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  D.F.'s Column Archive

January 8, 2007

And Now, the 360 Performance Review


Ah, the employee performance review. There’s nothing a CEO enjoys more. OK, having all the skin peeled off my head before it’s boiled in acid – I’ll grant you that one. But otherwise, the employee review is tops.


Several things can happen. All of them are bad. If the review is positive, the employee expects a raise, an assistant, a bigger office, more authority or more vacation time. Wait. Did I say “or”? The employee wants all of those.


If the review is negative, but not bad enough for firing, I’ve got a nervous, paranoid person walking around. What’s more, if I give the employee improvement measures, I have to work with him or her to make sure he or she is meeting them. Ick. More work for me. It would be easier if I just did these people’s jobs for them.


And if you fire the person, well, then you fire them. Crying. Last checks. COBRA. Letters from lawyers. Oh yeah, and the person is destitute.


So it’s hard to imagine how employee performance reviews could be made any worse. But one should never underestimate corporate America, because someone has found a way. Say hello to the 360 Performance Review.


An idea of brilliance rivaling the League of Nations, the XFL and the Gigli, the 360 Performance Review manages to get everyone in trouble while providing everyone with the opportunity to misuse power and create problems for others. It is so perfect, it’s hard to believe they weren’t using it at Enron.


Here’s how it works. First, you have the regular old review. The supervisor reviews the employee. This is standard fare. Crying. Bigger office demands. Paranoia. Insert applicable annoyance. This drill, you know.


But wait. There’s more. Next, the employee reviews the supervisor. OK, a bit novel, but with an open-minded supervisor, this might work out all right. Oh, but we’re not finished yet. The employee reviews the supervisor, not to the supervisor, but to the supervisor’s boss.


Now we’re talking about a major supervision triangle!


“Miss Britches, I want you to be totally frank in assessing Frank.”


“Totally frank in assessing Frank?”


“Totally candid. Frank. About Frank, I mean.”


Where to begin if you’re Miss Britches? You know, whenever Frank comes up to my desk, I’ve noticed that he runs his fingers across my mousepad in a very sensual manner. Is that anything?


Frank’s boss takes copious notes.


“Very interesting. Very interesting!”


Remember the time when Frank made Miss Britches stay late and finish his report, then he didn’t give her credit when he turned it in? Hmm. Wonder if the boss knows about that. Let’s just find out.


Thanks to the 360 Performance Review, we have a grab-bag of relationships so twisted that even a “One Life to Live” fan would find it implausible. All three of the people involved are passing judgment on someone. The employee on her own supervisor. The supervisor on the employee. And the supervisor’s boss on the supervisor, and in truth, on the employee as well.


And both the employee and the supervisor are on the hot seat. Improvement measure, checkpoints and extra work for everyone! Times nine.


All this because someone reached a six-month anniversary date. The 360 Performance Review. I’ve heard some ideas in my time, and that’s one of them.


Well, if Corporate America is going to breed paranoia, time-wasting and organizational insecurity, at least it has the decency to name its method of destruction after a cool number from geometry. This column is over. Go ahead and send comments to my editors, but be warned. I’ll be ripping you too.


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