracting..

You work hard, produce the goods and they like you, you get renewed. Simple for everyone.

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Anonymous Coward

... stack rank, forced curves and sacraficial drones

this isn't just the finance industry... it's anywhere where bright young MBAs have a hand in management through business books.

as a former employee of the company that brought you Vista I can report it's out of control and tearing the company apart. Not only the mindless paperwork involved, the peer rating and 360 reviews and the mid-year check-in but you overlay that on a dog eat dog forced curve stackrank where survival depends on you not being in the bottom 10% and any chance of a bonus means you have to be at least in the median group ... and they wonder why morale is shot to hell?

Sure, you need a way of evaluating and appraising individuals and teams, especially in a large organization but having the process turn into a driving factor for decision making (can I send out a self congratulatory email if I do X) means you stop focussing on your customers and start competing with your peers...

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Unhappy

Re: ... stack rank, forced curves and sacraficial drones

"where survival depends on you not being in the bottom 10% and any chance of a bonus means you have to be at least in the median group ... and they wonder why morale is shot to hell?"

But the beatings must continue till the morale improves.

Do you think that management might have lost sight of the purpose of all this?

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Happy

Don't worry, it's all random anyway

According to author Daniel Kahneman (Nobel price in Economics) in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, perceived "performance" in the financial industry is all an illusion based on random factors. So don't worry about those reviews, it's just a roll of the dice anyway. :)

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Unhappy

Never mind

It'll be objective setting season soon

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Thumb Down

We're in the middle of it at the moment. This year though our goals and aspirations are apparently not relevant. It appears that they want us to say what we did well and what we'd do better.

I'm a programmer. I wrote code. I hope to..um..write more code?

Oh and one group says it shouldn't take longer than fifteen minutes and another tells me I've not put enough detail in.

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Unhappy

"I'm a programmer. I wrote code. I hope to..um..write more code?"

But imagine this conversation.

"boss. John (moustache twitching) we've noticed you use structured constructs in your code"

"me That's what we were taught to use in the latest version of the language"

"boss. We normally use GOTO's for compatibility with the old machine"

"me. Err right. If then else bad, GOTO good."

"boss.OK then, carry on."

This is neither an UL nor a funny story. It happened in the early 90's.

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