The Weekend Muse

Random thoughts from my daily experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Performance appraisal’

Towards the (annual) Judgement day…

Posted by Shrini on March 20, 2011

Having been part of various corporate crusades for over 19 years, I’ve picked up some lessons – both from my successes / failures or by simply watching others. What I mention in the next few paragraphs, is nothing new to the corporate denizens of this great nation. We have internalized these experiences to an extent where lack of these would render us completely lost and directionless. Most of us are quite happy slaving for a salary that is constantly reducing in real terms – a situation arising from the fact that our salary hikes do not keep up with the galloping inflation rates. We happily sacrifice all other aspects of our personal life – a quality time with the family and friends, pursuing a hobby, travel on a holiday etc., in favour of spending more time at the workplace – doing something “over and above” their contracted or expected deliverable, so that they can be branded with an adjective like “Outstanding”, “Exceptional”, “Strong”, etc., by our bosses. We will discuss more about this branding in the next paragraph.

To begin with, I would like to start by defining our ilk as this growing army of wealth creators of our great nation, who are considered fairly smart, industrious and successful. We are the shining examples of a new breed of Indians who are well educated, are willing to work long hours, and are extremely competitive. We do not mind being graded like cattle on a three or four point scale, besides being slotted (in some organizations) into a 9-box matrix based on our “Performance” and “Potential”. It’s of course, an entirely different discussion on the credibility of those who slots us into these categories – and we shall certainly pick that up later. For this article, we will briefly touch upon the exercise and its outcome.

This classification is done on an annual basis, in an elaborate corporate ritual called the year-end performance appraisal. There are interesting theories around how corporates take extreme precautions and install tools to make this exercise “transparent” and “inclusive”. The truth however is something else – where the person annotated “The Boss” has already formed his opinion, which he shares with his “Subordinate” in an elaborate justification exercise called “the annual appraisal discussion”. These formal courtships involve predefined moves where the boss is expected to first praise the subordinate for all the positive actions and attributes displayed during the year in question, only to follow it up very quickly with a laundry list of his pet gripes – stuff that the subordinate ostensibly ignored to achieve during the last year. The length of either of these lists is usually inversely proportional to each other and depends on the “rating” the boss has decided for his victim. The length of the discussion itself lasts anywhere between a few minutes to sometimes a few days – all depending on the foolhardiness of the subordinates who on most occasions, harbour notions of being capable of deciding the outcome of these sessions. The subordinate, of course, has the recourse to go “one-over” to his bosses’ boss! But what the poor fellow does not realise, is that usually, the superior boss has no opinion and is just happy to go with – and justify – the status quo.

To the un-initiated, the moot question troubling them would be – why the farce? Why does one have to subject themselves to this meaningless ritual if it is not worth the while? Well, ladies and gentlemen, what makes this entire annual exercise significant for all the parties involved, is that it culminates into the “the Rewards” exercise. This Rewards exercise is an interesting sequence of moves involving dissecting and sharing “The Pot” (not to be confused in any manner with the one at the end of the rainbow) of money between the entire team – this is the “Annual hike” and the “Bonus” paid by the management to its employees once every year. For the employee, the receipt of these pay raises and bonuses may or may not have the same positive connotation as suggested by the words “Raise” and “Bonus”. However, let’s concede they are usually better off than where they were, before this exercise and so we will leave it at that!

The good news is that the above branding (euphemistically called a rating) is applicable only for one year. We are back into the race, without a breather, at the beginning of the next term/year, slugging it out with our colleagues to remain at the “Top 20%” of the pack or at best resign to our fate and be rated amongst the “Valued 70%” – even God cannot help those who slide to the “Bottom 10%.

Many a times I have dreamt of escaping from this endless cycle, and stop making money for someone else sitting on top of the food chain. One of these days, I will be free of this self-inflicted slavery and either do “something on my own” or build a “nest egg” large enough to retire to a peaceful life. Till that day is reached, my wont is to continue struggling to find that elusive dream job in the corporate jungle that is going to deliver me the elusive combination of job satisfaction and a handsome remuneration.


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