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Surviving a Bad Performance Review

Under Neoliberalism, Social Darwinism predominates, assigning the most stringent performance requirements to everyone and everything: to be weak is to fail

News Books Recommended Links The psychopath in the corner office Diplomatic Communication Atomization and oppression of workforce Neoliberalism war on labor
Negative Politeness Over 50 and unemployed Insubordination Threat Alienation Bureaucratic Collectivism Bureaucratic Inertia Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition
Authoritarians Understanding Borderline Rage Anger trap Workaholism and Burnout Understanding Micromanagers and control freaks Bully Managers Narcissistic Managers
Steps for Decreasing Toxic Worry Signs that you might be dismissed soon Learned helplessness        
Office Stockholm Syndrom Rules of Verbal Self Defense Five Points Verbal Response Test Corporate bullshit as a communication method Slackerism Humor Etc
 

Ah, spring is here, and a young man's thoughts turn to the annual ritual of the performance review.
Well, amongst other thoughts anyway.

-- Anonymous

The cult of evaluation

Social Darwinism predominates, assigning the most stringent performance requirements to everyone and everything: to be weak is to fail. The foundations of our culture are overturned: every humanist premise is disqualified or demonetized because neoliberalism has the monopoly of rationality and realism. Margaret Thatcher said it in 1985: "There is no alternative." Everything else is utopianism, unreason and regression. The virtue of debate and conflicting perspectives are discredited because history is ruled by necessity.

This subculture harbours an existential threat of its own: shortcomings of performance condemn one to disappearance while at the same time everyone is charged with inefficiency and obliged to justify everything. Trust is broken. Evaluation reigns, and with it the bureaucracy which imposes definition and research of a plethora of targets, and indicators with which one must comply. Creativity and the critical spirit are stifled by management. And everyone is beating his breast about the wastage and inertia of which he is guilty.

Manuela Cadelli, The President of Belgian Magistrates

Neoliberalism is a form of Fascism , Aug 30, 2017


Performance review is an interesting and more modern perversion of Tolstoy "War and Peace" -- a novel way of warfare typical for neoliberal corporate jungles. Management almost always winning in those wars. We should view it as a form of neoliberal war of labor,  More often then not this is a dirty, and unfair game. Moreover like in many neocolonial wars, the warring parties are grossly unequal in military strength. 

In a very fundamental way this is a creature of neoliberal rationality and the term "performance review" is oxymoron.  It is anti-performance procedure by definition. One of the  goals of neoliberalism is atomization and oppression of workforce. Destroying solidarity by pitting workers against each other. This is a social system that is impliedly "anti_New Deal".

Neoliberalism rejects the idea of the team considering workforce as set of atomized, isolated individuals. And the idea and even a weak in some performance aspects member can be valuable member of the team is anathema to neoliberalism. They are brainwashed by the idea of 'top performers" and Bell curve. Such an idiots they are (please not the the term "idiot" is most applicable to brainwashed adherent of some obscure cult (and neoliberal is one of such cults)  and does not deny individual intelligence of such people)    So they judge everybody into the same stupid "performance criteria" which in a real large corporate environment are 80% fudged: lies beget lies. 

People in Western societies like to talk about democracy, but most of them (especially those who work for government, military or large corporations) spend most of their adult life is a classic authoritarian environment. Which in some ways is as harsh as the life of serfs during Middle Ages.

A medieval cruelty of this system, all those modern gargets and Internet  notwithstanding, is pretty evident to any unbiased observer.  And with neoliberal stress on performance, such  reviews suit the authoritarian instincts of higher level managers very well. And in more ways then one. It also makes revenge of bosses against subordinates a piece of cake. As well as sending people over 50 packing.

During the review two characters -- the boss and the subordinate --  discuss/clash over the history of past events which like any war history is faked and misinterpreted by both sides. Employees write fake facts in their evaluations, bosses either cannot distinguish them from truth or, more often, do not care as they have their own agenda which does not need all those stupid facts (which is often "Bell curve" that need to be fitted in such a way that does not hurt patsies and most productive workers do not leave.) 

So normally this is a pretty intricate, perverted dance of two liars. See Why employee performance reviews get bad reviews Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Results are usually prearranged and the subordinate can't change them. It's like a trail with only prosecutor and no judge or jury (which actually very typical of the US judicial system where most case result on plea bargain, the process in which prosecutor exercise almost absolute power). 

Problem becomes more acute, if you report to a psychopath or authoritarian manager. that's when performance reviews can become a real horror show reminding Stalin's show trials. As Marx quipped "History repeats ... first as tragedy, then as farce" . In this case this is often just a slightly more modern variant of a procedure pioneered by Catholic inquisition in a form of  Auto-da-fé and this is the problem to which this page is devoted.

Introduction

  Jurgis had come there, and thought he was going to make himself useful, and rise and become a skilled man, but he would soon find out his error—-for nobody rose in Packingtown by doing good work. You could lay that down for a rule — if you met a man who was rising in Packingtown, you met a knave.

That man who had been sent to Jurgis’s father by the boss, he would rise; the man who told tales and spied upon his fellows would rise; but the man who minded his own business and did his work —- why, they would “speed him up” till they had worn him out, and then they would throw him into the gutter.

Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

Theoretically hiring better people pays for itself, and once the company get them, it’s worth to take some efforts to keep them.  And it worth to keep them happy. But reality is quite different. It is important to understand that due to outsourcing, which is rampant under neoliberalism as a way to enforce labor arbitrage,  most companies stopped paying IT personnel wages and benefits to protect key people from bolting; rather they now pay on the level that permits to attract adequate replacement. You should keep in mind this small but important change if you ever decided to complain about your salary.

That means that in the current situation  we will not exaggerate much if we adopt a working hypothesis that  most IT organizations do not give a rat’s ass about IT employees. Of course, it's a two way street and it is fair to say that many employees also do not give much for the company interests. Or just can't do because of technical or other incompetence.

But all-in-all it looks to me that that in IT environment, employees are usually much more “loyal” to fellow employees and the company than their employer is to them.  humans need a sense of belonging for psychological well-being. Alienation  is a painful socio-psychological condition. the net result often is a one sided a non-shared love story ;-) 

Most IT organizations do not give a rat’s ass about IT employees. Under neoliberalism the rule is that they usually can hire a similar person on a similar level of competence for the same money, if a particular person leave. Or less money by changing the position to outsourced or offshore labor. They are typically not that afraid of being burned before some major, very costly mishap. Employees positions are designed to interchangeable and keeping them this way is the major task of HR departments.  

What to do if you boss is a toxic manager

We will concentrate on a rather common case when one of the characters and the one that does the review ( your boss ) is a corporate psychopath. Corporate psychopaths -- defined as those who try to achieve their goals unburdened by conscience, or those who “callously and remorselessly use other for their own ends”  are  common type of bosses in corporate environment. Few borderline cases when your boss is not a sociopath, but behaves almost like he is, are often cases where you report to an autocratic manager :-).  The latter is usually quintessential bully and "kiss up, kick down" guy.

They are not afraid to wave negative performance review as a sword over their direct reports heads.

Some researchers claims that approximately 1% of the adult working population are workplace psychopaths. If you think about it, it's more then enough to fill management ranks of all major corporations. So the first thing to understand is that your situation is not unique.

In any company not matter whether large or small lurks psychopathic bosses lying, cheating, manipulating, victimizing and destroying direct reports -- all without any guilt or remorse. Paradoxically the percentage of female psychopaths among female managers is higher than male psychopaths among male managers. Also female psychopaths are more vicious and Machiavellian.  They also greatly benefit from testosterone charged corporate brass in their 50th with babe-magnet fantasies. Sex for them is a weapon and if they are attractive this is a pretty powerful weapon. Christopher Byron published a book called 'Testosterone Inc.: Tales of CEOs Gone Wild' in 2004 which might be an interesting reading...

According to Dr. Martha Stout in her book 'The Sociopath Next Door', a person who has no conscience can instantly recognize someone who is decent and trusting and they tend to access our strengths and weaknesses more objectively that we can ourselves. Sociopaths are predators who have the uncanny ability to spot kind and caring people, people who are vulnerable. And everyone has vulnerabilities. Some experts believe that sociopaths target individuals who have morals and integrity because the sociopath is amoral and lacks integrity.

If this hypothesis is true then s/he will then enjoy trying to destroy the morals and integrity of his target and performance review presents a unique opportunities in this regard.

Remember that a corporate psychopath did performance review of the victims many times and s/he is highly trained in this marital art. 

 Your best chance of presenting coherent counter-arguments (not that they matter much)  depends on ability to slow down the action and to delay your response.

If "findings" are really ridiculous, ask for examples. Also all findings should not be a news to you and should be communicated beforehand during the year. If they are and have effect of suddenly exploded bomb,  you always can point out that this is an unexpected findings which was not previously communicated to you to take corrective actions, and you need time to think about them. 

Actually the process of decimating employee self-esteem with false accusations in the performance review is an interesting battle to watch from the sidelines, but it's extremely humiliating to experience.  And the main danger here is not that you can be fired, but that you can get into depression.  Please do not take performance review too seriously.  This is just the game neoliberal corporations play.  They are crazy about quantification of everything and destroy both the company and employee lives in the process.

Actually the performance review is not a review at all. In reality you are presented with a verdict of an illegitimate court that consist of a psychopath herself/himself and might be some supporting cronies or his bosses. See Mini-Microsoft: FAQ on reviews, promotions, job changes, and ...  The real battle you need to fight is more about how to avoid or minimize psychological damage and that's where you should concentrate maximum efforts. Repudiations of false accusations typically will not get you too far, but you should avoid being a sacrificial lamp as well. So the most ridiculous aspects need to be pointed out just to keel the attacker in check.

 The performance review is not a review, but a verdict of an illegitimate court.
The key is to try to minimize
 psychological damage and first of all damage to self-esteem

Bad, un-objective performance review hit hardest workaholics. They have too much emphasis on work accomplishments and prace work high in the set of life priorities. Such a dedication badly backfires in this case.

And a lot of programmers are workaholics. In this case the key issue is not bad performance review itself (they usually don't kick out really productive workers despite bad reviews) it  is restoring life balance or, at least, balancing the programming work you do for the corporation with you independent contribution to community, be it a personal website, open source program, support of some project that is close to your heart or something else. It is stupid to put all eggs into one basket.

For programmers creation of a personal web site and/or participation in open source movement (you should probably use pseudonym, as using real name might lead to some complications) are natural things to do.  But in no way try to steal any code from the employer even if this is derivative of open source.   Read about Aleynikov  case. Why this was mainly about greed, there is a warning flag about reusing company modified open source code. 

I think that in case of programmers and system administrators switching your efforts to  participation in some open source project might bring more life satisfaction and help to distract from happening at work even the most hopeless workaholic. It also helps to "lie low" on the work, which is the key for survival in many bureaucratized corporate IT environments.  

The first thing to understand is that there is not much to discuss during the performance review: things are already prearranged and you will get what the manager planned to give for you this year. In case of authoritarian manager, or any types of psychopath (especially bully or micromanager) performance reviews are usually used to settle personal scores. If you are not a patsy, you is a target no matter of your real performance.  There are always several vague dimensions where you can be marked down.: "teamwork" and "communication skills" are two favorite for corporate psychopath.  Also please understand that your opponent is a skilled sadist in a sense that they have no real feelings or even enjoy seeing your pain.  Becoming emotional you only hurt yourself by getting closer to a stroke or other serious disease inflicted by stress. 

Cold, icy negative politeness with them is the only viable counter-play. 

If you’re prepared to the review and have all the facts in hands then you can take it easy as you will know with high probability what accusations will surface and you can refute the most blatant lies and exaggerations. That brings only moral satisfaction because they will get into your personnel file anyway. But your need to avoid excessive confrontation, especially confrontation after review (big and common mistake) due to the anger trap. Also never  try to refute things that sound true or those where you have no facts in hands.  

Avoid Anger trap. Confronting psychopath is useless -- they are people without remorse. By further aliening psychopath you might win nothing, but lose some period of time when s/he leave you alone.

Typically this also provoke his complain to the HP about your behavior (remember they are ruthless SOBs) which might further complicate your situation and distract you from searching better job... 

Behave respectfully but at the same time after the review try to kick it out by considering it a Kabuki theater, which it actually was.  The play ended, forget about it. 

If you are working for a corporate psychopath you by definition need to endure evaluation from someone who is incompetent, unreliable and is, in very literate meaning of this word, cruel sadist.  They just enjoy doing those things. And believe me they do prepare. If you understand this, then you understand the most hard part of this role of the victim is not to play to sadist instincts. Actually polite ignorance will hurt them much more that any emotions on your part. They tried to foresee and play on your emotions but they can do nothing with respectable, disinterested politeness. It often help to assume that they guy which two of you are discussing is a third person. That actually can create funny, unanticipated twists in the review. I often enjoyed playing this role and I can tell you that when you play it the first time manager jaw drops and all his carefully designed plan suddenly becomes useless. Remarks like "What an insensitive person this Mr. Bezroukov is " addressed to manager who accuses you of being not a good team player (which means spineless corporate serf in their jargon) something produces funny effects. 

Preparation to negative performance review

  If your supervisor suggests that you're not a "team-player", it means he is after you. And that you'll probably be sent on team-bonding courses and be press-ganged into socializing with career-driven morons.

Guardian 2/10/06

Corporate psychopath fail their employees. They never help them. They are usually technically incompetent but are unable to admit the fact. Passing the blame is part of their nature: bad performance review is an expected not accidental result.  Don't expect anything good from the review. You are just a tool in their hands like a screwdriver. If they decided to get a different screwdriver, they throw out the current one and get it. It is that's simple. 

Learn about the nature of corporate psychopath. Attempts to classify it among several known types while unscientific gives you some insights that help to prepare and withstand pressure. Knowledge is power. This site can be a starting point but reading a couple of books will not hurt.

Reading special literature will help you in many ways. For ordinary, "normal" person it is very difficult to understand that corporate psychopaths have no compassion; they really treat humans like objects, disposable tools for achieving particular goal.   And this nonsense with  false accusations in your review and possible  petty vendetta (especially characteristic for women psychopaths) is just a smoke screen. What they are trying to achieve complete domination over you as individual. Escaping this trap is the best preparation you can get ;-).  So activating your job search skills is a must. It also will give you some additional confidence as you will have some sense of what job market is currently and what hit, if any you need to take to move to other, supposedly better place. 

But reading humor and satire literature actually prepare you to the interview in its own way: you learn not to overreact. Absurdity of the cubicle world as depicted for example in Cubes and Punishment. This is a relatively old Dilbert book (2007) and used copies can be bought for a couple of dollars, but it serves as a really powerful immunization to the humiliating experience that you need to endure. I highly recommend to you to read it the night before. Usually effect is pretty strong and it definitely helps not punch the face of the guy :-).  Onion is great too. 

Reading humor and satire literature actually prepare you to the interview in its own way: you learn not to overreact. Absurdity of the cubicle world as depicted for example in Cubes and Punishment. This is a relatively old Dilbert book (2007) and used copies can be bought for a couple of dollars, but it serves as a really powerful immunization to the humiliating experience that you need to endure. I highly recommend to you to read it the night before.

Unless you are high performer, the negative performance review is a sign of things to come and the general corporate rule is "two bad reviews and you are out". You can and probably should preempt them.

In this case instead of  the knife that will be sitting in your back all they have to attack is empty cubicle.  If you are in your current position for less then three years the corporation will also lose money, which is also nice. Not that psychopathic boss care, but at least this fact can give you small moral satisfaction.  If you understood the situation after the first interview and the last year or two can spend most of your time on self-education  as recommended below, losses of the company are higher.

In view of this "two bad reviews and you are out" rule you need to understand that the appeasement of corporate psychopath after the first review probably will not fix your problems. The only realistic way to solve this problem is either moving to a different department, or leaving the company. So along with researching literature about psychopathic bosses and putting the jerk into one of existing categories, the key part of preparation is starting your job search. As simple as it is.

There are another minor thing that you can prepare. By corporate rules the boss should obey "no news" rule during this intricate corporate tango. And you can catch him/her on technicalities. Requesting paperwork with warnings and dates of the meeting when he warned you about particular problem can serve as cold shower for too enthusiastic jerks.

Again the rule of this corporate game is that he can only discuss negative issues threat were discussed during the year; if he violate this rule you can catch him on technicality).   If you wanted to be sadistic , the nest review you can complain that he did not provide you a  training for improving your teamwork and ignored mentoring ;-). It's better do this this if you already found the position to move. I don't recommend it if you are unsure, as you can get the boss as a personal trainer and instead to driving somewhat for two three days to some moronic management course you will have local torture chamber ready for you. 

Remember, your boss has the ultimate responsibility to adhere to the rules and you can complain to HR that he violates rules of the game.

You should never expect that your feedback or attempts to explain thing can change a corporate psychopath. It is difficult to comprehend but that are really alien creatures, quite different from normal people.  So don't follow silly recommendations often published in "pro-management" literature.  In reality your preparedness and knowledge of the facts matter only as a way to ensure that you can avoid any spontaneous, emotional responses on the scene.

Along with putting real efforts into job search you need to learn the system. Every firm has its idiosyncrasies.  Sometimes you can play them against the corporate psychopath you report to.  Given opportunity you can even try to indirectly communicate some problems to his/her piers as psychopaths usually present extremely nice personality to their bosses.  That's dangerous game and unless the opportunity resents to do it with minimal risk. Run by third parties Web questionnaires is one such opportunity, if they allow anonymous responses.  Think twice about going this way and don't do it from your workstation if it has static IP.

Behavior during review

Don't get into a trap of the boss asking for an "open" or "frank" discussion. You are separated in the ladder and such request during performance review is strictly prohibited and a very dirty trick. Use your emotional intelligence: forget about an "open" discussion with a corporate psychopath.

The situation is not that different from the hostage taking situation when a criminal took you as a hostage and now wants frankly discuss with you his personality. Deflect all attempts to move this discussion from boring standard corporate way. Use, overuse, super-abuse corporate jargon. It exist for those situations.  You should feel confident in your professional performance and understand that the review will never change the way you are perceived in the company.

 You should feel confident in your professional performance and understand that the review will never change the way you are perceived in the company.  humans are social aminals and compatioon is an importnat triat that helped them to survive adversities.  Who will fight for financial oligarchs in the USA when the need arise ?  Everybody hates them... 

As interaction with you proceeds, the psychopath carefully assesses your persona. Your persona gives the psychopath a picture of the traits and characteristics you value in yourself. Your persona may also reveal, to an astute observer, insecurities or weaknesses you wish to minimize or hide from view. As an ardent student of human behavior, the psychopath will then gently test the inner strengths and needs that are part of your private or professional self that can be exploited.  Remember that personality that the psychopaths are consummate, professional, compulsive liars.  Personality that he/she can project during the interview is just a mask. They actually do not have a personality.  Among those messages that serve as a alarm tat he/she tries to lure you into a trap are:

Please remember that performance review is the third art and final act of annual performance of a drama (or Kabuki theater) which can be called "You as a hostage of corporate psychopath" . In you stoically  take the blows  and move on you are guaranteed approximately three months of slow action breathing space (the first act of most plays is usually slow and lack intensity and tragism of the third; the same is true for corporate life after the performance review :-). If you blow you cap off you might not be an actor and spectator of the next performances. Which in a way is a pity if you survived that long :-).  Again it is better to move on then to confront the psychopath of authoritarian personality (reading Jack London's Sea Wolf can prepare you for the encounter the authoritarian. "only the strongest survive" type of  manager quite nicely ;-) 

Sociopaths will lie and cheat to deceive for money, power, control and sex. Those three items are the currency they understand. Nothing else. And their method  to achieve those goal is blatant, never ending lies. They are expert and they are not afraid of being exposed. They just seldom stick around after their lies exposed; instead, they move on to a new neighborhood or city. The lying and deception, the manipulation and conning are pervasive and is their true nature, as strange as it is sounds. In a way they do not have real personality. They just act pretending to be they person they are not. Anger tempt us to retaliate in an attempt to try and "make them understand" how their negative review is affecting you. However, 99% of the time, this is the worst thing that you can do: this person still have considerable power over your current situation and the future. 

Never  get into retaliation trap and try to expose anything or counterattack during the review.  All you can do is to point on facts that contradict provided assessment, but do it in disinterested indirect way.  Corporate psychopaths thrive on being difficult and causing tension; they thrive on controversy and revenge is the game in which he/she can outperform anybody else. Why to select the game in which you are weaker. Try to beat them in the area where you are strongly and that's usually tech skills. Any exchange of negative words makes them feel powerful .

"Kill them with ice politeness" is the only way. It deprives them of energy. Polite subtle sarcasm and utter indifference sometimes work too. You can just imagine that it is the third person that is discussed and play this game, addressing yourself with full credentials.  Something like: "So you think that this guy, Nikolai Bezroukov is ....  How interesting. "

If you can maintain ice negative politeness, it in not uncommon for them to became bored or alarmed, as you defy the expectations, and they may even cut the review short. And if you want revenge channel for your energy -- then try to improve your market value via certification, outside project, working in the community, attending university or other constructive ways. Wasting your energy of trying to reform a psychopath is counterproductive. and corporate environment is usually psychopathic-friendly enough to serve them as a good cover.

If you show that you suffer that provide them important feedback that you are vulnerable and can be manipulated because the manipulation of others in the name of the game that corporate psychopaths are playing  all their life (don't take seriously naive advice about confronting in the hope of remaking your pathologically incompetent micromanager (PIMM) or whatever type of corporate psychopath your are working for ;-).

Although not beneficial in all situations, sometimes corporate psychopath, while abusing you, are still looking at the possibility of converting you into an ally and a patsy.  Just by trying to pretend being a good listener (and then throwing all this nonsense out of your head), you may be able to better the situation  and may be soften some blows.

Systematically ask to explain findings; politely ask manager to provide supporting evidence. That helps to avoid traps and gives you more time to weight your reactions. You can also pretend being positively predisposed to stupid accusations, especially about "bad teamwork". Just don't overplay: it can be (at most) only a single sarcastic counterattack after which you should be again all negative politeness.  


If you are reporting to toxic manager, then, generally, performance review is just a specific type of communication with corporate psychopath and general rules outlined in Communication with Corporate Psychopaths are fully applicable. Here are some additional tips. You need to take them with grain of salt as each situation is highly individual:
  1.  Always stay calm and respectful. Your boss wins when others see you being disrespectful even if he's been deliberately pushing your buttons for months.  Remember that formally you can be fired for insubordination.
     
  2. Beware dirty tricks in which the manager tries to eliminate distance you need to keep and provoke revealing your true feelings. Those tricks are usually well rehearsed and subtly sugarcoated to exploit your vanity; if they include words like "honestly", "frankly", "Let's be open" that's a trap, so be especially alert if you hear them, for example:
  3. Consider the performance review to be a hostile interrogation. Remember that any performance review and especially the negative review typically is a carefully planned and skillfully executed attack. This is especially true, if this is the first review from your boss.  Your boss can polish his/her skills on other direct reports before dealing with you. In most cases he/she has years of experience. Doing performance reviews is just a part of job description and often in large corporations they get appropriate corporate training, which sometime is not completely useless. You have no such a possibility.  So it make sense to stay cool and alert and do not try to prove anything on the spot. Emotional responses should be avoided in such a situation. Remember that review was prewritten, thought out and you are just presented with the reading of the final verdict by the judge.  There is no jury trial here, and no sympathetic jurors. Ask for a break if something is really unexpected and very damaging. Use this break to digest the information and find supporting facts/documentation that can refute the point.  Do try to kill with kindness or worse, volunteer any information, especially about  direct reports.  Be cold and detached. Don't be defensive.  You might be skillfully provoked into revealing sensitive information by communicating to you some damaging for your self-esteem hearsay. If you cannot find an answer on the spot reject the question an inappropriate for performance review.
     

    If you cannot find a proper answer on the spot, reject the question an inappropriate for performance review.

     

  4. You should take your time reading the manager remarks first. Read your review very carefully. Take your time. If possible make some pauses (you can get cofee), but not too much. That gives you some space to suppress your emotional reaction.  It your appointment time runs out and you are just in the middle of discussion, politely ask to reschedule.  Never try to respond to something unexpected immediately and never improvise during the review.
     
  5. Try not talking too much. Keep your questions short and very specific to a particular assignment or series of assignments.  Slow down the pace of conversation. If statement is especially unexpected or embarrassing ask to repeat/clarify questions: "Can you please repeat/clarify it?". Avoid any spontaneous responses  In case new, unexpected accusations just ask "Why you did not communicate to me this problem during the year?". The corporate rule is that if this boss had issues during the past year they should have been communicated to you during the year.
     
  6. Remember that any information you provide can and will be used against you... "one of the most effective skills psychopaths use to get the trust of people is their ability to charm them. Many psychopaths lay the charm on too thick, coming across as glib, superficial, and unconvincing. However, the truly talented ones have raised their ability to charm people to that of an art, priding themselves on their ability to present a fictional self to others that is convincing, taken at face value, and difficult to penetrate". One must always keep in mind that the charm, like manipulation, can be very subtle.
     
  7. Do not be surprised if you will find blatant lies in your assessment were the boss completely distorted the facts. Sociopaths are individuals that lack a sense of responsibility and morality. They may be manipulative but are always consistent liars. Lying is second nature to sociopaths.

    "lying, deceiving and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths. When caught in a lie or challenged by the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed - they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie. The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener".

  8. Don't be disarmed by cordial atmosphere if you expected a negative review and everything going fine. The blow can be delivered at the end. (psychopaths are excellent actors) and can be taken for a ride not able to voice even most suggest your reservation. If this happens, remember that you changes to influence bad things in the review are minimal, so take it easy. Distinguish between political games (patsies need to get better reviews and higher scores) and observation of corporate psychopath about you that might be true.
     
  9. If you can honestly believe that some point is completely unfair and, what is more important,  have documentation to prove that this was wrong, provide a written response.
  10. You should realized that some points contain grain of truth, twisted but still grain of truth. Don't fight such points, use them as a learning experience and take proactive actions: 

Situation after Interview and its dangers

To speed up recovery "survivors" need to understand the methods of humiliation used, the concepts of brainwashing and undue influence. Like waterboarding, bad performance review leaves a psychological scar. It will heal, but you can speed-up  healing process by adopting specific set of recovery approaches described below. 

There are three important things that you should realize immediately after the interview:

The key two emotions after negative review is anger and compulsive, repeated flashes of review episodes. It looks like your brain falls into the loop and thinks about past situation all the time. There is also a noticeable growth of anxiety and insecurity. Those natural reactions does not do you any good and need to be suppressed. So your key task after the interview is to distract yourself for the next 24-48 hours and take measures that will lessen the stress and help to forget about the event as soon as possible. It is important to avoid anger trap and/or depression trap.

Taking part in regular physical activity can both increase your self-esteem and reduce stress and anxiety. Make an effort to engage in regular psychical exercise for at least two weeks after the review

The first 24 hours are really difficult because the event tend to be replayed in your head again and again. To block this you should probably go and see a couple of movies or play a shooter game or do something that requires the level of concentration which blocks other  thoughts. As for movies, watching  Office Space streaming of which is available via Amazon for a couple of bucks is definitely helpful.  Here is one Amazon review:

A delightfully funny and heart warming romantic comedy (with emphasis on comedy) which was the first time I saw Ron Livingston acting; he plays Peter Gibbons. He is extremely funny as a somewhat pathetic and alienated office worker (computer programmer) who is used and abused by the computer software company he works for as is his two friends.

After a botches hypnosis session that is supposed to make Peter content with his life as a computer programmer, but instead emboldens him to live his life completely disregarding any consequences regarding his work (like fishing instead of working, sleeping in until 11:00 am then showing up for work for a few hours and then leaving), "consultants" advise him that his two buddies, fellow programmers Michael Botton (David Herman) and Samir (Ajay Naidu), two of the best programmers and most senior employees will be fired to save money by outsourcing their programming to India. Peter convinces his two friends help him defraud the company they work for at the rate of few pennies a day using a computer virus designed by David, so that after several years they will have a tidy nest egg in savings.

... ... ....

This rather low budget film I found tastefully funny, relevant to contemporary feelings of alienation and hostility to companies out to make money at the expense of exploiting employees, and full of well written script and interesting and original plot.

I heartily recommend it to film fans of comedy and/or romantic comedy.

The eighth episode of the second season of the American comedy TV series The Office,  is called "Performance Review" and is well worth watching. Watching couple of Comedy Central shows is less effective, but is better then nothing. 

On usefulness of vampire films after performance review ;-)

Vampire films work surprisingly well in this situation and for most people this is probably the only time when you can enjoy them ;-). You can thing about vampires as cinematographic allusion of psychopathic bosses.

And the day after performance review might be the day when you for the first time appreciate this strange genre ;-).  In a sense Hollywood does great service to poor IT shmucks who need to endure performance reviews by producing this nonsense.

The Vampire Diaries costs $1.99 per episode on Amazon and are especially funny to watch after performance review.   Interview with the Vampire starring Brad Pitt is also not bad and touches similar theme ;-). Good action movies like "Three Days of the Condor", "All the President's Men", The Conformist, Touch of Evil, The Godfather also produces the necessary effect. Alfred Hitchcock films like Vertigo, Shadow of a Doubt  and especially Strangers on a Train (which features a psychopath involved with tennis star Granger in "exchange murders." ) are also amazingly effective. SF movies like Bade Runner are OK too.

Give yourself at least a day to calm down

Nothing important should be handled in office while still in the heat of the moment.  Avoid speaking or sharing your emotions with anybody except family members for the first 24 hours.

The most stupid things are usually done during the first 24-48 hours after the review.  Do not discuss your report with your colleagues.  If you need to speak to somebody talk to your dog or cat.

I would like to stress it again: in no case you can afford to discuss your report or your emotions with your colleagues.  Like Talleyrand used to say: this is worse then a crime, this is a blunder. 

Family members and friends outside work are OK, but  be selective.  That can only increase your pain and that what they want to inflict on you.  If you need somebody to talk to talk to your cat or dog.

Family members and friends outside work are OK, but  be selective.  That can only increase your pain and that what they want to inflict on you.  If you need somebody to talk to talk to your cat or dog. They would definitely understand your pain and they will keep the information private, which is not guarantied in case of friends and definitely not in case of coworkers.

The main danger after negative performance review is not the increased chances that you will be fired this or the next year. It is a clinical depression or some borderline state of despair:

Clinical depression (also called major depressive disorder, or sometimes unipolar when compared with bipolar disorder) is a state of intense sadness, melancholia or despair that has advanced to the point of being disruptive to an individual's social functioning and/or activities of daily living. Although a low mood or state of dejection that does not affect functioning is often colloquially referred to as depression, clinical depression is a clinical diagnosis and may be different from the everyday meaning of "being depressed."

Many people identify the feeling of being depressed as "feeling sad for no reason", or "having no motivation to do anything." One suffering from depression may feel tired, sad, irritable, lazy, unmotivated, and apathetic. Clinical depression is generally acknowledged to be more serious than normal depressed feelings. It often leads to constant negative thinking and sometimes substance abuse.

Going to cinema is a nice distraction.  Taking vacation day or two a week after and going skiing or playing some intensive competitive game (chess, tennis, etc) or running long distances might also be a good idea.

Dangerous or high endurance sports are great distraction from such experience. Just don't overdo it.  In any case "rehabilitation" should be planned and executed. That is as important as keeping polite and disinterested mask during the interview.

Fighting flashbacks and replaying in the memory the event

Flashbacks and replaying in the memory the event is typical for any traumatic experience.

The key symptom that you need to fight are constant flashbacks, replaying in memory the event and obsessive thoughts about your behavior during it. Switching activity to, say, preparing for a certification and thinking about passing the exam as a revenge might help. 

 There is nothing strange that after negative and unfair performance review some, more sensitive and emotionally unprotected people can experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) .  There are three signs of PTSD:

The key symptom that you need to fight are constant flashbacks and obsessive thoughts about the event. Subjecting yourself to the rigor of intensive 4*7 preparation for a certification plus regular twice a day (morning and after work) physical exercises might help. 

Also there are some other strategies that can help to soften the blow. One is usage extensive physical exercises for two week period. The second is to switch activity to something challenging and at the same time interesting, the activity that increases your value at the working place.  For example, crash preparation to the some useful certification within two-three week period. 

One of the best way to channel your anger and humiliation after the performance review is to channel you efforts to a crash preparation for a certification and taking the certification exam within two or three weeks period after the performance review

 You need critically assess yourself and plan for the future

Preparation and obtaining new certification is useful but not enough. At the same time your need critically assess yourself. It takes two for tango and in performance reviews like in Greek tragedy, the same traits that lead the hero to the top ensure his downfall.  Psychopaths usually have pretty shrewd understanding of your weaknesses and there is often grain of truth in accusations they make. They exaggerate and overpay but some truth is often present... 

Remember that only accusations based on facts can be safely refuted. And a corporate psychopath usually does not give you such a chance. The two favorite tricks: accuse of "bad teamwork" and "poor communications skills". It is very difficult to counter such an accusations because it is sufficiently vague to incorporate the fact that you do not get particularly well with the psychopath him/herself and/or with one of the patsies.  Still you can ask psychopath about written warnings that were provided, but it's better do it after updating your resume.

Again I would like to warn that despite all the anger you feel, it's better not get into "revenge trap".  Or, redirect revenge into constructive activity.  Blowing off a couple of server can give you moral satisfaction but there are changes to be caught :-).  There are better ways to channel your anger than diligently change Ethernet card setting to haft duplex on the servers you have root access to ;-)

The best revenge is working on improve your chances on the job market and getting a new better job. Try to obtain new skills that increase your marketability. This is the most constructive way to  get even with a psychopath and the company that employs him/her as a manager.

Set up the conflict in your head and work through how you’re going to handle it. Know your own limitations and be prepared to uphold your morals and values.

  1. Some elements of critique might point to real problems in your personality.  awareness is half the battle. Own your mistakes. Most mistakes can be fixed quickly. Learn not to repeat them. If you find yourself making the same type of mistake over and over, you are in deep trouble even you leave this and find another company. 
     
  2. Critically evaluate your social skills and react to the review as the order to increase your social skills and cultivated you social network. Force yourself to evaluate your social interactions and take steps to correct you shortcomings and increase you social net within the organization.   Being aware of others is often difficult when we as IT professionals spent all lives focusing on computer screen, with our noses in books. But the truth is, in a work environment it is all about interpersonal relationships. You don't have to turn yourself into a back-slapping life of the party, but you need to be moderately skillful socially when at the office. You may arbitrarily dismiss such social niceties as 'office politics.' But the fact of the matter is that all work life involves human interaction and all of human interaction is political in the sense that to work and live together we must make accommodations and compromises in order to get along. What aspect of these interactions can you manage better? Which relationships seem to be working best? Why might they be? Do these relationships work solely because you genuinely like these particular individuals? Because you share some interest no matter how banal? Or is it because you take the time to recognize them as unique individuals?

How to deal with a blow to self esteem and confidence

Even if your manager technically is as dumb as a polished tabletop negative performance review leaves some scars on your self-esteem and it diminished your self-confidence. While some critique can be healthy what you need to endure in the hands of a psychopathic manager is a huge overdose. So you task is not to allow it to undermine  your self-confidence and don’t allow them to get under your skin.  Otherwise you experience the process that is usually called demoralization (Demoralization its phenomenology and importance)

Demoralization, as described by Jerome Frank, is experienced as a persistent inability to cope, together with associated feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, meaninglessness, subjective incompetence and diminished self-esteem. It is arguably the main reason people seek psychiatric treatment, yet is a concept largely ignored in psychiatry.

...

Demoralization has been commonly observed in the medically and psychiatrically ill and is experienced as existential despair, hopelessness, helplessness, and loss of meaning and purpose in life. ...  Hopelessness, the hallmark of demoralization, is associated with poor outcomes in physical and psychiatric illness, and importantly, with suicidal ideation and the wish to die.

Recognize that the problem are his problem not so much yours. It is important to avoid snowballing negative emotions.  But in order to achieve that the person should have a goal, what is sometimes called "will to live" (Viktor Frankl):

Viktor Frankl’s theory and therapy grew out of his experiences in Nazi death camps.  Watching who did and did not survive (given an opportunity to survive!), he concluded that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had it right:  “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how. " (Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in 1963, p. 121) He saw that people who had hopes of being reunited with loved ones, or who had projects they felt a need to complete, or who had great faith, tended to have better chances than those who had lost all hope.

...Frankl says we should pay attention to noödynamics, wherein tension is necessary for health, at least when it comes to meaning.  People desire the tension involved in striving for some worthy goal!

... ... ...

One of his favorite metaphors is the existential vacuum.  If meaning is what we desire, then meaninglessness is a hole, an emptiness, in our lives. Whenever you have a vacuum, of course, things rush in to fill it.  Frankl suggests that one of the most conspicuous signs of existential vacuum in our society is boredom.  He points out how often people, when they finally have the time to do what they want, don’t seem to want to do anything!  People go into a tailspin when they retire; students get drunk every weekend; we submerge ourselves in passive entertainment every evening.  The "Sunday neurosis," he calls it.

Personal courage is an important factor in  maintaining high morale and therefore plays a critical role in fighting demoralization. Don't be afraid of them. They sucks and should not represent dominant part of your social sphere. Attempt to increase you interactions outside work, including professional interactions. Switch your energy to some worthy goal, be it religious goal, or doing something to the loved one or, more typical for programmers, participation in some worthy project or even launching you own project is very important form to maintain your own self-worth when it is attacked in the office environment. It really helps to switch from analyzing and reanalyzing your interactions and to becoming overly frightened and defensive to something constructive. Write a self-help article on your Web site. Write some open source script and distribute it for free.  Or as recommended above prepare to certification and schedule exam in one month exactly to cut your ways to retreat ;-).  There is an instant wave of positive appreciation from doing something in your local library, like Linux "installfest" or virus  removal workshop.

The strong, lasting desire of revenge is a typical consequence of the severe blows to self-confidence/self-esteem. In ancient time people called the opponent to duel. Now life is different and such drastic measure of defending one's self-esteem are no longer used ;-).  As for duels, they were a nice and probably can diminish ranks of psychopaths with some efficiency, but with all due respect IT dwellers like of the office dwellers  don't belong to gentile strata. You are a corporate slave, or at lest some kind of modern indentured servant :-). So while you can do nothing with anger, it's better to forget about revenge and redirect your energy to some community related efforts. 

Striving for a worthy goal it much better that concentrating your energy on accomplishing some form of revenge and should be pursued first ;-). It's better to try to make some lemonade from the lemon, then to try to get even.  First of all, understand that the company the employs such a  manager definitely does not deserve much loyalty.  Redirecting some time toward some community project is, in a way, a form of revenge. Removing your support from some activities that were never appreciated is just a right thing to do.

Also you need to understand that this was a one time encounter (at least for this year :-) and that your psychopathic friend just cannot put pressure on you all the time. This is dangerous and psychopaths have an acute sense of danger. After inflicting damage they usually back off, so your work situation might even temporary improve and you can become more focused on the actual work and  improving your competencies.

Never try to blackmail the boss as a revenge. Such people have patsies and they might get the information. After that they will spring into the action. You just don't need that. Again doing something constructive, for example for some open source project or getting some certification is  much better revenge then nasty words addressed to a corporate psychopath who happened to be your boss; they will have no any effect on him anyway and can hurt you.

Summarizing you should not feel “victimized” by circumstances,  and by the absence of support from others. You should mobilize all your courage to resist and find the other way to prove your self-worth then inside the corporate environment. By doing that you instantly stop viewing yourself as a “victim” and start viewing yourself as a  “survivor” In short, the construction of a new narrative helps to refashion your live. Any success will  increase your self-worth and thus increase beliefs in yourself and the world.

Random ideas

I became convinced that noncooperation with evil
is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

Here are some ideas that are not well integrated into the main body of the article, but which I consider important.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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Old News ;-)

[Mar 10, 2020] Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us by Paul Verhaeghe

Highly recommended!
Neoliberalism destroys solidarity; as the result it destroys both the society and individuals
Notable quotes:
"... Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you're reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others. ..."
"... On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won't be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare , the best-known specialist on psychopathy today. ..."
"... the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organisation. ..."
"... Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it's known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other. ..."
"... Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms ..."
"... More important, though, is the serious damage to people's self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other, as thinkers from Hegel to Lacan have shown. Sennett comes to a similar conclusion when he sees the main question for employees these days as being "Who needs me?" For a growing group of people, the answer is: no one. ..."
"... A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. ..."
"... the paradox of our era as: "Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless." ..."
Sep 29, 2014 | www.theguardian.com

An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities

'We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited.'

We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you're reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won't really be noticed.

It's important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you've got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That's why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won't be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare , the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

This description is, of course, a caricature taken to extremes. Nevertheless, the financial crisis illustrated at a macro-social level (for example, in the conflicts between eurozone countries) what a neoliberal meritocracy does to people. Solidarity becomes an expensive luxury and makes way for temporary alliances, the main preoccupation always being to extract more profit from the situation than your competition. Social ties with colleagues weaken, as does emotional commitment to the enterprise or organisation.

Bullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it's known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other.

Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms. This results in what the sociologist Richard Sennett has aptly described as the "infantilisation of the workers". Adults display childish outbursts of temper and are jealous about trivialities ("She got a new office chair and I didn't"), tell white lies, resort to deceit, delight in the downfall of others and cherish petty feelings of revenge. This is the consequence of a system that prevents people from thinking independently and that fails to treat employees as adults.

More important, though, is the serious damage to people's self-respect. Self-respect largely depends on the recognition that we receive from the other, as thinkers from Hegel to Lacan have shown. Sennett comes to a similar conclusion when he sees the main question for employees these days as being "Who needs me?" For a growing group of people, the answer is: no one.

Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: "Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless." We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, "make" something of ourselves. You don't need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master's degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.

Psychology Work & careers Economics Economic policy

See also

[Jan 08, 2020] Deification of questionable metrics is an objective phenomenon that we observe under neoliberalism

Jan 08, 2020 | angrybearblog.com

.

  1. likbez , January 8, 2020 4:00 am

    @run75441 January 7, 2020 5:45 pm

    In my golden days, I did manufacturing throughput analysis, cost modeled parts, and reviewed component and transportation distribution. I am curious. Forget all that neoliberal stuff . . .

    Ohh, those golden days 😉

    Measurement has its place and is the cornerstone of science, but it is not equal to pattern recognition. And when applied to social phenomena with their complexity it is more often a trap, rather then an insight.

    You need to understand that.

    Deification of questionable metrics is an objective phenomenon that we observe under neoliberalism.

    A classic example of deification of a questionable metric under neoliberalism is the "cult of GDP" ("If the GDP Is Up, Why Is America Down?") See , for example

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/24/metrics-gdp-economic-performance-social-progress

    Also see a rather interesting albeit raw take on the same ("Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ) at:

    http://casinocapitalism.info/Skeptics/Financial_skeptic/Casino_capitalism/Number_racket/gdp_is_a_questionable_measure_of_economic_growth.shtml

    For example, many people discuss stagnation of GDP growth in Japan not understanding here we are talking about the country with shrinking population. And adjusted for this factor I am not sure that it not higher then in the USA (were it is grossly distorted by the cancerous growth of FIRE sector).

    So while comparing different years for a single country might make some limited sense, those who blindly compare GDP of different countries (even with PPP adjustment) IMHO belong to a modern category of economic charlatans. Kind of Lysenkoism, if you wish

    That tells you something about primitivism and pseudo-scientific nature of neoliberal economics.

    We also need to remember the "performance reviews travesty" which is such a clear illustration of "cult of measurement" abuses that it does not it even requires commentary. Google has abolished numerical ratings in April 2014.

    Recently I come across an interesting record of early application of it in AT&T at Brian W Kernighan book UNIX: A History and a Memoir at late 60th, early as 70th.

[Sep 22, 2019] We're All Zombies by Robert Bonomo

The relentless neoliberal race to the bottom, outsourcing, and austerity is fully reflected in performance review scam.
Can we call the whole process of subjecting employees to performance review "Zombie apocalypses" ? :-) Zombies concept perfectly reflect the cruelty, sick preoccupation with meaningless metric and the lack of compassion in neoliberal societies. Phenomenon, which demonstrates itself in performance reviews with amazing clarity.
And this cruelty is institutional, not because you report to some sicko. Eric Hoffer’s characterization of sociopaths attaching themselves to some cruel fundamentalist sect or Mass Movement and trying to get into leadership positions because their own life is empty and meaningless is what can be called Zombie mentality.
That's probably why watching a zombie film after performance review has such a therapeutic value ;-)
Notable quotes:
"... They show no mercy with the employees of the guppy corporations that they swallow, firing most of the “expensive,” low-wage American workers, but keeping the prize assets of the little fish to beef up their books until the next Fed infusion. ..."
"... The zombies often hire mostly citizens and noncitizens in a position to accept rock-bottom pay, thereby dragging down wages to trash-can-scouring levels for 40 years in country’s described as First World oases, as opposed to Third World s ****** s. ..."
"... Excellent discussion of the state of western culture as symbolized by the Zombie myth ..."
"... The recent American "zombie apocalypse" craze is really a subconscious expression of life in a modern, ideologically, culturally and socially atomized country. Behind every seemingly friendly person you meet is a potential shambling monster waiting to be revealed, who depending on their hidden personal politics and beliefs, has the potential to gravely harm you and your livelihood through guilt by association etc, and thus must be treated with the utmost caution. ..."
Feb 23, 2015 | www.unz.com

"I have always liked the 'monster within' idea. I like to think of zombies as being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters." -- George Romero

The most heinous thing a human can do is eat another human. Fear of cannibalism along with the other two great taboos, incest and inter-family violence, are the bedrocks of human culture. Without these taboos there is no human civilization, yet zombie cannibals are everywhere, from the most popular TV shows in the US and Europe to the most played PC games. Everywhere we look there is a zombie dragging his feet looking for human prey. The ubiquitous nature of this meme of semi-human creatures that survive only by breaking the most fundamental of human taboos is a clear indicator of a collective cultural pathology.

Humans must not only kill and eat plants and animals to survive, we must make sure they keep coming back so they can be killed and eaten again and again. Life needs death; we must kill to live, and eventually we all wind up as someone else's food. This paradox lies at the core of the world's religions and mythologies and the fear/repulsion of eating other humans is the keystone of our culture, without it we turn on ourselves and self-annihilation ensues. The zombie meme is a modern myth pointing to a deep fear of self-destruction.

The great psychologist and mystic Carl Jung was asked if a myth could be equated to a collective dream and he answered this way, "A myth is the product of an unconscious process in a particular social group, at a particular time, at a particular place. This unconscious process can naturally be equated with a dream. Hence anyone who 'mythologizes,' that is, tells myths, is speaking out of this dream."

If a person had a recurring nightmare that she was eating her family it would be a clear symptom of a profound psychological disturbance. Cultures don't dream, but they do tell stories and those stories can tell us much about the state of the collective psyche.

Many of the themes in our popular culture are conscious story telling devices with the definite purpose of social engineering/control, but others seem to just emerge from the collective unconscious like the stuff of dreams. The zombie meme is clearly of the latter variety. It's pointing to a fear that something has broken in our culture and what awaits us is a collective psychotic break of apocalyptic proportions.

In the 1950's there were widespread fears of a communist takeover that expressed themselves through films like The Village of the Damned or the Invasion of the Body Snatchers . But the zombie meme exposes something much darker in our collective psyche. The fundamental taboo around cannibalism is a pillar of human culture, yet the zombies are obsessive cannibals and we can't seem to get enough of them.

What does this new archetype of a cannibalistic apocalypse reveal about out culture? By nature archetypes point to transcendent themes that evade definition. They are not symbols that have a clear equivalent, they can only point in the general direction which in the case of the zombie meme is the inverting of some of our most sacred myths and the embracing of our most horrid taboos.

The zombie meme emerged onto the American consciousnesses with George Romero's 1968 cult classic, The Night of the Living Dead . The archetype was invigorated with Danny Boyles's 2002 film, 28 Days Later which introduced an important new element: the apocalypse.

The meme reached maturity in 2010 when AMC launched The Walking Dead, now the number #1 show on US television for viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. The Walking Dead was created by Frank Darabont, director of The Shawshank Redemption, and is based on a comic book series written by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The key to the success of The Walking Dead is the dystopian zombie apocalypse in which the story unravels, allowing it to outperform even the ultimate social opiate, Sunday Night Football .

This is not simply an American phenomenon. In France the series The Returned (French: Les Revenants) has been very popular with both viewers and critics. The Returned puts a fascinating twist on the return of the dead- they just start walking home after having been dead for many years as if nothing had happened. The BBC's In the Flesh focuses on reintegrating zombies, victims of PDS (Partially Dead Syndrome). World Z had Brad Pitt save the world from fast moving zombies on the big screen and Mel Brook's son Max even wrote a book titled The Zombie Survival Guide.

The Inverted Christian Mythos

In one episode of The Walking Dead the zombies are seen shuffling under the arch of an episcopal church inscribed with a passage from the gospel of John, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life". Over a billion Catholics in the world regularly transform bread and wine into what they believe is the actual flesh and blood of their savior, Jesus of Nazareth, and eat him. Catholics believe this sacramental right gives them eternal life. In the zombie meme, the infected humans die and are born again but not unto salvation but into a hell of insatiable appetites and mindless meandering.

The Christian myth is agricultural; Christ is killed, buried, and comes to life three days later as the seed emerging from the ground, just as the moon hides for three days behind the sun each month, only to be born again. Christ's body is the 'sacred' meal, the sacrificial food of the gods, his blood is their elixir. The Catholic acts as the god receiving the sacred meal and by doing so gains the eternal qualities of the gods by breaking the most embedded of human taboos -- the eating of human flesh. It's certainly a curios paradox that the sins of man are forgiven by committing cannibalism, as Catholic doctrine clearly states that Jesus was both man and God and the transubstantiation of the Catholic mass physically changes the bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Jesus.

As the Christian myth begins its third millennium, is the zombie meme telling us that this religious story is no longer viable ? Are billions of 'zombies' eating flesh and drinking blood but finding no nourishment? The vast majority of Western people have a profound belief in science and science tells us that the story of Jesus is not to be taken literally, yet our churches insist that the 'myth' of Jesus is historical. The Christian software no longer works as the science 'virus' has rendered it useless.

Myths are other people's religions and for Westerners in need of spiritual 'food' the Eastern systems of yoga and Buddhism, which don't depend on dogma that contradicts science, seem to be more palatable to their scientific worldviews. Unfortunately, those 'programs' where written for a machine other than modern Western man.

Joseph Campbell described believing in a literal, historical God as someone eating a menu believing that they were really eating the food. One clear component of the zombie meme is the spiritual starvation we are experiencing in the West. We are eating the menus so the speak- old, meaningless books written by foreign peoples from far off places thousands of years ago, and they give us no nourishment.

Another essential quality of the zombie is its unquenchable hunger. No amount of flesh and blood seems able to quench the longing to consume live human flesh. Modern man has a similar problem- no amount of money, sex, gadgets, job titles, drugs, entertainment, pornography, art, religion or gurus seem able to quench our thirst. We live in constant hunger.

If we equate the zombie 'hunger' for flesh to the human desire for money, the comparison becomes almost uncanny. Most adult humans spend most of their day either making money or spending it while being constantly bombarded with propaganda/advertising to keep them hungry.

From the most humble street vendor to the billionaires on CNBC, no one seems to ever have enough money. Zombies need to eat live human flesh and money is at its core, human labor. Our craving for money is really the craving for the work of others, for the sweat and blood of millions to furnish us with unlimited amounts of food and consumer goods.

The vast majority of Westerners have ceased to create anything tangible. Only one in five Americans actually produce anything. Eating what one produces on a farm or trading manufactured goods for food connects us to life. But when people spend ten hours hours a day in an office looking at a computer screen and two hours in traffic, somehow eating, and living, become abstract. What are we actually doing to create the food , heat, and the shelter we need?

Our hunger for food and things far outstrips our practical needs and has become the cause of our ever more obese, angry, unsatisfied society while our spiritual hunger leaves us addicted, chasing empty consumer thrills. There is no end to what can be consumed and there is never enough for even those with billions; we always need more.

Zombies Don't Surf

Zombies don't think, they simply move in big herds looking for their next meal, reminiscent of the herds piling up behind the doors of malls on Black Friday. Curiously, the only way to kill them is to shoot them in their least vulnerable point, their brains.

Modern man is almost entirely without out any practical skills. He doesn't know how to grow food, hunt animals or build a house. He uses all sorts of electronic tools whose core technologies he doesn't really understand and which he doesn't have the slightest idea how to fix.

This set of circumstances is a recent development in human history, beginning in the 18th century and growing exponentially in the last 30 years during the information revolution. We are helpless slaves to technologies we don't understand and to media that programs us to believe all sorts of propaganda designed to keep us from actually thinking critically.

The Zombie Apocalypse
Dawn of the Dead -- 2004 Re-make

At least since the time of Christ, western man has been waiting for one apocalypse or another. Be it the return of Christ, the turn of the millennium, nuclear war, killer meteorites or UFO's, apocalyptic fears are nothing new to us. Yet it's no coincidence that just as the zombie took over prime time with The Walking Dead , the term 'preppers' began to appear. The intensity of apocalyptic thinking has noticeably increased in the last few years as shows like Doomsday Preppers is the most watched program in the history of the National Geographic Channel.

The latest wave of apocalyptic furor to take over the US is not based on fears of nuclear war or the return of Jesus, but on the collapse of the financial system which gave us a shot over the bow in 2008. We are so far removed from any practical and productive activities that if the extremely complex financial and logistical infrastructure of the world gave way, how would we survive? If our stores were suddenly empty how many people in the West would be able to produce food, fuel and shelter? The vast majority of us are so far removed from the practical necessities of life that we are in a very real sense, mindless, insatiable, endlessly consuming zombies.

Not only do we not understand the technologies we use, we seem to trust that the complex systems that maintain us will continue working seamlessly even as doubts grow over the people who brought us the sub-prime debacle, the Iraq War and quantitative easing (QE). What would happen to the world supply chain if the confidence in the dollar as a reserve currency were lost? Is the ever increasing gap between rich and poor about to explode into all out class/race war? A key element of the zombie meme is the underlying fear of societal collapse.

The Myth is Dead

Sometime after Galileo but before Newton, science lost the need for meaning. For Galileo the universe, including the earth, was alive but by the time of Newton it was a dead machine. The importance of this shift cannot be overestimated. Galileo was describing something that was alive, that had a soul, a soul humans participated in, but by the time of Newton and the Enlightenment we were existing in a cold universe. The world went from breathing like a mother to ticking like a clock.

From the earliest known cave paintings made over 40,000 years ago to the mystery schools of pre-Aryan Europe through to medieval Christian Europe, the West has been guided by profound mythical stories.

Science can give us answers to almost all our questions, yet in the end its meaninglessness is disquieting. Science gives us technologies and deep understandings of the mechanics of the universe, but it's unwilling to the breach the topic of meaning. We are asked to live for cliches, consumerism, hedonism or fundamentalism. Rejecting science is absurd but embracing it is deadening.

If we were able to understand our own religions in the same spirit that we decipher the religions of others (myths) while embracing science (with its limitations), than maybe we could find our way to a new myth that would shed meaning on our cold world. But myths emerge, they are not consciously created, and for the moment we wade in the void of knowing how but not why. We consume but are never filled, we seek but we do not find.

We are all zombies.


Endgame Napoleon , says: March 1, 2019 at 6:42 pm GMT
When I clicked on it, I thought the article might be about zombie corporations, which are so debt-laden that the interest on their loans eats up their profit.

https://dailyreckoning.com/worlds-most-important-bank-issues-urgent-zombie-alert/

These central bank-infused zombies live on printed dollars, given to them by elites in the form of no-interest loans from central banks. Some of the zombie corps use their Fed welfare to devour other corporations, cannibalizing the smaller-fry corporations.

They show no mercy with the employees of the guppy corporations that they swallow, firing most of the “expensive,” low-wage American workers, but keeping the prize assets of the little fish to beef up their books until the next Fed infusion.

The zombies often hire mostly citizens and noncitizens in a position to accept rock-bottom pay, thereby dragging down wages to trash-can-scouring levels for 40 years in country’s described as First World oases, as opposed to Third World s ****** s.

The welfare-qualified, womb-producing immigrants hauled into places like Zombie Corps, USA by the millions, can afford to accept low wages from zombie corps because of wages that are supplemented by government when they stay under the earned-income limits for welfare while churning out US-born kids in a single-breadwinner household.

This serves the interest of bottom-feeding zombies.

A low-wage workforce that gets free EBT food, housing assistance, monthly cash assistance, electricity assistance and up to $6,431 in refundable child tax credit cash that increases with every US-born kid they birth can afford to undercut the citizen labor pool by accepting the skimpy, paltry, part-time gruel that the zombies feed to their servants, calling it wages.

Zombies also often have a no-guaranteed-pay / no-benefits wing of employees who are subjected to a lot of expensive, recurring hoop-jumping, like licensing tests and fees, and while they are held to quotas, they never know whether or when they’ll be paid after working their cans off to meet the quotas.

They can’t just produce kid after kid that they cannot afford to feed to boost up their wages by means of what recipients of government aid call “the system.” They can’t just work part time or in temp jobs, collecting welfare that bridges the gap between what zombie corps pay and what the living expenses of their employees cost during months when their traceable income does not exceed the welfare programs’ earned-income limits.

They have to hump it, working long hours to meet the quota numbers, sometimes incurring a lot of expenses beyond just the government-imposed ones, while cheerfully listening to a line of bull from zombie corps’ managers, trying to smooth over the fact that zombie corps save money by withholding pay from their many contract employees, a group that also pays the employer’s part of SS tax, doubling the amount of SS tax that they pay compared to other employees.

Zombies also cut their expenses by offshoring tons of manual-labor jobs to Third World countries with pools of low-cost workers.

Most of their blood-draining cost cutting is the human kind, but not the kind of cost cutting that trims the globetrotting budgets of highly-paid managers, coordinating multiple, costly convention trips per year to posh hotels in Europe with their highly-paid wives in their family-friendly, absenteeism-friendly jobs.

Except for the CEO’s $300-million-per-year salary and the salaries of top managers in six figures or multi six figures, zombie corps cut their human-expense budgets to the bones.

They throw some bones to their low-wage, but welfare or spousal-income supplemented back-office mom employees, in the form of libertine, above-firing absenteeism privileges and many mom-themed work parties, like Baby-Mommy-Look-Alike-Bulletin-Board-Decorating contests. But, these too, are budget affairs—potlucks catered by the crony-mom employees themselves.

Zombies save money on human labor any way they can, including by hiring mostly employees who do not need for the wages alone to cover their major household bills due to their unearned income from a spouse, child support or the elaborate monthly welfare system, in addition to bigly child tax credit checks from the progressive tax code.

Even though they cut, cut, cut the human-labor side, to survive, the zombies still have to drain blood from the taxpayers via the central bank.

TaoRider , says: March 18, 2015 at 2:15 pm GMT

Excellent discussion of the state of western culture as symbolized by the Zombie myth. Looking into the mirror can be upsetting to some. I personaly gave up Catholicism for my better mental health. If however it gives you meaning, then I am happy for you.
J1234 , says: March 19, 2015 at 3:59 am GMT
Zombies are like sleep dreams and fairy tales -- they can easily be interpreted psychologically in a variety of ways. And usually are. There usually seems to be at least a shred of insight in most interpretations. Anxieties about population and inescapable mortality are a couple of other more obvious dots that can be connected in zombie fiction.

Oh, and then there's the matter of the zombies' different skin color, different facial features (generally perceived as being ugly and menacing), extremely low intelligence, the complete lack of morals and the inevitable violence that occurs whenever they're in large groups -- whatever correlation that might have with any modern day population in the civilized world. I suspect this is a big part of the appeal of zombie fiction. My evidence? How is it that zombies are killed? With magic? Stakes in the heart? Silver projectiles?

No they're killed with plain ol' guns. With lead bullets. The same down-to -earth way we imagine we would dispatch their real life counterparts, should it ever come to that. Fantasy zombie talk I encounter at gun ranges and forums often strikes me as being a sublimation of this very real anxiety. Remington even has a zombie shotgun. And it ain't for huntin' ducks or using as a prop in a horror movie.

Bill Jones , says: April 28, 2015 at 1:43 am GMT
" "A myth is the product of an unconscious process in a particular social group, at a particular time, at a particular place. This unconscious process can naturally be equated with a dream. Hence anyone who 'mythologizes,' that is, tells myths, is speaking out of this dream."

Hence the Myth of 9/11.

Held the Nation in sway for almost 15 years now.

Doug nope , says: May 4, 2015 at 7:37 am GMT
The recent American "zombie apocalypse" craze is really a subconscious expression of life in a modern, ideologically, culturally and socially atomized country. Behind every seemingly friendly person you meet is a potential shambling monster waiting to be revealed, who depending on their hidden personal politics and beliefs, has the potential to gravely harm you and your livelihood through guilt by association etc, and thus must be treated with the utmost caution.

The Walking Dead resonates with young people because they can relate. To survive in this post-modern multicultural wasteland where there is no such thing as the common good they all must find their "group of survivors" ie; the highly stylized social niche groups of nerds, hipsters, punks etc that have developed in place of the old American monoculture.

-- Zechariah 14:12-13, ca. 520 BC

anonymous Disclaimer , says: May 12, 2015 at 11:23 pm GMT
@White Guy In Japan " The vampire symbolizes seduction "

A Spanish doctor noted, several years ago, that descriptions of human vampires are close matches to descriptions of humans dying of rabies -- fear of bright light/mirrors, hypersensitivity to strong smells (eg garlic), aggression, biting, hypersexuality and sexual assault, the association with bats (common rabies vectors) and of course, those who are bitten or raped are likely to become vampires themselves.

Whoriskey , says: June 6, 2017 at 6:02 pm GMT

Rabies used to be called hydrophobia – after a key symptom. Vampires reflect the sympyon in their reaction to holy water
Anonymous [AKA "lol from NK"] says: October 12, 2017 at 1:37 am GMT
These girls constantly looking at their phones, and people doing what the media and school make them to believe is also a zombie status.

See, the guys next to you? Is using some kind of pill, is a zombie, bcse the brain stop working, the whole nation is drunk, now, this is why something is wrong around you.

Good luck.

Anonymous [AKA "jambaloney"] says: February 28, 2018 at 3:49 pm GMT

I think this is very well written and the main idea is clear and should be well considered by anyone who thinks critically. The “zombie” phenomenon is definitely a newly emerging metaphor people relate to that may well be transforming into a myth...

Kratoklastes , says: March 8, 2018 at 2:25 am GMT

@Ringleader

The Universe does not have any meaning, and neither does life. Religion is fabricated meaning. It supposes itself to offer a explanation, which we find to be both ridiculous and meaningless upon investigation.

It is very difficult for a goodly proportion of humans to accept that the universe is so big and old and cold and dark, that it simply doesn’t care about a few hairless apes on a small wet rock near an unimportant star. They really do struggle with that.

And once human societies developed the ability to produce above subsistence (even slightly), that gave the charlatans their way of earning a living.

You see, I would take the bit I quoted, and I would go further: that the people who profit from the fabricated meaning, know full well that it’s fabricated – and that especially includes the originators of each set of silly stories.

I am reminded of a great quote by R. G. Ingersoll:

Why did ‘god’ so organise things, that a murderer could transfer his sins to a lamb, and then sacrifice the lamb as a sin offering?

Because priests love mutton .

Anon [425] • Disclaimer , says: November 22, 2018 at 3:09 pm GMT
The conscious/unconscious relation (civilized society/zombies) can be found yet oje more time in the stated ethics/actual ethics (legal laws) pair.

You can break someone’s psyche (“heart”) with betrayal and lying, and while most will say it’s distasteful, no-one asks for such issues being covered by criminal or anti-violence laws (nor are the perpetrators socially shunned and shamed).

[Jun 23, 2019] Neoliberalism promised freedom instead it delivers stifling control by George Monbiot

Notable quotes:
"... By rolling back the state, neoliberalism was supposed to have allowed autonomy and creativity to flourish. Instead, it has delivered a semi-privatised authoritarianism more oppressive than the system it replaced. ..."
"... Workers find themselves enmeshed in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy , centrally controlled and micromanaged. Organisations that depend on a cooperative ethic – such as schools and hospitals – are stripped down, hectored and forced to conform to suffocating diktats. The introduction of private capital into public services – that would herald a glorious new age of choice and openness – is brutally enforced. The doctrine promises diversity and freedom but demands conformity and silence. ..."
"... Their problem is that neoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control. ..."
"... Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself. ..."
Apr 10, 2019 | www.theguardian.com

Thousands of people march through London to protest against underfunding and privatisation of the NHS. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Images M y life was saved last year by the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, through a skilful procedure to remove a cancer from my body . Now I will need another operation, to remove my jaw from the floor. I've just learned what was happening at the hospital while I was being treated. On the surface, it ran smoothly. Underneath, unknown to me, was fury and tumult. Many of the staff had objected to a decision by the National Health Service to privatise the hospital's cancer scanning . They complained that the scanners the private company was offering were less sensitive than the hospital's own machines. Privatisation, they said, would put patients at risk. In response, as the Guardian revealed last week , NHS England threatened to sue the hospital for libel if its staff continued to criticise the decision.

The dominant system of political thought in this country, which produced both the creeping privatisation of public health services and this astonishing attempt to stifle free speech, promised to save us from dehumanising bureaucracy. By rolling back the state, neoliberalism was supposed to have allowed autonomy and creativity to flourish. Instead, it has delivered a semi-privatised authoritarianism more oppressive than the system it replaced.

Workers find themselves enmeshed in a Kafkaesque bureaucracy , centrally controlled and micromanaged. Organisations that depend on a cooperative ethic – such as schools and hospitals – are stripped down, hectored and forced to conform to suffocating diktats. The introduction of private capital into public services – that would herald a glorious new age of choice and openness – is brutally enforced. The doctrine promises diversity and freedom but demands conformity and silence.

Much of the theory behind these transformations arises from the work of Ludwig von Mises. In his book Bureaucracy , published in 1944, he argued that there could be no accommodation between capitalism and socialism. The creation of the National Health Service in the UK, the New Deal in the US and other experiments in social democracy would lead inexorably to the bureaucratic totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

He recognised that some state bureaucracy was inevitable; there were certain functions that could not be discharged without it. But unless the role of the state is minimised – confined to defence, security, taxation, customs and not much else – workers would be reduced to cogs "in a vast bureaucratic machine", deprived of initiative and free will.

By contrast, those who labour within an "unhampered capitalist system" are "free men", whose liberty is guaranteed by "an economic democracy in which every penny gives a right to vote". He forgot to add that some people, in his capitalist utopia, have more votes than others. And those votes become a source of power.

His ideas, alongside the writings of Friedrich Hayek , Milton Friedman and other neoliberal thinkers, have been applied in this country by Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron, Theresa May and, to an alarming extent, Tony Blair. All of those have attempted to privatise or marketise public services in the name of freedom and efficiency, but they keep hitting the same snag: democracy. People want essential services to remain public, and they are right to do so.

If you hand public services to private companies, either you create a private monopoly, which can use its dominance to extract wealth and shape the system to serve its own needs – or you introduce competition, creating an incoherent, fragmented service characterised by the institutional failure you can see every day on our railways. We're not idiots, even if we are treated as such. We know what the profit motive does to public services.

The Amazon warehouse in Swansea – the company has patented a wristband that can track workers' movements.

Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

So successive governments decided that if they could not privatise our core services outright, they would subject them to "market discipline". Von Mises repeatedly warned against this approach. "No reform could transform a public office into a sort of private enterprise," he cautioned. The value of public administration "cannot be expressed in terms of money". "Government efficiency and industrial efficiency are entirely different things."

"Intellectual work cannot be measured and valued by mechanical devices." "You cannot 'measure' a doctor according to the time he employs in examining one case." They ignored his warnings.

Their problem is that neoliberal theology, as well as seeking to roll back the state, insists that collective bargaining and other forms of worker power be eliminated (in the name of freedom, of course). So the marketisation and semi-privatisation of public services became not so much a means of pursuing efficiency as an instrument of control.

Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd. The bureaucratic quantification of public administration goes far beyond an attempt at discerning efficacy. It has become an end in itself.

Its perversities afflict all public services. Schools teach to the test , depriving children of a rounded and useful education. Hospitals manipulate waiting times, shuffling patients from one list to another. Police forces ignore some crimes, reclassify others, and persuade suspects to admit to extra offences to improve their statistics . Universities urge their researchers to write quick and superficial papers , instead of deep monographs, to maximise their scores under the research excellence framework.

As a result, public services become highly inefficient for an obvious reason: the destruction of staff morale. Skilled people, including surgeons whose training costs hundreds of thousands of pounds, resign or retire early because of the stress and misery the system causes. The leakage of talent is a far greater waste than any inefficiencies this quantomania claims to address.

New extremes in the surveillance and control of workers are not, of course, confined to the public sector. Amazon has patented a wristband that can track workers' movements and detect the slightest deviation from protocol. Technologies are used to monitor peoples' keystrokes, language, moods and tone of voice. Some companies have begun to experiment with the micro-chipping of their staff . As the philosopher Byung-Chul Han points out , neoliberal work practices, epitomised by the gig economy, that reclassifies workers as independent contractors, internalise exploitation. "Everyone is a self-exploiting worker in their own enterprise."

The freedom we were promised turns out to be freedom for capital , gained at the expense of human liberty. The system neoliberalism has created is a bureaucracy that tends towards absolutism, produced in the public services by managers mimicking corporate executives, imposing inappropriate and self-defeating efficiency measures, and in the private sector by subjection to faceless technologies that can brook no argument or complaint.

Attempts to resist are met by ever more extreme methods, such as the threatened lawsuit at the Churchill Hospital. Such instruments of control crush autonomy and creativity. It is true that the Soviet bureaucracy von Mises rightly denounced reduced its workers to subjugated drones. But the system his disciples have created is heading the same way.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

[Jun 23, 2019] What has been very noticeable about the development of bureaucracy in the public and private spheres over the last 40 years (since Thatcher govt of 79) has been the way systems are designed now to place responsibility and culpability on the workers delivering the services - Teachers, Nurses, social workers, etc.

Apr 11, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

Galluses , 11 Apr 2019 07:26

What has been very noticeable about the development of bureaucracy in the public and private spheres over the last 40 years (since Thatcher govt of 79) has been the way systems are designed now to place responsibility and culpability on the workers delivering the services - Teachers, Nurses, social workers, etc. While those making the policies, passing the laws, overseeing the regulations- viz. the people 'at the top', now no longer take the rap when something goes wrong- they may be the Captain of their particular ship, but the responsibility now rests with the man sweeping the decks. Instead they are covered by tying up in knots those teachers etc. having to fill in endless check lists and reports, which have as much use as clicking 'yes' one has understood those long legal terms provided by software companies.... yet are legally binding. So how the hell do we get out of this mess? By us as individuals uniting through unions or whatever and saying NO. No to your dumb educational directives, No to your cruel welfare policies, No to your stupid NHS mismanagement.... there would be a lot of No's but eventually we could say collectively 'Yes I did the right thing'.
promisingproper -> Dianeandguy , 11 Apr 2019 08:00
Staff distress? Cleaning ( in another county) was privatised to make profit in Thatcher times.The work of two cleaners became the task of one person. Extra duties were loaded on -serving meals and drinks, fetching blankets and equipment. Wages dropped by a small degree -but important when we ere earning, say, £65 a week. Indemnity/insurance against catching infections was withdrawn. Firstly owned by Jeyes and then sold on to Rentokill ,obviously good for shareholders. A new 'manager' appeared with their own office.
fairshares -> rjb04tony , 11 Apr 2019 07:17
'The left wing dialogue about neoliberalism used to be that it was the Wild West and that anything goes. Now apparently it's a machine of mass control.'

It is the Wild West and anything goes for the corporate entities, and a machine of control of the masses. Hence the wish of neoliberals to remove legislation that protects workers and consumers.

[Jun 23, 2019] The assessment and monitoring are for the little people - teachers and children, as they can't be trusted.

Apr 10, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

mirotto -> ID7696310

, 10 Apr 2019 17:26
No-one.

They're businesses, therefore by definition efficient and responsible. Haha.

The assessment and monitoring are for the little people - teachers and children, as they can't be trusted.

[Jun 23, 2019] Quantomania -- this is the word I have been needing for some time now!

Apr 10, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

penelo , 10 Apr 2019 20:43

Quantomania -- this is the word I have been needing for some time now! So much better than having to say "obsession with quantity" all the time.

Would it be useful to add quantism and quantist too? Maybe even quantistic and quantistical ?

[Jun 23, 2019] Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd

Apr 10, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

izaakwalton , 11 Apr 2019 00:55

As someone who thinks von Mises and Hayek made invaluable contributions to economics I was surprised to see such a ringing endorsement for Mises's ideas in the Guardian:

"Public-service workers are now subjected to a panoptical regime of monitoring and assessment, using the benchmarks von Mises rightly warned were inapplicable and absurd."

That is spot on. Yes, Mises thought that workers should no more be allowed to corner a market in labour than companies should be allowed to create monopolies in products, and this is certainly a point where he can be criticized. Using the name "neoliberal" to cover
such very different ideas as Milton's and Hayek's though is absurd - they had completely opposite ideas about vast government spending to recover from recession. Try looking up John James Cowperthwaite, who oversaw post-war development in Hong Kong by getting government out of the way.

He forbade the use of any performance targets of the type Blair brought in, and refused to compile GDP statistics, thinking the government would game them.

Both von Mises and Hayek would be horrified at the money printing of modern central banks, especially since 2008. To ascribe modern policy to their ideas is simply nonsense - they did not (as far as I know) ever suggest central control of interest rates , stock buying by central banks or saving a bank that has failed through fraud and greed.

If "neoliberalism" is our present dominant ideology, then please do not use the word to describe their work.

[Nov 19, 2018] Surviving The Woke Workplace

Notable quotes:
"... I am currently reading "The Gulag Archipelago", and there are some very obvious common threads between what happened in the early Soviet days and what we see today: freedom of speech being attacked, publications shut down completely because the editor published material written by people who were out of favor with the party, people put on trial and their past associations ..."
"... Most of these "nothing to see here" commenters are [neo]liberals that approve of and support these social changes. They are just trying to gaslight the rest of us into not noticing what is right in front of our noses. ..."
"... Leaving out personally identifiable information. My current employer has the following groups: Women & Allies, Pan-Asian & Allies, African American & Allies, Hispanic & Allies, and finally LGBT & Allies. Does anyone notice a group who's missing? I'll give you a hint, it's the only other possible category of race/gender/sexual orientation not already listed. These groups are constantly pushed as THE networking opportunity within the company. Managers and executives run the groups and make it clear that if you want to be recognized in the organization you need to put yourself out there through one of these groups. ..."
"... A lot of your commenters laugh at this kind of wacky corporate signaling, while others react with fear for the future. I can only speak for myself and a few other straight white men when I say our reaction is anger. ..."
"... At the end of his presentation they opened the floor to questions, and the very first question was: "Do we have a social justice mission?" From the tone of the commenter, you could tell immediately she thought we should indeed have a "social justice mission." The CEO fumbled through a few sentences about diversity and opportunity, he was clearly caught off guard. ..."
"... Why bother with the hassle? Make your policies as strict as possible so that someone with a petty grudge has no grounds should they decide to sue. ..."
Nov 19, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com

... ... ...

I wanted to bring this to your attention. My husband had a conversation with a young friend of ours who is a recent college grad. He has been working at [a major retailer] for the last year. I'm not sure what his title is, but we have encountered him at the store. He is a great worker and has earned a number of company awards for his performance. He related to my husband that he had had a conversation with a friend at work about the use or non-use of transgender pronouns. He took the position that he would not feel comfortable doing this.

He was later called into his manager's office and reprimanded. The manager told him that someone had overheard his conversation (manager wouldn't say who), and that he had made this person feel "unsafe". Our friend was written up for this, transferred to another store a long distance away, and suffered other severe sanctions! He was a bit naive to have engaged in this conversation at work, but good grief!

Yes, under communism, the slightest infraction was met with overwhelming punitive force. People were taught that they had better be afraid at all times, because one mistaken word, said in front of the wrong person, could mean their lives would change forever.

The reader goes on:

I am currently reading "The Gulag Archipelago", and there are some very obvious common threads between what happened in the early Soviet days and what we see today: freedom of speech being attacked, publications shut down completely because the editor published material written by people who were out of favor with the party, people put on trial and their past associations (before the revolution) and families of origins being used against them, defense lawyers being threatened with prison for the very act of defending those whom the state had deemed its enemies, etc, etc. The major difference that I see is that, in this age, it is mostly the corporations (along with schools and smaller government entities) who are acting in the place of the state to force people to toe the line in their thoughts and speech.

Yes, I'm working on a book proposal now about this very thing. You cannot trust anybody in these workplaces. Companies are forever wanting to do "team-building," but everything about the woke workplace compels those with any common sense to consider everyone around them a potential threat.

The reader went on to talk about her husband's experience in his workplace at a major international corporation. I can't speak in any detail about that, at her request, but she talked about how the Human Resources Department conducted a survey of all employees to find out their viewpoints on LGBT issues and allyship -- which have nothing at all to do with the company's business. Employees weren't compelled to respond, but if you did not respond, HR took note. It all goes in your file. I've heard this from other readers too, about their companies.

The reader said that her husband knows how to work around all this, and will probably be okay, at least until retirement. It's their children that she worries about:

We talk about these issues. Every time something new a happens, I tell them to ask, "What's next?", because something is always coming next. Even still, I believe it will take a miracle for them to resist this relentless indoctrination. I sometimes laugh to myself (not without sadness) when I see those commenters on your blog who still insist that there is "nothing to see here", and things aren't as bad as you're making it out to be. I am amazed that these people continue to say this in the midst of very fast social changes that are affecting real people every single day in ways that would not have happened even three years ago. We're heading for very dangerous times.

I'm going to start a new category of blog posts: "The Woke Workplace". Send me your accounts of political correctness run amok in your office. If you want me to edit any details out for privacy's sake, say so.


RinTX November 19, 2018 at 6:06 pm

"Employees weren't compelled to respond, but if you did not respond, HR took note. It all goes in your file."

It is imperative that no one be allowed to refuse to wear the ribbon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iV8X8ubGCc

"I sometimes laugh to myself (not without sadness) when I see those commenters on your blog who still insist that there is "nothing to see here", and things aren't as bad as you're making it out to be. I am amazed that these people continue to say this in the midst of very fast social changes that are affecting real people every single day in ways that would not have happened even three years ago. "

Most of these "nothing to see here" commenters are [neo]liberals that approve of and support these social changes. They are just trying to gaslight the rest of us into not noticing what is right in front of our noses.

SMK , says: November 19, 2018 at 6:28 pm
I believe it will take a miracle for them to resist this relentless indoctrination.

Homeschool or die.

SMK , says: November 19, 2018 at 6:33 pm
I sometimes laugh when I see those commenters on your blog who still insist that there is "nothing to see here"

Look, many of us lived this many decades ago, so don't see anything new.

Many of us have held our tongues our entire careers. There have been taboos about many subjects that are obviously true, but you just don't say anything. Just like an entrepreneur keeps his political opinions to himself to not offend is customers, I can keep my mouth shut to make a buck. I've worked totalitarian companies for decades so none of this crap even raises my blood pressure.

In fact, I kind of enjoy watching middle-class women freak out when their ox is finally gored. Why? They've been a large part of the political force that has led to this situation as women entered the workforce. I'm always careful not to denigrate woman's sports, or abortion, or gays, or incompetent female bosses. Welcome to jungle, ladies, when you try to keep trans out of your bathrooms.

I look at the silver lining: there is so much incompetence due to this homosexual/feminist/political crap it's actually a great opportunity for competent guys (who live in the real world, natch) to keep the lights on for an expensive price. Good help is now very hard to find everywhere.

MikeS , says: November 19, 2018 at 6:50 pm
The Left made a brilliant insight when it realized it could implement the dictatorship via good old all-American institutions like Corporations, Schools, and Churches (all much respected, at one time, by conservatives and most normal people) instead of the bad old State. Even today, naïve conservatives think the country will get better if anti-normal Corporations (which is about all of them now) get reduced regulations and taxes. This has got to be one of the most brilliant political jiu-jitsus in history.
William Dalton , says: November 19, 2018 at 6:58 pm
He is great worker who has earned a number of awards for his performance. Well, why on Earth didn't he tell his manager that he would not accept the transfer and that the manager must either rescind the order or lose him as an employee. Moreover, he should make it clear that he does not feel "safe" in a working environment which seeks to police its employees for their political and social opinions.

If Christians and other sane workers in America do not push back, and support one another in doing so, when accosted by workplace stupidity and caviling groupthink they will surely be subjected to it more and more. Stop telling America this is a battle we have lost. If there are companies which are committed to the policies of absurdity there are still certainly others that are not. It won't take more than a few years of such episodes of repression making headlines for Americans to discern for what companies they will choose to work and those they will not. Christians will find safe havens enough, and they will find politicians enough to elect to office who will guarantee them legal protection.

Brendan , says: November 19, 2018 at 7:05 pm
This is an escalation of a trend that has been ongoing for some time. Not that it isn't a meaningful escalation, but it's also part of a larger and longer trend towards overt politicization of workspaces.

I am not unused to it. My policy for many years has been to offer no opinions at work on any topic that could in any way be controversial socially, culturally or politically -- I just don't participate in those conversations, or, if I can't manage that, I simply nod and smile and don't really contribute to the conversation. Of course I will share my opinions about things that aren't touching one of those areas, but inside those areas I just steer clear and keep my opinions to myself.

The escalation here is in having to affirm things (even if it isn't technically mandatory) in order to avoid being branded as a dissenter from social orthodoxy. That is a serious escalation, I agree. It has not happened in my workplace yet. If it were to happen, I would probably grit my teeth and fill the thing out the way the company would prefer, and that would be that. Let them think they have more support than they really do.

Johnathan F , says: November 19, 2018 at 7:07 pm
Looks like my comment was deleted I'll repost:

Leaving out personally identifiable information. My current employer has the following groups: Women & Allies, Pan-Asian & Allies, African American & Allies, Hispanic & Allies, and finally LGBT & Allies. Does anyone notice a group who's missing? I'll give you a hint, it's the only other possible category of race/gender/sexual orientation not already listed. These groups are constantly pushed as THE networking opportunity within the company. Managers and executives run the groups and make it clear that if you want to be recognized in the organization you need to put yourself out there through one of these groups.

As a (TRIGGER WARNING) straight white man, it appears my only option is to attach myself to one of the above groups as a groveling ally. Maybe if I did that I would be able to signal to my peers that I am part of their "class".

However I am not part of their class; while most of my coworkers (regardless of race) spent their childhood taking Japanese language instruction and study abroad trips to France, I was working in restaurants and in construction so I could pay my rent while I went to a poor kids university.

A lot of your commenters laugh at this kind of wacky corporate signaling, while others react with fear for the future. I can only speak for myself and a few other straight white men when I say our reaction is anger.

kgasmart , says: November 19, 2018 at 7:38 pm
I work in a troubled industry (to say the least) and about a year ago there was a company-wide conference call where the CEO was talking about our strategy going forward, how we planned to retool and shift gears to navigate the increasing headwinds, etc.

At the end of his presentation they opened the floor to questions, and the very first question was: "Do we have a social justice mission?" From the tone of the commenter, you could tell immediately she thought we should indeed have a "social justice mission." The CEO fumbled through a few sentences about diversity and opportunity, he was clearly caught off guard.

But I thought: Here this industry (media) is struggling to survive, and the very first priority among younger employees is social justice.

If this industry's primary mission is social justice over "just the facts ma'am," then this industry is doomed. But I definitely get the idea the younger crowd would just as soon drive the business into the ground as work for a company that wasn't sufficiently "woke."

TheSnark , says: November 19, 2018 at 7:38 pm
And the liberals wonder why so many white guys voted for Trump.
Fran Macadam , says: November 19, 2018 at 7:56 pm
"I look at the silver lining: there is so much incompetence due to this homosexual/feminist/political crap it's actually a great opportunity for competent guys (who live in the real world, natch) to keep the lights on for an expensive price. Good help is now very hard to find everywhere."

No, incompetence is rewarded. The woke political opinions count more than anything else in a nation that's outsourced making things, which is no longer thought important Paper pushing requires no particular competence at all, and the paper pushers are now ascendant.

No longer can managers tell the difference between a good job and a bad job, except the bad job is more profitable for them.

I have to say, that if the Russians really were as malevolent as they make them out to be, God help us.

Jim in Ohio , says: November 19, 2018 at 8:07 pm
I find all of this very odd.

I've worked in IT for a number of large companies in Ohio, some of whom have their national headquarters here. They all have progressive policies in terms of hiring and all that, but the guys who run things in practice are generally conservative white men in their 40s and 50s.

I think this is less a matter of imposed ideology by hardened ideologues than a matter of wanting to avoid lawsuits by the actual fanatics.

It's the same reason we're forced to endure HR seminars on what is and what is not appropriate physical contact in a work environment. A pat on the back that lasts for too long or is placed a half inch too low will result in a lawsuit.

Why bother with the hassle? Make your policies as strict as possible so that someone with a petty grudge has no grounds should they decide to sue.

JonF , says: November 19, 2018 at 8:11 pm
And now for a word from Common Sense, though I can already tell from the comments above the Panicky Horde will reject it and run around screaming "The sky is falling!". But here goes:

Only about 5% of the population is Gay or Lesbian. a far smaller percent is Trans. I've had "G" and "L" coworkers, but never a "T" person. I expect this be true of most people here. If you are working at a small to mid sized employer there will be neither the personnel nor the budget to allow for any sort of extravagance along these lines (nor for other trendy causes: businesses exist to make money after all and in our day they are especially stingy about lavishing funds on mere staff). You will find some of it at larger employers, but even there the primary mission to make money for the shareholders. Can anyone dispute that? When I was at Big Wall Street Bank, the Baltimore office, with about 1000 employees, hosted a Women's Group, a Black Employees' Group, and yep, a GL group (again, no "T" anywhere in evidence there). Each group held an annual fundraiser for a decidedly non-political Worthy Cause: the women for breast cancer (they did a spaghetti luncheon for the office), the Black group for the local animal shelter, and the GL group for a meals on wheel type of charity, with a bake sale. The latter named of these was a "movable" event: the folks brought the goodies around the office for purchase on carts. Most of us did buy something: sweets in the afternoon! There was a Russian guy in our area– he bought nothing. Why not? Maybe he had no cash on him that day, maybe he had dietary issues, maybe he disapproved of the group and never mind the innocuous charity the money went to. Whatever: nothing came of that.

One note of caution here: I am speaking about private employment only. I am not making a comment about circumstances in public employment, including academia as I have no experience there.

[Nov 17, 2018] Each Google performance review consists of a self-assessment, a set of peer reviews, and if you're applying for a promotion, reasons for why should be promoted to the next level

Nov 17, 2018 | www.quora.com

dmond Lau , former Engineer at Google (2006-2008) Answered Aug 26 2010 ·

Upvoted by Venkata Rajesh Mekala , Engineer at Google (2016-present) and Piyush Khemka , worked at Google

Google schedules their performance reviews twice a year -- one major one at the end of the year and a smaller one mid-year. This answer is based on my experience as a Google engineer, and the performance review process may differ slightly for other positions.

Each review consists of a self-assessment, a set of peer reviews, and if you're applying for a promotion, reasons for why should be promoted to the next level. Each review component is submitted via an online tool. Around performance review time, it's not uncommon to see many engineers taking a day or more just to write the reviews through the tool.

In the self-assessment, you summarize your major accomplishments and contributions since the last review. You're also asked to describe your strengths and areas for improvement; typically you'd frame them with respect to the job expectations described by your career ladder. For example, if you're a senior engineer, you might write about your strengths being the tech lead of your current project.

For peer reviews, employees are expected to choose around 3-8 peers (fellow engineers, product managers, or others that can comment on their work) to write their peer reviews. Oftentimes, managers will also assign additional individuals to write peer reviews for one of their reports, particularly newer or younger reports who may be less familiar with the process.

Peers comment on your projects and contributions, on your strengths, and on areas for improvement. The peer reviews serve three purposes:

An additional part of the peer review is indicating a list of engineers that are working below the level of the peer and a list of engineers that are working above the level of the peer. These factor into a total ordering of engineers within a team and are used to determine cutoffs for bonuses and promotions.

If you're applying for a promotion during a performance review cycle, you're given an additional opportunity to explain why you should be promoted. A key part to a strong application is explaining with specific details and examples how you're achieving and contributing based on the expectations of the next level in the job ladder.

[Nov 17, 2018] How did you handle a bad annual performance review?

Notable quotes:
"... Reviews should never (ever ever ever) be a surprise to either party (ever). If there is something in your review that was never brought up before, ask why your manager waited until now to bring it up instead of addressing it in the moment. ..."
"... Does the company as a whole actually give a crap about reviews? Are reviews used to make decisions on what departments to trim/cut and who is at the bottom? Are they used for financial decisions? (none of those uses is good by the way). ..."
Nov 17, 2018 | www.quora.com

Nanci Lamborn ,

Pretty naive, pro-management, view...

Reviews should never (ever ever ever) be a surprise to either party (ever). If there is something in your review that was never brought up before, ask why your manager waited until now to bring it up instead of addressing it in the moment. Have an uncomfortable discussion (yikes! YES. have an uncomfortable dialogue about it). Uncomfortable doesn't mean ugly or yelling or fist pounding. We don't like conflict, so we don't like asking people to explain why they chose to act in a certain way when we feel wronged. Get over that discomfort (respectfully). You have every right to ask why something was put in your review if it was a surprise.

Does the company as a whole actually give a crap about reviews? Are reviews used to make decisions on what departments to trim/cut and who is at the bottom? Are they used for financial decisions? (none of those uses is good by the way). Or do they sit in a file gathering dust? Has anyone ever actually pulled out someone's performance review from 2 years ago and taken action on it? If none of these things are true, while the bad review is still crappy, perhaps it's less of an issue overall.

... ... ...

If the comments are more behavioral or personal, this will be tougher. "Johnny rarely demonstrates a positive attitude" or "Johnny is difficult to work with" or "Johnny doesn't seem to be a team player" - for statements like this, you must ask for a detailed explanation. Not to defend yourself (at first anyway) but to understand. What did they mean exactly by the attitude or difficulty or team player? Ask for specific examples. "Please tell me when I demonstrated a bad attitude because I really want to understand how it comes across that way". BUT you MUST listen for the answer. If you are not willing to hear the answer and then work on it, then the entire exercise is a waste of time. You have a right to ask for these specifics. If your boss hesitates on giving examples, your response is then "How can I correct this issue if I don't know what the issue is?"

... ... ...

Lastly, if all of this fails and you're not given a chance to discuss the review and you truly believe it is wrong, ask for a meeting with HR to start that discussion. But be sure that you come across with the desire to come to an understanding by considering all the issues together professionally. And don't grumble and complain about it to colleagues unless everyone else is getting the same bad review treatment. This situation is between you and your manager and you should treat it as such or it can backfire.

[Nov 17, 2018] Should I argue a negative performance review?

If traditional performance reviews aren't officially dead, they certainly should be.
The arbitrary task of assigning some meaningless ranking number which is not connected to anything actionable is a painful waste of everyone's time. "You look like a 3.2 today, Joe looks like a 2.7, but Mary looks like a 4.1." In today's environment filled with knowledge workers, such rankings are silly at best and demotivating at worst. There is no proven correlation that such a system yields high-performance productivity results.
Nov 17, 2018 | www.quora.com

David Spearman , I operate by Crocker's Rules. Answered Feb 26, 2015 Yes if and only if you have documentation that some factual information in the review is false. Even then, you need to be careful to be as polite as possible. Anything else is unlikely to get you anywhere and may make your situation much worse.

[Nov 17, 2018] A Googler's Critique of Google's Performance Management Reviews by I Done This Support

Notable quotes:
"... This post was written anonymously by a current Google and former Microsoft employee. It details the author's perspective on her first-hand experience with Google's performance management review system. ..."
Aug 05, 2014 | blog.idonethis.com

This post was written anonymously by a current Google and former Microsoft employee. It details the author's perspective on her first-hand experience with Google's performance management review system.

"Confidence thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live."

–Franklin D. Roosevelt

Institutions are built on the trust and credibility of their members. This maxim holds true for employees and their employers just the same as it does for citizens and their government. Whereas the electoral process in modern democracies allows you and me to rate our government's performance, performance rating systems make employees the subject of evaluation. In both cases, however, faith in the integrity of the process is the only thing that ensures order.

Managing a performance rating system that motivates, rewards, and retains talented employees across an organization tens of thousands large is a grueling, never-ending challenge. How does an organization balance values core to its DNA and its continued success -- merit, openness, innovation, and loyalty -- all while maintaining perceptions of fairness?

I've worked at both Microsoft and Google and seen both tech giants fight this battle with complex formulae, peer awards, and strict curves .

Numerical ratings were originally born out of a desire for precision. Performance buckets were born out of an inability to defend the precise scores. As of November 2013, Microsoft eliminated its forced curve rating system. And in April 2014, Google followed suit.

All four performance rating schemes follow a similar cadence: employees are given a rating relative to their peers on a quarterly basis. This is done in secret and potentially never shared with employees. On a semi-annual basis, summary assessments are shared with a selective set of examples (of work and behavior) that articulate and reinforce the rating. Then employees are made aware of the bonuses, salary raises, and stock grants they will be awarded. The rewards are decided unilaterally regardless of the dialogue that takes place during the review, and next chance to check in and reassess is six months away.

First-Hand Observations

As someone who has lived through cycles of the ever-evolving performance evaluation and rating mechanisms at these tech giants, a few observations emerge:

Forced curves undermine the spirit of collaboration and foster a mindset of hoarding pie instead of expanding it

There are particular specialized organizations that benefit from having a defined numerical goal. For example, a quarterly sales quota is a very clear measuring stick, as are portfolio returns, bugs resolved, or customers satisfied. But absent specific, level measures of productive output, large firms face the uphill battle of linking performance to rewards.

When you force fit a curve to the array of employee responsibilities, which vary in scope and complexity, it becomes virtually impossible for one lowly employee to pinpoint what distinguishes "good" from "poor" or "great".

I've found myself asking, "Did I score well because I put in the hours or because I got an easy draw?" Or, "Is managing a profitable line of business more merit-worthy than building a floor for a failing business?"

In my experience , people managers suffer through this ambiguity just the same. Despite the wealth of data they have about their direct reports, they're unable to articulate the rationale (or broader context within the cohort) underlying the numerical scores they assign. And in the absence of transparency or an understanding of how individual contributions compare to team success, self-preservation rules supreme.

And even with the recent moves away from strict numerical curves, there remains a finite pool of awards to be distributed, which doesn't reflect the mentality they're trying to foster.

Celebrating performance through evaluation cycles (quarterly, semiannually, annually) creates a sense that everyday work does not matter

The climb toward credible ratings grows steeper when you divorce an accomplishment from recognition with an annual or semiannual review. The emotional impact of a successful presentation or a new policy is nowhere to be found in a set of six-month-old notes. Worse still, seeing changes to compensation or a performance rating system in response to months old polling data address past concerns (and possibly the concerns of past employees).

Even data-rich, data-loving companies shy away from being transparent about how they arrive at individual ratings which produce a perception of arbitrary assessment and a false notion of precision

How do employees adapt and improve if they aren't working at the trading desk or privy to examples of exceptional performance? They turn to Glassdoor, HR brochures, or worse of all, personal anecdotes to bolster their own assessment of whether they are receiving a "fair" deal. Unfortunately, not one of these third party sources has the nuanced understanding of an employee or his/her team necessary to provide context. What's often left is a broken, trust-less relationship.

Performance rating systems are reactive and intended to buoy the ship against alarming trends in survey data and rates of attrition; improvements and tweaks are subject to lengthy implementation cycles

Employers seek to improve their performance rating systems and do so by soliciting regular feedback from their employees. The intention is that a system designed in collaboration will better serve all and engage employees. Where these good intentions run awry is at the implementation stage -- it takes at least one quarter for to synthesize feedback and evaluation potential changes. The feedback loops for employee performance as well as the performance review system are out of sync with actual job performance and employee sentiment.

How to Do Better

So what can these firms do to win the war for credibility? Be transparent . Throw open the doors and share the notes. Make measurement and compensation public. Have peers drive the rating process. The power of transparency is well understood. There are already measures in place to build engagement among employees and alignment within teams:

Increased context and knowledge builds comfort and trust for employees and managers alike. When employees know how they're measured, there's less room for suspicion. And when they know can connect the dots between individual performance and team success, there's greater job satisfaction.

Ultimately, the goal of a performance rating system is to reward and retain capable employees by keeping them happy and feeling like they have a fair deal.

Transparency goes a far way toward lending credibility to the process and building commitment to the company, but it isn't a silver bullet. Giving employees greater flexibility in what they take on and the efforts they lead also builds a sense of ownership and commitment. Opportunities such as 20% projects (wherein employees spends 20% of their time working on something about which they're passionate) or cross-organizational initiatives (e.g. building a volunteering program) are excellent examples of empowering employees through choice. But there's room for this notion of self-direction to go even further -- a completely open allocation (e.g. 100% self-directed time) or letting employees choose their manager are two programs I would certainly sign up for.

What it boils down to is that employees want to know how they are being evaluated and want to know that they're making conscious choices. Because while you vote with a punch card at the election booth, in the workplace you vote with your feet.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt4 years ago ,

Good points. Two of my children, boys with STEM degrees from 1st tier colleges (CS and ME), just changed jobs to get away from the culture at the ones where they worked. Each to a more flexible, small environment - I'm hoping it will work.

[Nov 03, 2018] Neoliberal Measurement Mania

Highly recommended!
Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand. -- Archibald Putt
Neoliberal PHBs like talk about KJLOCs, error counts, tickets closed and other types of numerical measurements designed so that they can be used by lower-level PHBs to report fake results to higher level PHBs. These attempts to quantify 'the quality' and volume of work performed by software developers and sysadmins completely miss the point. For software is can lead to code bloat.
The number of tickets taken and resolved in a specified time period probably the most ignorant way to measure performance of sysadmins. For sysadmin you can invent creative creating way of generating and resolving tickets. And spend time accomplishing fake task, instead of thinking about real problem that datacenter face. Using Primitive measurement strategies devalue the work being performed by Sysadmins and programmers. They focus on the wrong things. They create the boundaries that are supposed to contain us in a manner that is comprehensible to the PHB who knows nothing about real problems we face.
Notable quotes:
"... Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand. ..."
Nov 03, 2018 | www.rako.com

In an advanced research or development project, success or failure is largely determined when the goals or objectives are set and before a manager is chosen. While a hard-working and diligent manager can increase the chances of success, the outcome of the project is most strongly affected by preexisting but unknown technological factors over which the project manager has no control. The success or failure of the project should not, therefore, be used as the sole measure or even the primary measure of the manager's competence.

Putt's Law Is promulgated

Without an adequate competence criterion for technical managers, there is no way to determine when a person has reached his level of incompetence. Thus a clever and ambitious individual may be promoted from one level of incompetence to another. He will ultimately perform incompetently in the highest level of the hierarchy just as he did in numerous lower levels. The lack of an adequate competence criterion combined with the frequent practice of creative incompetence in technical hierarchies results in a competence inversion, with the most competent people remaining near the bottom while persons of lesser talent rise to the top. It also provides the basis for Putt's Law, which can be stated in an intuitive and nonmathematical form as follows:

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

As in any other hierarchy, the majority of persons in technology neither understand nor manage much of anything. This, however, does not create an exception to Putt's Law, because such persons clearly do not dominate the hierarchy. While this was not previously stated as a basic law, it is clear that the success of every technocrat depends on his ability to deal with and benefit from the consequences of Putt's Law.

[Nov 03, 2018] The evaluation system in which there was ALWAYS a "top 10 percent" and a "bottom ten percent" is sociopathic in it's nature

Notable quotes:
"... Four years in GTS ... joined via being outsourced to IBM by my previous employer. Left GTS after 4 years. ..."
"... The IBM way of life was throughout the Oughts and the Teens an utter and complete failure from the perspective of getting work done right and using people to their appropriate and full potential. ..."
"... As a GTS employee, professional technical training was deemed unnecessary, hence I had no access to any unless I paid for it myself and used my personal time ... the only training available was cheesy presentations or other web based garbage from the intranet, or casual / OJT style meetings with other staff who were NOT professional or expert trainers. ..."
"... As a GTS employee, I had NO access to the expert and professional tools that IBM fricking made and sold to the same damn customers I was supposed to be supporting. Did we have expert and professional workflow / document management / ITIL aligned incident and problem management tools? NO, we had fricking Lotus Notes and email. Instead of upgrading to the newest and best software solutions for data center / IT management & support, we degraded everything down the simplest and least complex single function tools that no "best practices" organization on Earth would ever consider using. ..."
"... And the people management paradigm ... employees ranked annually not against a static or shared goal or metric, but in relation to each other, and there was ALWAYS a "top 10 percent" and a "bottom ten percent" required by upper management ... a system that was sociopathic in it's nature because it encourages employees to NOT work together ... by screwing over one's coworkers, perhaps by not giving necessary information, timely support, assistance as needed or requested, one could potentially hurt their performance and make oneself look relatively better. That's a self-defeating system and it was encouraged by the way IBM ran things. ..."
Nov 03, 2018 | www.zdnet.com

Gravyboat McGee , Wednesday, April 26, 2017 9:00 PM

Four years in GTS ... joined via being outsourced to IBM by my previous employer. Left GTS after 4 years.

The IBM way of life was throughout the Oughts and the Teens an utter and complete failure from the perspective of getting work done right and using people to their appropriate and full potential. I went from a multi-disciplinary team of engineers working across technologies to support corporate needs in the IT environment to being siloed into a single-function organization.

My first year of on-boarding with IBM was spent deconstructing application integration and cross-organizational structures of support and interwork that I had spent 6 years building and maintaining. Handing off different chunks of work (again, before the outsourcing, an Enterprise solution supported by one multi-disciplinary team) to different IBM GTS work silos that had no physical special relationship and no interworking history or habits. What we're talking about here is the notion of "left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing" ...

THAT was the IBM way of doing things, and nothing I've read about them over the past decade or so tells me it has changed.

As a GTS employee, professional technical training was deemed unnecessary, hence I had no access to any unless I paid for it myself and used my personal time ... the only training available was cheesy presentations or other web based garbage from the intranet, or casual / OJT style meetings with other staff who were NOT professional or expert trainers.

As a GTS employee, I had NO access to the expert and professional tools that IBM fricking made and sold to the same damn customers I was supposed to be supporting. Did we have expert and professional workflow / document management / ITIL aligned incident and problem management tools? NO, we had fricking Lotus Notes and email. Instead of upgrading to the newest and best software solutions for data center / IT management & support, we degraded everything down the simplest and least complex single function tools that no "best practices" organization on Earth would ever consider using.

And the people management paradigm ... employees ranked annually not against a static or shared goal or metric, but in relation to each other, and there was ALWAYS a "top 10 percent" and a "bottom ten percent" required by upper management ... a system that was sociopathic in it's nature because it encourages employees to NOT work together ... by screwing over one's coworkers, perhaps by not giving necessary information, timely support, assistance as needed or requested, one could potentially hurt their performance and make oneself look relatively better. That's a self-defeating system and it was encouraged by the way IBM ran things.

The "not invented here" ideology was embedded deeply in the souls of all senior IBMers I ever met or worked with ... if you come on board with any outside knowledge or experience, you must not dare to say "this way works better" because you'd be shut down before you could blink. The phrase "best practices" to them means "the way we've always done it".

IBM gave up on innovation long ago. Since the 90's the vast majority of their software has been bought, not built. Buy a small company, strip out the innovation, slap an IBM label on it, sell it as the next coming of Jesus even though they refuse to expend any R&D to push the product to the next level ... damn near everything IBM sold was gentrified, never cutting edge.

And don't get me started on sales practices ... tell the customer how product XYZ is a guaranteed moonshot, they'll be living on lunar real estate in no time at all, and after all the contracts are signed hand the customer a box of nuts & bolts and a letter telling them where they can look up instructions on how to build their own moon rocket. Or for XX dollars more a year, hire a Professional Services IBMer to build it for them.

I have no sympathy for IBM. They need a clean sweep throughout upper management, especially any of the old True Blue hard-core IBMers.

[Oct 30, 2018] Arbitrators overwhelmingly favor employers

Oct 30, 2018 | features.propublica.org

When it comes to employment claims, studies have found that arbitrators overwhelmingly favor employers. Research by Cornell University law and labor relations specialist Alexander Colvin found that workers win only 19 percent of the time when their cases are arbitrated. By contrast, they win 36 percent of the time when they go to federal court, and 57 percent in state courts. Average payouts when an employee wins follow a similar pattern.

Given those odds, and having signed away their rights to go to court, some laid-off IBM workers have chosen the one independent forum companies can't deny them: the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That's where Moos, the Long Beach systems security specialist, and several of her colleagues, turned for help when they were laid off. In their complaints to the agency, they said they'd suffered age discrimination because of the company's effort to "drastically change the IBM employee age mix to be seen as a startup."

In its formal reply to the EEOC, IBM said that age couldn't have been a factor in their dismissals. Among the reasons it cited: The managers who decided on the layoffs were in their 40s and therefore older too.

[Oct 30, 2018] I see the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) problem as its nearly impossible to take the fact that we know PIP is a scam to court. IBM will say its an issue with you, your performance nose dived and your manager tried to fix that. You have to not only fight those simple statements, but prove that PIP is actually systematic worker abuse.

Notable quotes:
"... It is in fact a modern corporate horror story; it's also life at a modern corporation, period. ..."
Oct 30, 2018 | features.propublica.org

Cindy Gallop , Thursday, March 22, 2018 10:24 AM

This makes for absolutely horrifying, chills-down-your-spine reading. A modern corporate horror story - worthy of a 'Black Mirror' episode. Phenomenal reporting by Ariana Tobin and Peter Gosselin. Thank you for exposing this. I hope this puts an end to this at IBM and makes every other company and industry doing this in covert and illegal ways think twice about continuing.
Daisy S Cindy Gallop , in reply to" aria-label="in reply to">
Agree..a well written expose'. I've been a victim of IBM's "PIP" (Performance Improvement Plan) strategy, not because of my real performance mind you, but rather, I wasn't billing hours between projects and it was hurting my unit's bottom line. The way IBM instructs management to structure the PIP, it's almost impossible to dig your way out, and it's intentional. If you have a PIP on your record, nobody in IBM wants to touch you, so in effect you're already gone.
Paul Brinker Daisy S , in reply to" aria-label="in reply to">
I see the PIP problem as its nearly impossible to take the fact that we know PIP is a scam to court. IBM will say its an issue with you, your performance nose dived and your manager tried to fix that. You have to not only fight those simple statements, but prove that PIP is actually systematic worker abuse.
dragonflap Cindy Gallop , in reply to" aria-label="in reply to">
Cindy, they've been doing this for at least 15-20 years, or even longer according to some of the previous comments. It is in fact a modern corporate horror story; it's also life at a modern corporation, period.
Maria Stone dragonflap , in reply to" aria-label="in reply to">
This started happening in the 1990's when they added 5 years to your age and years of service and ASKED you to retire.
Matt_Z , Thursday, March 22, 2018 6:01 PM
After over 35 years working there, 19 of them as a manager sending out more of those notification letters than I care to remember, I can vouch for the accuracy of this investigative work. It's an incredibly toxic and hostile environment and has been for the last 5 or so years. One of the items I was appraised on annually was how many US jobs I moved offshore. It was a relief when I received my notification letter after a two minute phone call telling me it was on the way. Sleeping at night and looking myself in the mirror aren't as hard as they were when I worked there.
IBM will never regain any semblance of their former glory (or profit) until they begin to treat employees well again.
With all the offshoring and resource actions with no backfill over the last 10 years, so much is broken. Customers suffer almost as much as the employees.
I don't know how in the world they ended up on that LinkedIn list. Based on my fairly recent experience there are a half dozen happy employees in the US, and most of them are C level.
Jennifer , Thursday, March 22, 2018 9:42 AM
Well done. It squares well with my 18 years at IBM, watching resource action after resource action and hearing what my (unusually honest) manager told me. Things got progressively worse from 2012 onward. I never realized how stressful it was to live under the shadow of impending layoffs until I finally found the courage to leave in 2015. Best decision I've made.

IBM answers to its shareholders, period. Employees are an afterthought - simply a means to an end. It's shameful. (That's not to say that individual people managers feel that way. I'm speaking about IBM executives.)

Herb Jennifer , in reply to" aria-label="in reply to">
Well, they almost answer to their shareholders, but that's after the IBM executives take their share. Ginni's compensation is tied to stock price (apparently not earnings) and buy backs maintain the stock price.
Ribit , Thursday, March 22, 2018 8:17 AM
If the criteria for layoff is being allegedly overpaid and allegedly a poor performer, then it follows that Grinnin' Jenny should have been let go long ago.
Mr. Hand Ribit , in reply to" aria-label="in reply to">
Yes! After the 4th of those 22 consecutive quarters of declining revenues. And she's no spring chicken either. ;-)
DDRLSGC Ribit ,
Especially these CEOs who have ran their companies into the ground for the last 38 years.
owswitch , Thursday, March 22, 2018 8:58 AM
Just another fine example of how people become disposable.
And, when it comes to cost containment and profit maximization, there is no place for ethics in American business.
Businesses can lie just as well as politicians.

Millennials are smart to avoid this kind of problem by remaining loyal only to themselves. Companies certainly define anyone as replaceable - even their over-paid CEO's.

DDRLSGC owswitch

The millennials saw what happen to their parents and grandparents getting screwed over after a life time of work and loyalty. You can't blame them for not caring about so called traditional American work ethics and then they are attacked for not having them when the business leaders threw away all those value decades ago.

Some of these IBM people have themselves to blame for cutting their own economic throats for fighting against unions, putting in politicians who are pro-business and thinking that their education and high paying white collar STEM jobs will give them economic immunity.

If America was more of a free market and free enterprise instead of being more of a close market of oligarchies and monopolies, and strong government regulations, companies would think twice about treating their workforce badly because they know their workforce would leave for other companies or start up their own companies without too much of a hassle.

HiJinks DDRLSGC

Under the old IBM you could not get a union as workers were treated with dignity and respect - see the 3 core beliefs. Back then a union would not have accomplished anything.

DDRLSGC HiJinks
Doesn't matter if it was the old IBM or new IBM, you wonder how many still actually voted against their economic interests in the political elections that in the long run undermine labor rights in this country.
HiJinks DDRLSGC
So one shouldn't vote? Neither party cares about the average voter except at election time. Both sell out to Big Business - after all, that's where the big campaign donations come from. If you believe only one party favors Big Business, then you have been watching to much "fake news". Even the unions know they have been sold out by both and are wising up. How many of those jobs were shipped overseas the past 25 years.
DDRLSGC HiJinks ,
No, they should have been more active in voting for politicians who would look after the workers' rights in this country for the last 38 years plus ensuring that Congressional people and the president would not be packing the court system with pro-business judges. Sorry, but it is the Big Business that have been favoring the Republican Party for a long, long time and the jobs have been shipped out for the last 38 years.

[May 28, 2018] The Seven Pillars of the Matrix by Robert Bonomo>

Notable quotes:
"... The weakest part of this piece is that it makes all kinds of suppositions about about the true nature of mankind, that remind me of paleo diet nonsense. Humans evolved constantly so we were selected for domestication. It changed us. We are not the great apes of the savannah, but agriculturalists living in complex societies. This is our true nature and the conflict in our societies is between those who are more domesticated and those who are less domesticated. ..."
"... This text shows us a little of the biblical allegory of Pandora's box, even though we know that it is based on the sins that are present inside the box. How is a short story, so I can invent upon an invention without a known author, that in fact as we open Pandora's Box, we will not spread hatred for Earth, there is no need to spread what is already widespread, but we will find the truth. And the truth is that we are animals like those we despise. Human culture is an illusion to keep sane people. ..."
"... "Oh, well, at least Bonobo–I mean, Bonomo–didn't use the word "sheeple," so I don't have to go ballistic on him. Condescending is much too weak a word to describe this mess. Arrogant and egomaniacal fit much better." ..."
"... Despite some glaring inaccuracies and over-generalizations, overall the piece is interesting and thought-provoking. ..."
"... Freedom is in inverse proportion to security. An individual in solitary-confinement in a maximum security prison has 100% security but 0% freedom. At the opposite extreme is the "hermit" living in self-imposed exile with 100% freedom but never entirely sure of when & where his next meal is coming from and if attacked by a predator, human or animal, he is entirely on his own. Between those two extremes there is a reasonable middle-ground. ..."
Jul 29, 2014 | www.unz.com

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Contemporary baptized, corporatized and sanitized man rarely has the occasion to question his identity, and when he does a typical response might be, "I am product manager for a large retail chain, married to Betty, father of Johnny, a Democrat, Steelers fan and a Lutheran."

His answers imply not only his beliefs but the many responsibilities, rules and restrictions he is subjected to. Few if any of these were ever negotiated- they were imposed on him yet he still considers himself free.

But is free the right adjective for him, or would modern domesticated simian be more apt? He has been told what to do, believe, think and feel since he can remember. A very clever rancher has bred billions of these creatures around the globe and created the most profitable livestock imaginable. They work for him, fight for him, die for him, believe his wildest tales, laugh at his jokes and rarely get out of line. When domesticated man does break one of the rules there are armies, jailers, psychiatrists and bureaucrats prepared to kill, incarcerate, drug or hound the transgressor into submission.

One of the most fascinating aspects of domesticated man's predicament is that he never looks at the cattle, sheep and pigs who wind up on his plate and make the very simple deduction that he is just a talking version of them, corralled and shepherded through his entire life. How is this accomplished? Only animals that live in hierarchical groups can be dominated by man. The trick is to fool the animal into believing that the leader of the pack or herd is the person who is domesticating them. Once this is accomplished the animal is under full control of its homo sapien master. The domesticated man is no different, originally organized in groups with a clear hierarchy and maximum size of 150- it was easy to replace the leader of these smaller groups with one overarching figure such as God, King, President, CEO etc.

The methodology for creating this exceptionally loyal and obedient modern breed, homo domesticus, can be described as having seven pillars from which an immense matrix captures the talking simians and their conscious minds and hooks them into a complex mesh from which few ever escape. The system is so advanced that those who do untangle themselves and cut their way out of the net are immediately branded as mentally ill, anti-social, or simply losers who can't accept the 'complexity of modern life', i.e. conspiracy nuts.

Plato described this brilliantly in his Allegory of the Cave , where people only see man made shadows of objects, institutions, Gods and ideas:

"–Behold! human beings living in an underground cave here they have been from their childhood necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall "

It began with the word, which forever changed the ability of men to manipulate each other. Before language, every sensation was directly felt through the senses without the filter of words. But somewhere around 50,000 years ago language began to replace reality and the first pieces of code were put in place for the creation of the Matrix. As soon as the words began to flow the world was split, and from that fracturing was born man's angst and slavery. The words separated us from who we really were, creating the first screen onto which the images from Plato's cave were cast. Gurdjieff said it well, "Identifying is the chief obstacle to self-remembering. A man who identifies with anything is unable to remember himself."

It's no accident that in Hesiod's ages of man the Golden Age knew no agriculture, which appeared in the Silver age, and by the time we reach the Bronze age the dominant theme is toil and strife. The two key elements to the enslavement of man were clearly language and agriculture. In the hunter gatherer society, taking out the boss was no more complicated than landing a well placed fastball to the head. Only since the advent of farming was the possibility of creating full time enforcers and propagandists made possible, and hence enslavement inevitable.

The search for enlightenment rarely if ever bears fruits in those temples of words, our schools and universities. Almost all traditions point to isolation and silence as the only paths to awakening; they are the true antidotes to modern slavery. As Aristotle wrote, "Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god."

So from the institution from which we are mercilessly bombarded with words and enslaved to time, we begin our descent through the seven layers of the Matrix.

Education

There are things we are born able to do like eating, laughing and crying and others we pick up without much of an effort such as walking, speaking and fighting, but without strict institutional education there is no way that we can ever become a functioning member of the Matrix. We must be indoctrinated, sent to Matrix boot camp, which of course is school. How else could you take a hunter and turn him into a corporate slave, submissive to clocks, countless bosses, monotony and uniformity?

Children naturally know who they are, they have no existential angst, but schools immediately begin driving home the point of schedules, rules, lists and grades which inevitably lead the students to the concept of who they aren't. We drill the little ones until they learn to count money, tell time, measure progress, stand in line, keep silent and endure submission. They learn they aren't free and they are separated from everyone else and the world itself by a myriad of divides, names and languages.

It can't be stressed enough how much education is simply inculcating people with the clock and the idea of a forced identity. What child when she first goes to school isn't taken back to hear herself referred to by her full name?

It's not as if language itself isn't sufficiently abstract- nothing must be left without a category. Suzy can't just be Suzy- she is a citizen of a country and a state, a member of a religion and a product of a civilization, many of which have flags, mascots, armies, uniforms, currencies and languages. Once all the mascots, tag lines and corporate creeds are learned, then history can begin to be taught. The great epic myths invented and conveniently woven into the archetypes which have come down through the ages cement this matrix into the child's mind.

Even the language that she speaks without effort must be deconstructed for her. An apple will never again be just an apple- it will become a noun, a subject, or an object. Nothing will be left untouched, all must be ripped apart and explained back to the child in Matrixese.

We are taught almost nothing useful during the twelve or so years that we are institutionalized and conditioned for slavery- not how to cook, farm, hunt, build, gather, laugh or play. We are only taught how to live by a clock and conform to institutionalized behaviors that make for solid careers as slaveocrats.

Government

In the countries that claim to be democratic the concept of a government created to serve the people is often espoused. Government, and the laws they create and enforce are institutionalized social control for the benefit of those who have seized power. This has always been the case and always will be. In the pre-democratic era it was much clearer to recognize who had power, but the genius of massive democratic states are the layers upon layers of corporatocracy and special interests which so brilliantly conceal the identify of those who really manage the massive apparatus of control.

The functions of the state are so well ensconced in dogmatic versions of history taught in schools that almost no one questions why we need anything beyond the bare essentials of government to maintain order in the post-industrial age. The history classes never point the finger at the governments themselves as the propagators and instigators of war, genocide, starvation and corruption. In Hollywood's version of history, the one most people absorb, 'good' governments are always portrayed as fighting 'bad' ones. We have yet to see a film where all the people on both sides simply disengage from their governments and ignore the calls to violence.

The state apparatus is based on law, which is a contract between the people and an organism created to administer common necessities- an exchange of sovereignty between the people and the state. This sounds reasonable, but when one looks at the mass slaughters of the 20th century, almost without exception, the perpetrators are the states themselves.

The loss of human freedom is the only birthright offered to the citizens of the modern nation. There is never a choice. It is spun as a freedom and a privilege when it is in fact indentured servitude to the state apparatus and the corporatocracy that controls it.

Patriotism

Patriotism is pure abstraction, a completely artificial mechanism of social control. People are taught to value their compatriots above and beyond those of their own ethnic background, race or religion. The organic bonds are to be shed in favor of the great corporate state. From infancy children are indoctrinated like Pavlov's dogs to worship the paraphernalia of the state and see it as a mystical demigod.

What is a country? Using the United States as example, what actually is this entity? Is it the USPS, the FDA, or the CIA? Does loving one's country mean one should love the IRS and the NSA? Should we feel differently about someone if they are from Vancouver instead of Seattle? Loving a state is the same as loving a corporation, except with the corporations there is still no stigma attached to not showing overt sentimental devotion to their brands and fortunately, at least for the moment, we are not obligated at birth to pay them for a lifetime of services, most of which we neither need nor want.

Flags, the Hollywood version of history and presidential worship are drilled into us to maintain the illusion of the 'other' and force the 'foreigner/terrorist/extremist' to wear the stigma of our projections. The archaic tribal energy that united small bands and helped them to fend off wild beasts and hungry hordes has been converted into a magic wand for the masters of the matrix. Flags are waved, and we respond like hungry Labradors jumping at a juicy prime rib swinging before our noses. Sentimental statist propaganda is simply the mouthguard used to soften the jolt of our collective electroshock therapy.

Religion

As powerful as the patriotic sects are, there has always been a need for something higher. Religion comes from the Latin 're-ligare' and it means to reconnect. But reconnect to what? The question before all religions is, what have we been disconnected from? The indoctrination and alienation of becoming a card carrying slave has a cost; the level of abstraction and the disconnect from any semblance of humanity converts people into nihilistic robots. No amount of patriotic fervor can replace having a soul. The flags and history lessons can only give a momentary reprieve to the emptiness of the Matrix and that's why the priests are needed.

The original spiritual connection man had with the universe began to dissolve into duality with the onset of language, and by the time cities and standing armies arrived he was in need of a reconnection, and thus we get our faith based religions. Faith in the religious experiences of sages, or as William James put it, faith in someone else's ability to connect. Of course the liturgies of our mainstream religions offer some solace and connection, but in general they simply provide the glue for the Matrix. A brief perusal of the news will clearly show that their 'God' seems most comfortable amidst the killing fields.

If we focus on the Abrahamic religions, we have a god much like the state, one who needs to be loved. He is also jealous of the other supposedly non-existent gods and is as sociopathic as the governments who adore him. He wipes out his enemies with floods and angels of death just as the governments who pander to him annihilate us with cultural revolutions, atom bombs, television and napalm. Their anthem is, "Love your country, it's flag, its history, and the God who created it all"- an ethos force fed to each new generation.

Circus

The sad thing about circus is that it's generally not even entertaining. The slaves are told it's time for some fun and they move in hordes to fill stadiums, clubs, cinemas or simply to stare into their electrical devices believing that they are are being entertained by vulgar propaganda.

As long as homo domesticus goes into the appropriate corral, jumps when she is told to and agrees wholeheartedly that she is having fun, than she is a good slave worthy of her two days off a week and fifteen days vacation at the designated farm where she is milked of any excess gold she might have accumulated during the year. Once she is too old to work and put to pasture, holes are strategically placed in her vicinity so she and her husband can spend their last few dollars trying to get a small white ball into them.

On a daily basis, after the caffeinated maximum effort has been squeezed out of her, she is placed in front of a screen, given the Matrix approved beverage (alcohol), and re-indoctrinated for several hours before starting the whole cycle over again. God forbid anyone ever took a hallucinogen and had an original thought. We are, thankfully, protected from any substances that might actually wake us up and are encouraged stick to the booze. The matrix loves coffee in the morning, alcohol in the evening and never an authentic thought in between.

On a more primal level we are entranced with the contours of the perfect body and dream of 'perfect love', where our days will be filled with soft caresses, sweet words and Hollywood drama. This is maybe the most sublime of the Matrix's snares, as Venus's charms can be so convincing one willingly abandons all for her devious promise. Romantic love is dangled like bait, selling us down the path of sentimentally coated lies and mindless consumerism.

Money

Money is their most brilliant accomplishment. Billions of people spend most of their waking lives either acquiring it or spending it without ever understanding what it actually is. In this hologram of a world, the only thing one can do without money is breath. For almost every other human activity they want currency, from eating and drinking to clothing oneself and finding a partner. Religion came from innate spirituality and patriotism from the tribe, but money they invented themselves- the most fantastic and effective of all their tools of domestication.

They have convinced the slaves that money actually has some intrinsic value, since at some point in the past it actually did. Once they were finally able to disconnect money completely from anything other than their computers, they finally took complete control, locked the last gate and electrified all the fences. They ingeniously print it up out of the nothing and loan it with interest in order for 18-year-olds to spend four years drinking and memorizing propaganda as they begin a financial indebtedness that will most likely never end.

By the time the typical American is thirty the debt is mounted so high that they abandon any hope of ever being free of it and embrace their mortgages, credit cards, student loans and car loans as gifts from a sugar daddy. What they rarely asks themselves is why they must work to make money while banks can simply create it with a few key strokes. If they printed out notes on their HP's and loaned them with interest to their neighbors, they would wind up in a penitentiary, but not our friends on Wall Street- they do just that and wind up pulling the strings in the White House. The genius of the money scam is how obvious it is. When people are told that banks create money out of nothing and are paid interest for it the good folks are left incredulous. "It can't be that simple!" And therein lies the rub- no one wants to believe that they have been enslaved so easily .

Culture

"Culture is the effort to hold back the mystery, and replace it with a mythology."
– Terence McKenna

As Terence loved to say, "Culture is not your friend." It exists as a buffer to authentic experience. As they created larger and larger communities, they replaced the direct spiritual experience of the shaman with priestly religion. Drum beats and sweat were exchanged for digitized, corporatized noise. Local tales got replaced by Hollywood blockbusters, critical thinking with academic dogma.

If money is the shackles of the matrix, culture is its operating system. Filtered, centralized, incredibly manipulative, it glues all their myths together into one massive narrative of social control from which only the bravest of souls ever try to escape. It's relatively simple to see the manipulation when one looks at patriotism, religion or money. But when taken as a whole, our culture seems as natural and timeless as the air we breathe, so intertwined with our self conception it is often hard to see where we individually finish and our culture begins.

Escaping the Grip of Control

Some might ask why this all-pervasive network of control isn't talked about or discussed by our 'great minds'. Pre-Socratic scholar Peter Kingsley explains it well:

"Everything becomes clear once we accept the fact that scholarship as a whole is not concerned with finding, or even looking for, the truth. That's just a decorative appearance. It's simply concerned with protecting us from truths that might endanger our security; and it does so by perpetuating our collective illusions on a much deeper level than individual scholars are aware of."

Whoever discovered water, it certainly wasn't a fish. To leave the 'water', or Plato's cave takes courage and the knowledge that there is something beyond the web of control. Over 2,300 hundred years ago Plato described the process of leaving the Matrix in the Allegory of the Cave as a slow, excruciating process akin to walking out onto a sunny beach after spending years in a basement watching Kabuki.

How can this awakening be explained? How do you describe the feeling of swimming in the ocean at dusk to someone who has never even seen the sea? You can't, but what you can do is crack open a window for them and if enough windows are opened, the illusion begins to lose its luster.


rod1963 , August 3, 2014 at 12:03 am GMT

I'll take Neil Postman, Chesterton or C.S. Lewis over Bonomo any day.

His article merely takes a blowtorch to all and everything and worse showing very little understanding of the things he attacks is cringe worthy. There's no real analysis, no consideration of the ramifications for doing away with the state, community and faith. This is shoddy thinking at best.

And his last part "Escaping the Grip of Control" is just so much gibberish. It's not thought out at all.

Pseudonymic Handle , August 3, 2014 at 12:35 pm GMT
The weakest part of this piece is that it makes all kinds of suppositions about about the true nature of mankind, that remind me of paleo diet nonsense. Humans evolved constantly so we were selected for domestication. It changed us. We are not the great apes of the savannah, but agriculturalists living in complex societies. This is our true nature and the conflict in our societies is between those who are more domesticated and those who are less domesticated.
Bill , August 3, 2014 at 9:51 pm GMT

"I am product manager for a large retail chain, married to Betty, father of Johnny, a Democrat, Steelers fan and a Lutheran."

His answers imply not only his beliefs but the many responsibilities, rules and restrictions he is subjected to. Few if any of these were ever negotiated- they were imposed on him yet he still considers himself free.

Santoculto , August 4, 2014 at 8:17 pm GMT
To talk about themselves and their superiority as human beings, civilization and biology, we have an average of 50 or more reviews.

Have to discuss the illusion of the human ego, 12 comments, some of which were based on" not-so-children's arguments."

This text shows us a little of the biblical allegory of Pandora's box, even though we know that it is based on the sins that are present inside the box. How is a short story, so I can invent upon an invention without a known author, that in fact as we open Pandora's Box, we will not spread hatred for Earth, there is no need to spread what is already widespread, but we will find the truth. And the truth is that we are animals like those we despise. Human culture is an illusion to keep sane people.

The Plutonium Kid , August 7, 2014 at 6:50 pm GMT
Oh, well, at least Bonobo–I mean, Bonomo–didn't use the word "sheeple," so I don't have to go ballistic on him. Condescending is much too weak a word to describe this mess. Arrogant and egomaniacal fit much better.
Santoculto , August 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm GMT
"Oh, well, at least Bonobo–I mean, Bonomo–didn't use the word "sheeple," so I don't have to go ballistic on him. Condescending is much too weak a word to describe this mess. Arrogant and egomaniacal fit much better."

These "sensitive" people break my heart.

I think Mr. Bonhomme has the right to say whatever you want. Perhaps, the "descriptions" also served to you, what do you think ??

Mike , January 15, 2015 at 1:00 am GMT
It's sadly obvious that most of the negative replies to Mr. Bonomo's article, comes from complete tools.I can see that most, if not all of you tools have been thoroughly educated by sitting in front of your TV's and burping and farting large amount of odorous gases from your beer infused bodies.A friendly bit of advice, remove your collective heads from your asses and get a real life.
Stefano , February 3, 2015 at 1:57 pm GMT
@Plutonium Kid

Hahah.. did Bonomo's essay really scare you that much or did it merely strike such a chord of cognitive dissonance that it left you squirming in mental anguish? Lighten up dude!

Stefano , February 3, 2015 at 2:13 pm GMT
Despite some glaring inaccuracies and over-generalizations, overall the piece is interesting and thought-provoking.

"The system is so advanced that those who do untangle themselves and cut their way out of the net are immediately branded as mentally ill, anti-social, or simply losers who can't accept the 'complexity of modern life', i.e. conspiracy nuts."

Perhaps he means someone like a homeless person or pan-handler living on the street. Certainly few if anyone would consider a radical thinker like Noam Chomsky "mentally ill, anti-social, or simply losers".

Jeff77450 , July 21, 2015 at 5:27 pm GMT
Mr. Bonomo, interesting take on things but ultimately I don't quite agree. Here is the subparagraph of my worldview that addresses the whole free-versus-slave thing: Freedom is in inverse proportion to security. An individual in solitary-confinement in a maximum security prison has 100% security but 0% freedom. At the opposite extreme is the "hermit" living in self-imposed exile with 100% freedom but never entirely sure of when & where his next meal is coming from and if attacked by a predator, human or animal, he is entirely on his own. Between those two extremes there is a reasonable middle-ground.

The hunter-gatherers are (or were) about as free as it is possible to be and each individual not having to live as a hermit – but their lives were, as per Thomas Hobbs, "nasty, brutish and short." I've read that around the time of Christ the average lifespan was 20-22. (That's probably factoring in a lot of infant-mortality).

My life is clean, comfortable, reasonably if not perfectly safe and I'm on-track to live well into my eighties. But I'm a "wage-slave" to a job that I hate, despise and loath and frankly, at home, my wife rules the roost. If I protest too much she could divorce me and take much of what I've worked roughly thirty-four years for so she's got me over a barrel.

Hmmm, my day is ruined

thx1138 , February 11, 2017 at 1:49 am GMT
Well, years later I just want to thank you for this essay. It stated more clearly than I could the truth of the world. The only thing missing is the identity of the perpetrators, and many of us know who they are.

[May 12, 2018] Neoliberal management and Zombies by Robert Bonomo

May 12, 2018 | www.unz.com

The most heinous thing a human can do is eat another human. Fear of cannibalism along with the other two great taboos, incest and inter-family violence, are the bedrocks of human culture. Without these taboos there is no human civilization, yet zombie cannibals are everywhere, from the most popular TV shows in the US and Europe to the most played PC games. Everywhere we look there is a zombie dragging his feet looking for human prey. The ubiquitous nature of this meme of semi-human creatures that survive only by breaking the most fundamental of human taboos is a clear indicator of a collective cultural pathology.

Humans must not only kill and eat plants and animals to survive, we must make sure they keep coming back so they can be killed and eaten again and again. Life needs death; we must kill to live, and eventually we all wind up as someone else's food. This paradox lies at the core of the world's religions and mythologies and the fear/repulsion of eating other humans is the keystone of our culture, without it we turn on ourselves and self-annihilation ensues. The zombie meme is a modern myth pointing to a deep fear of self-destruction.

The great psychologist and mystic Carl Jung was asked if a myth could be equated to a collective dream and he answered this way, "A myth is the product of an unconscious process in a particular social group, at a particular time, at a particular place. This unconscious process can naturally be equated with a dream. Hence anyone who 'mythologizes,' that is, tells myths, is speaking out of this dream."

If a person had a recurring nightmare that she was eating her family it would be a clear symptom of a profound psychological disturbance. Cultures don't dream, but they do tell stories and those stories can tell us much about the state of the collective psyche.

Many of the themes in our popular culture are conscious story telling devices with the definite purpose of social engineering/control, but others seem to just emerge from the collective unconscious like the stuff of dreams. The zombie meme is clearly of the latter variety. It's pointing to a fear that something has broken in our culture and what awaits us is a collective psychotic break of apocalyptic proportions.

[Feb 07, 2018] Whole Foods Employees Miserable Seeing Someone Cry At Work Is Becoming Normal Zero Hedge

Feb 07, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com

Whole Foods' new inventory management system aimed at improving efficiency and cutting down on waste is taking a toll on employees, who say the system's stringent procedures and graded "scorecards" have crushed morale and led to widespread food shortages, reports Business Insider .

The new system, called order-to-shelf, or OTS, "has a strict set of procedures for purchasing, displaying, and storing products on store shelves and in back rooms. To make sure stores comply, Whole Foods relies on "scorecards" that evaluate everything from the accuracy of signage to the proper recording of theft, or "shrink."

Some employees, who walk through stores with managers to ensure compliance, describe the system as onerous and stress-inducing . Conversations with 27 current and recently departed Whole Foods workers, including cashiers and corporate employees -- some of whom have been with the company for nearly two decades -- say the system is seen by many as punitive. - BI

Terrified employees report constant fear over losing their jobs over the OTS "scorecards," which anything below 89.9% can qualify as a failing score - resulting in possible firings. Whole Foods employees around the country thought that was hilarious. One such disaffected West Coast supervisor said "On my most recent time card, I clocked over 10 hours of overtime, sitting at a desk doing OTS work," adding "Rather than focusing on guest service, I've had team members cleaning facial-care testers and facing the shelves, so that everything looks perfect and untouched at all times."

Many Whole Foods employees at the corporate and store levels still don't understand how OTS works, employees said.

"OTS has confused so many smart, logical, and experienced individuals, the befuddlement is now a thing, a life all its own," an employee of a Chicago-area store said. "It's a collective confusion -- constantly changing, no clear answers to the questions that never were, until now."

An employee of a North Carolina Whole Foods said: " No one really knows this business model, and those who are doing the scorecards -- even regional leadership -- are not clear on practices and consequently are constantly providing the department leaders with inaccurate directions. All this comes at a time when labor has been reduced to an unachievable level given the requirements of the OTS model. "


peddling-fiction -> SloMoe Feb 6, 2018 9:52 PM Permalink

Have they been Amazoned?

Robots will soon pick up the slack...

BabaLooey -> peddling-fiction Feb 6, 2018 9:58 PM Permalink

Dr. EvilBezos strikes again!

The shit fuck......

IH8OBAMA -> Cognitive Dissonance Feb 6, 2018 10:32 PM Permalink

From Amazon workers, delivery drivers and now Whole Foods workers, it sounds like the Beezer is a real tyrant to work for. I'm surprised unions haven't been able to penetrate that organization. It is certainly big enough.

erkme73 -> JimmyJones Feb 6, 2018 11:11 PM Permalink

Wife is an ER MD. The physician leasing firm that employs her, which has the contract at the local hospital, recently got bought out by a new group. Suddenly she has a new director who assigns quotas to everything, and grades every aspect of her performance. It is quite stressful, and takes much of what little joy there was in her profession, and flushes it away. She is actively entertaining head hunters' calls again.

A Nanny Moose -> erkme73 Feb 6, 2018 11:57 PM Permalink

Just finished a two-year project building a hospital's Information Security Program....everything heading toward performance metrics measured against some horseshit ticketing system. Such systems only encourage throwing of horseshit over the fence, by incapable amateurs, to the people who actually know how to think. This program was put in place by a CIO who was former Air Farce.

It now takes 5 fucking hours of bureaucratic horseshit to perform 1/2 hour of actual engineering/technical work. The next step is to automate technical work from within the change control and IT automation systems.

Mark my words....just wait until the vulnerabilities in these change control, and Information Security Automation systems are exploited. Wait for the flaws in the code used to automate creation of entire networks, sever farms, security policies, etc.

I don't want to be within 100 miles of anything modern when this all goes to shit.

[Nov 12, 2016] Tech managers arent doing a good job developing IT talent survey

Jun 01, 2012 | www.networkworld.com

A majority of IT professionals judge their current managers as graders (61%) versus teachers (26%), but it's more important to create a nurturing workplace than a pass/fail department, Silver said.

"There will always be a need for some grading, but the emphasis should be on teaching. Tech professionals do their best work when it's a safe environment to try new solutions, explore alternatives and fail," Silver said. "Over time, wisdom gained equals fewer mistakes, cutting quickly to the best solution and increasing production. That's a pretty good payback."

If tech employees don't feel valued, they're going to jump ship. Turnover has fallen below average for 41 months in a row, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but tech managers can't count on a struggling economy and tight job market to keep their departments staffed. Good talent will flee, Silver says.

"Frankly, companies haven't felt the repercussions of subpar workplaces in the last three years. But, the gap between the importance of the employee-manager relationship and the way it's developing is unacceptable. Both sides need to remember this is a lasting connection and one worth the effort."

Darth Vader

Tech managers always look to their vendor for guidance as to what to do with their tech people. Vendors, after all, compete with similar skills in techs since they build and sometimes even use the products and tools the client tech managers deal with on daily basis.

When vendors like IBM have been treating their tech skills asset like dirt and call them "resources", it is a surprise that the client managers of those same skills don't do the same thing?

Until the hypocrisy of calling tech people vital but treating them like "human resources" ends we will continue to have this management problem. If and when the economy turns around. the new rising young generation of cynical and self-centered tech employees which these management practices have created will come to roost to American business.

[Nov 12, 2016] Why We Hate HR

Notable quotes:
"... Strategic Human Resource Management ..."
Aug 08, 2005 | fastcompany.com

In a knowledge economy, companies with the best talent win. And finding, nurturing, and developing that talent should be one of the most important tasks in a corporation. So why does human resources do such a bad job -- and how can we fix it?

From: Issue 97 | August 2005 | Page 40 | By: Keith H. Hammonds | Illustrations by: Gary Baseman

Because let's face it: After close to 20 years of hopeful rhetoric about becoming "strategic partners" with a "seat at the table" where the business decisions that matter are made, most human-resources professionals aren't nearly there. They have no seat, and the table is locked inside a conference room to which they have no key. HR people are, for most practical purposes, neither strategic nor leaders.

I don't care for Las Vegas. And if it's not clear already, I don't like HR, either, which is why I'm here. The human-resources trade long ago proved itself, at best, a necessary evil -- and at worst, a dark bureaucratic force that blindly enforces nonsensical rules, resists creativity, and impedes constructive change. HR is the corporate function with the greatest potential -- the key driver, in theory, of business performance -- and also the one that most consistently underdelivers. And I am here to find out why.

Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming -- and so routinely useless? Why is HR so often a henchman for the chief financial officer, finding ever-more ingenious ways to cut benefits and hack at payroll? Why do its communications -- when we can understand them at all -- so often flout reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating a forest of paperwork for every minor transaction? And why does HR insist on sameness as a proxy for equity?

It's no wonder that we hate HR. In a 2005 survey by consultancy Hay Group, just 40% of employees commended their companies for retaining high-quality workers. Just 41% agreed that performance evaluations were fair. Only 58% rated their job training as favorable. Most said they had few opportunities for advancement -- and that they didn't know, in any case, what was required to move up. Most telling, only about half of workers below the manager level believed their companies took a genuine interest in their well-being.

None of this is explained immediately in Vegas. These HR folks, from employers across the nation, are neither evil courtiers nor thoughtless automatons. They are mostly smart, engaging people who seem genuinely interested in doing their jobs better. They speak convincingly about employee development and cultural transformation. And, over drinks, they spin some pretty funny yarns of employee weirdness. (Like the one about the guy who threatened to sue his wife's company for "enabling" her affair with a coworker. Then there was the mentally disabled worker and the hooker -- well, no, never mind. . . .)

But then the facade cracks. It happens at an afternoon presentation called "From Technicians to Consultants: How to Transform Your HR Staff into Strategic Business Partners." The speaker, Julie Muckler, is senior vice president of human resources at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. She is an enthusiastic woman with a broad smile and 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson & Johnson and General Tire. She has degrees in consumer economics and human resources and organizational development.

And I have no idea what she's talking about. There is mention of "internal action learning" and "being more planful in my approach." PowerPoint slides outline Wells Fargo Home Mortgage's initiatives in performance management, organization design, and horizontal-solutions teams. Muckler describes leveraging internal resources and involving external resources -- and she leaves her audience dazed. That evening, even the human-resources pros confide they didn't understand much of it, either.

This, friends, is the trouble with HR. In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win. We all know that. Human resources execs should be making the most of our, well, human resources -- finding the best hires, nurturing the stars, fostering a productive work environment -- just as IT runs the computers and finance minds the capital. HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip.

Instead, most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What's left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company -- but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that.

Here's why.

1. HR people aren't the sharpest tacks in the box. We'll be blunt: If you are an ambitious young thing newly graduated from a top college or B-school with your eye on a rewarding career in business, your first instinct is not to join the human-resources dance. (At the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, which arguably boasts the nation's top faculty for organizational issues, just 1.2% of 2004 grads did so.) Says a management professor at one leading school: "The best and the brightest don't go into HR."

Who does? Intelligent people, sometimes -- but not businesspeople. "HR doesn't tend to hire a lot of independent thinkers or people who stand up as moral compasses," says Garold L. Markle, a longtime human-resources executive at Exxon and Shell Offshore who now runs his own consultancy. Some are exiles from the corporate mainstream: They've fared poorly in meatier roles -- but not poorly enough to be fired. For them, and for their employers, HR represents a relatively low-risk parking spot.

Others enter the field by choice and with the best of intentions, but for the wrong reasons. They like working with people, and they want to be helpful -- noble motives that thoroughly tick off some HR thinkers. "When people have come to me and said, 'I want to work with people,' I say, 'Good, go be a social worker,' " says Arnold Kanarick, who has headed human resources at the Limited and, until recently, at Bear Stearns. "HR isn't about being a do-gooder. It's about how do you get the best and brightest people and raise the value of the firm."

The really scary news is that the gulf between capabilities and job requirements appears to be widening. As business and legal demands on the function intensify, staffers' educational qualifications haven't kept pace. In fact, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a considerably smaller proportion of HR professionals today have some education beyond a bachelor's degree than in 1990.

And here's one more slice of telling SHRM data: When HR professionals were asked about the worth of various academic courses toward a "successful career in HR," 83% said that classes in interpersonal communications skills had "extremely high value." Employment law and business ethics followed, at 71% and 66%, respectively. Where was change management? At 35%. Strategic management? 32%. Finance? Um, that was just 2%.

The truth? Most human-resources managers aren't particularly interested in, or equipped for, doing business. And in a business, that's sort of a problem. As guardians of a company's talent, HR has to understand how people serve corporate objectives. Instead, "business acumen is the single biggest factor that HR professionals in the U.S. lack today," says Anthony J. Rucci, executive vice president at Cardinal Health Inc., a big health-care supply distributor.

Rucci is consistently mentioned by academics, consultants, and other HR leaders as an executive who actually does know business. At Baxter International, he ran both HR and corporate strategy. Before that, at Sears, he led a study of results at 800 stores over five years to assess the connection between employee commitment, customer loyalty, and profitability.

As far as Rucci is concerned, there are three questions that any decent HR person in the world should be able to answer. First, who is your company's core customer? "Have you talked to one lately? Do you know what challenges they face?" Second, who is the competition? "What do they do well and not well?" And most important, who are we? "What is a realistic assessment of what we do well and not so well vis a vis the customer and the competition?"

Does your HR pro know the answers?

2. HR pursues efficiency in lieu of value. Why? Because it's easier -- and easier to measure. Dave Ulrich, a professor at the University of Michigan, recalls meeting with the chairman and top HR people from a big bank. "The training person said that 80% of employees have done at least 40 hours in classes. The chairman said, 'Congratulations.' I said, 'You're talking about the activities you're doing. The question is, What are you delivering?' "

That sort of stuff drives Ulrich nuts. Over 20 years, he has become the HR trade's best-known guru (see "The Once and Future Consultant," page 48) and a leading proponent of the push to take on more-strategic roles within corporations. But human-resources managers, he acknowledges, typically undermine that effort by investing more importance in activities than in outcomes. "You're only effective if you add value," Ulrich says. "That means you're not measured by what you do but by what you deliver." By that, he refers not just to the value delivered to employees and line managers, but the benefits that accrue to investors and customers, as well.

So here's a true story: A talented young marketing exec accepts a job offer with Time Warner out of business school. She interviews for openings in several departments -- then is told by HR that only one is interested in her. In fact, she learns later, they all had been. She had been railroaded into the job, under the supervision of a widely reviled manager, because no one inside the company would take it.

You make the call: Did HR do its job? On the one hand, it filled the empty slot. "It did what was organizationally expedient," says the woman now. "Getting someone who wouldn't kick and scream about this role probably made sense to them. But I just felt angry." She left Time Warner after just a year. (A Time Warner spokesperson declined to comment on the incident.)

Part of the problem is that Time Warner's metrics likely will never catch the real cost of its HR department's action. Human resources can readily provide the number of people it hired, the percentage of performance evaluations completed, and the extent to which employees are satisfied or not with their benefits. But only rarely does it link any of those metrics to business performance.

John W. Boudreau, a professor at the University of Southern California's Center for Effective Organizations, likens the failing to shortcomings of the finance function before DuPont figured out how to calculate return on investment in 1912. In HR, he says, "we don't have anywhere near that kind of logical sophistication in the way of people or talent. So the decisions that get made about that resource are far less sophisticated, reliable, and consistent."

Cardinal Health's Rucci is trying to fix that. Cardinal regularly asks its employees 12 questions designed to measure engagement. Among them: Do they understand the company's strategy? Do they see the connection between that and their jobs? Are they proud to tell people where they work? Rucci correlates the results to those of a survey of 2,000 customers, as well as monthly sales data and brand-awareness scores.

"So I don't know if our HR processes are having an impact" per se, Rucci says. "But I know absolutely that employee-engagement scores have an impact on our business," accounting for between 1% and 10% of earnings, depending on the business and the employee's role. "Cardinal may not anytime soon get invited by the Conference Board to explain our world-class best practices in any area of HR -- and I couldn't care less. The real question is, Is the business effective and successful?"

3. HR isn't working for you. Want to know why you go through that asinine performance appraisal every year, really? Markle, who admits to having administered countless numbers of them over the years, is pleased to confirm your suspicions. Companies, he says "are doing it to protect themselves against their own employees," he says. "They put a piece of paper between you and employees, so if you ever have a confrontation, you can go to the file and say, 'Here, I've documented this problem.' "

There's a good reason for this defensive stance, of course. In the last two generations, government has created an immense thicket of labor regulations. Equal Employment Opportunity; Fair Labor Standards; Occupational Safety and Health; Family and Medical Leave; and the ever-popular ERISA. These are complex, serious issues requiring technical expertise, and HR has to apply reasonable caution.

But "it's easy to get sucked down into that," says Mark Royal, a senior consultant with Hay Group. "There's a tension created by HR's role as protector of corporate assets -- making sure it doesn't run afoul of the rules. That puts you in the position of saying no a lot, of playing the bad cop. You have to step out of that, see the broad possibilities, and take a more open-minded approach. You need to understand where the exceptions to broad policies can be made."

Typically, HR people can't, or won't. Instead, they pursue standardization and uniformity in the face of a workforce that is heterogeneous and complex. A manager at a large capital leasing company complains that corporate HR is trying to eliminate most vice-president titles there -- even though veeps are a dime a dozen in the finance industry. Why? Because in the company's commercial business, vice president is a rank reserved for the top officers. In its drive for bureaucratic "fairness," HR is actually threatening the reputation, and so the effectiveness, of the company's finance professionals.

The urge for one-size-fits-all, says one professor who studies the field, "is partly about compliance, but mostly because it's just easier." Bureaucrats everywhere abhor exceptions -- not just because they open up the company to charges of bias but because they require more than rote solutions. They're time-consuming and expensive to manage. Make one exception, HR fears, and the floodgates will open.

There's a contradiction here, of course: Making exceptions should be exactly what human resources does, all the time -- not because it's nice for employees, but because it drives the business. Employers keep their best people by acknowledging and rewarding their distinctive performance, not by treating them the same as everyone else. "If I'm running a business, I can tell you who's really helping to drive the business forward," says Dennis Ackley, an employee communication consultant. "HR should have the same view. We should send the message that we value our high-performing employees and we're focused on rewarding and retaining them."

Instead, human-resources departments benchmark salaries, function by function and job by job, against industry standards, keeping pay -- even that of the stars -- within a narrow band determined by competitors. They bounce performance appraisals back to managers who rate their employees too highly, unwilling to acknowledge accomplishments that would merit much more than the 4% companywide increase.

Human resources, in other words, forfeits long-term value for short-term cost efficiency. A simple test: Who does your company's vice president of human resources report to? If it's the CFO -- and chances are good it is -- then HR is headed in the wrong direction. "That's a model that cannot work," says one top HR exec who has been there. "A financial person is concerned with taking money out of the organization. HR should be concerned with putting investments in."

4. The corner office doesn't get HR (and vice versa). I'm at another rockin' party: a few dozen midlevel human-resources managers at a hotel restaurant in Mahwah, New Jersey. It is not glam in any way. (I've got to get a better travel agent.) But it is telling, in a hopeful way. Hunter Douglas, a $2.1 billion manufacturer of window coverings, has brought its HR staff here from across the United States to celebrate their accomplishments.

The company's top brass is on hand. Marvin B. Hopkins, president and CEO of North American operations, lays on the praise: "I feel fantastic about your achievements," he says. "Our business is about people. Hiring, training, and empathizing with employees is extremely important. When someone is fired or leaves, we've failed in some way. People have to feel they have a place at the company, a sense of ownership."

So, yeah, it's corporate-speak in a drab exurban office park. But you know what? The human-resources managers from Tupelo and Dallas are totally pumped up. They've been flown into headquarters, they've had their picture taken with the boss, and they're seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway that afternoon on the company's dime.

Can your HR department say it has the ear of top management? Probably not. "Sometimes," says Ulrich, "line managers just have this legacy of HR in their minds, and they can't get rid of it. I felt really badly for one HR guy. The chairman wanted someone to plan company picnics and manage the union, and every time this guy tried to be strategic, he got shot down."

Say what? Execs don't think HR matters? What about all that happy talk about employees being their most important asset? Well, that turns out to have been a small misunderstanding. In the 1990s, a group of British academics examined the relationship between what companies (among them, the UK units of Hewlett-Packard and Citibank) said about their human assets and how they actually behaved. The results were, perhaps, inevitable.

In their rhetoric, human-resources organizations embraced the language of a "soft" approach, speaking of training, development, and commitment. But "the underlying principle was invariably restricted to the improvements of bottom-line performance," the authors wrote in the resulting book, Strategic Human Resource Management (Oxford University Press, 1999). "Even if the rhetoric of HRM is soft, the reality is almost always 'hard,' with the interests of the organization prevailing over those of the individual."

In the best of worlds, says London Business School professor Lynda Gratton, one of the study's authors, "the reality should be some combination of hard and soft." That's what's going on at Hunter Douglas. Human resources can address the needs of employees because it has proven its business mettle -- and vice versa. Betty Lou Smith, the company's vice president of corporate HR, began investigating the connection between employee turnover and product quality. Divisions with the highest turnover rates, she found, were also those with damaged-goods rates of 5% or higher. And extraordinarily, 70% of employees were leaving the company within six months of being hired.

Smith's staffers learned that new employees were leaving for a variety of reasons: They didn't feel respected, they didn't have input in decisions, but mostly, they felt a lack of connection when they were first hired. "We gave them a 10-minute orientation, then they were out on the floor," Smith says. She addressed the weakness by creating a mentoring program that matched new hires with experienced workers. The latter were suspicious at first, but eventually, the mentor positions (with spiffy shirts and caps) came to be seen as prestigious. The six-month turnover rate dropped dramatically, to 16%. Attendance and productivity -- and the damaged-goods rate -- improved.

"We don't wait to hear from top management," Smith says. "You can't just sit in the corner and look at benefits. We have to know what the issues in our business are. HR has to step up and assume responsibility, not wait for management to knock on our door."

But most HR people do.

H unter Douglas gives us a glimmer of hope -- of the possibility that HR can be done right. And surely, even within ineffective human-resources organizations, there are great individual HR managers -- trustworthy, caring people with their ears to the ground, who are sensitive to cultural nuance yet also understand the business and how people fit in. Professionals who move voluntarily into HR from line positions can prove especially adroit, bringing a profit-and-loss sensibility and strong management skills.

At Yahoo, Libby Sartain, chief people officer, is building a group that may prove to be the truly effective human-resources department that employees and executives imagine. In this, Sartain enjoys two advantages. First, she arrived with a reputation as a creative maverick, won in her 13 years running HR at Southwest Airlines. And second, she had license from the top to do whatever it took to create a world-class organization.

Sartain doesn't just have a "seat at the table" at Yahoo; she actually helped build the table, instituting a weekly operations meeting that she coordinates with COO Dan Rosensweig. Talent is always at the top of the agenda -- and at the end of each meeting, the executive team mulls individual development decisions on key staffers.

That meeting, Sartain says, "sends a strong message to everyone at Yahoo that we can't do anything without HR." It also signals to HR staffers that they're responsible for more than shuffling papers and getting in the way. "We view human resources as the caretaker of the largest investment of the company," Sartain says. "If you're not nurturing that investment and watching it grow, you're not doing your job."

Yahoo, say some experts and peers at other organizations, is among a few companies -- among them Cardinal Health, Procter & Gamble, Pitney Bowes, Goldman Sachs, and General Electric -- that truly are bringing human resources into the realm of business strategy. But they are indeed the few. USC professor Edward E. Lawler III says that last year HR professionals reported spending 23% of their time "being a strategic business partner" -- no more than they reported in 1995. And line managers, he found, said HR is far less involved in strategy than HR thinks it is. "Despite great huffing and puffing about strategy," Lawler says, "there's still a long way to go." (Indeed. When I asked one midlevel HR person exactly how she was involved in business strategy for her division, she excitedly described organizing a monthly lunch for her vice president with employees.)

What's driving the strategy disconnect? London Business School's Gratton spends a lot of time training human-resources professionals to create more impact. She sees two problems: Many HR people, she says, bring strong technical expertise to the party but no "point of view about the future and how organizations are going to change." And second, "it's very difficult to align HR strategy to business strategy, because business strategy changes very fast, and it's hard to fiddle around with a compensation strategy or benefits to keep up." More than simply understanding strategy, Gratton says, truly effective executives "need to be operating out of a set of principles and personal values." And few actually do.

In the meantime, economic natural selection is, in a way, taking care of the problem for us. Some 94% of large employers surveyed this year by Hewitt Associates reported they were outsourcing at least one human-resources activity. By 2008, according to the survey, many plan to expand outsourcing to include activities such as learning and development, payroll, recruiting, health and welfare, and global mobility.

Which is to say, they will farm out pretty much everything HR does. The happy rhetoric from the HR world says this is all for the best: Outsourcing the administrative minutiae, after all, would allow human-resources professionals to focus on more important stuff that's central to the business. You know, being strategic partners.

The problem, if you're an HR person, is this: The tasks companies are outsourcing -- the administrivia -- tend to be what you're good at. And what's left isn't exactly your strong suit. Human resources is crippled by what Jay Jamrog, executive director of the Human Resource Institute, calls "educated incapacity: You're smart, and you know the way you're working today isn't going to hold 10 years from now. But you can't move to that level. You're stuck."

That's where human resources is today. Stuck. "This is a unique organization in the company," says USC's Boudreau. "It discovers things about the business through the lens of people and talent. That's an opportunity for competitive advantage." In most companies, that opportunity is utterly wasted.

And that's why I don't like HR.

Keith H. Hammonds is Fast Company's deputy editor.

[Jul 22, 2015] Accenture is the latest major company to ditch dreaded annual reviews

"...the system wastes time and money, alienates employees, and is all-in-all redundant, since any good manager is already keeping an eye on employee performance without a system in place."
Global consulting firm Accenture announced it is making a bold move this fall: It's eliminating annual performance reviews.

What's that you hear? It's the collective sigh of relief coming from the company's 330,000 employees. Along with the performance review system, Accenture is also disbanding its rankings system, a common way of comparing employees to one another based on their performance. Rather than having managers rank and review workers once per year, the new initiative - called Performance Achievement - calls for informal reviews that can be given at the manager's discretion, for example, after a worker has completed a specific project.

"It's huge," Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme told the Washington Post. "We're going to get rid of probably 90% of what we did in the past."

With this announcement, Accenture is following in the footsteps of another major employer, Microsoft, which got rid of its ranking system in 2013. So far, they are in the minority. In a recent survey of 100 Fortune 500 CEOs, only six said they had eliminated their rankings system, according to management research firm CEB.

Criticism of performance reviews is ubiquitous among academics who study workplace management. Their main pain points: the system wastes time and money, alienates employees, and is all-in-all redundant, since any good manager is already keeping an eye on employee performance without a system in place. A whopping 95% of managers said they are dissatisfied with their performance review process, according to a 2014 survey of 10,000 workers, also conducted by CEB. Nearly 60% of employees said they felt reviews weren't worth their time. CEB also estimates that for a big company with more than 10,000 workers, annual reviews can easily cost upwards of $35 million with less than stellar results. Ninety percent of HR professionals surveyed by the firm said they did not feel performance review results painted an accurate picture of workplace productivity.

Part of the problem seems to be that although many people agree that reviews and rankings could be a lot more effective, no one has quite been able to come up with a better alternative yet. Some companies have made public their efforts to tinker with their management systems, including Gap, ConAgra, and Adobe. The Gap, for example, asks managers to have monthly conversations with workers. Google relies on quarterly reviews, as well, using a system called Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that asks employees to set measurable goals for themselves and post them on an internal network visible to all workers. Yahoo Finance's parent company Yahoo has a similar quarterly performance review system -- employees set quarterly goals that are made public within the company.

Accenture says it is in the early stages of rolling out the new review process (set to launch in September).

"Accenture is on a journey to redefine performance management in order to strengthen how we develop and grow our people," Stacey Jones, an Accenture spokesperson, told Yahoo Finance. The new system is intended to give workers more opportunities to get feedback from managers and coaching to improve their performance. The new system will still be used to inform decisions made about compensation and promotions, Jones added.

Cumbersome as they may be, however, some workers look forward to one-on-one time with their bosses for one particular reason: a means to a (financial) end. Without a structured process for reviews and meetings with managers to discuss them, workers will have to be more proactive if they want argue for a pay bump or a promotion.

[Mar 22, 2012] Check Your Attitude at the Door - No, You're Not Crazy

"...common sense is dead in the corporate world..."
StateUniversity.com

My department must hold the record for the company's fastest revolving door. In less than a year, we've been re-orged three times. I've had four different managers, and every new person who comes in wants to 'mark his territory.' Meanwhile, none of these people know as much about my area as I do, so their guidance is useless. Plus, I'm changing direction so much I never get anything done. What is it they say-same sh*t different day? If I have to be 'rah rah' at yet another welcome lunch, I think I'm going to explode.

Robert, 27, Oregon

If you're reading this chapter because you're struggling with someone's attitude problem at work, you're not alone, and your hostility is probably justified. I've spoken to dozens of twenty-somethings, and most have spent their fair share of time banging their heads against the wall and regretting the day they signed their offer letters.

As much as I feel your pain, I don't believe it does much good to complain, because unless you're going to grad school or can successfully start your own business, you're in the corporate world to stay. We all have to deal with business-world insanity whether we love our jobs or not, so we might as well take the necessary steps to overcome the challenges. However, because this chapter is about your emotional well-being, we need to start by recognizing the things about work that drive us nuts. Most of these points will probably sound familiar, so read on and be comforted. Warning: Do not hang this list in your cube!

Top 10 Annoying Things About the Corporate World

  1. Corporate Déjŕ Vu. It seems as though it's a requirement in corporate business that you spend huge amounts of time reporting the same information in a dozen different formats, attending status meetings where conversation from the week before is repeated word for word, and putting out the same fires, because your department doesn't learn from its mistakes.
  2. Invoking Syndrome. The invoking syndrome occurs when colleagues try to persuade you to do what they want by name-dropping someone higher up. Whether the executive manager was actually involved or not, invoking him is a manipulative tactic used to get you to bend to your colleagues' wishes (for example, "Really? Well, I spoke to the CEO last night, and he told me we have to do the event this way.")
  3. Egomania. When certain people reach a high level in a company, they think that they are better than everyone else and that they are entitled to be treated like a god. Regardless of the issue, they believe they are always right and that they can't possibly learn anything from someone lower on the chain.
  4. Hierarchies. In the corporate world, all men are not created equal, and sometimes you can actually get in trouble just by talking to someone higher up without going through the proper channels. Unless you happen to know the right people, you're invisible.
  5. Denigration. In some companies, it's an unspoken rule that the younger you are, the less respect you receive. Many senior managers are quick to call you on the carpet for situations that may or may not be your fault, but they say nothing when you've done superior work.
  6. Bureaucracy. How many departments does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Corporate business has a lengthy approval process for everything, and companies delight in changing those processes constantly so that you're never sure which 10 departments you need to consult before a decision can be made.
  7. Hypocrisy. Don't you just love the way some companies tout values such as quality, entrepreneurship, innovation, and integrity, when they would be perfectly happy if their employees just kept quiet and never strayed from their designated roles? If you've ever acted on your company's values and gotten burned for it, you are probably a victim of naked ambition (when doing what's best for the company leaves you out in the cold).
  8. Micromanagement. Twenty-somethings thrive on independence, yet some managers will bear down on you with critical eyes at every minuscule stage of a project. Gotta sneeze? Better make sure your manager knows about it.
  9. Uncommon Sense. I've read that common sense is dead in the corporate world. The author almost sounded proud of this. People might make a joke of it, but this dearth of logical thought in corporate business is kind of sad. It's also frustrating when the obviously correct way to do something is staring everyone right in the face, and no one sees it.
  10. Nonsensical Change. Every now and then, companies will decide to throw their departments up in the air and see where all the pieces land. Yes, it's the corporate reorganization (aka the dreaded re-org). Despite the fact that it results in mass confusion, greatly decreased productivity, and low employee morale, companies continue to do it year after year.

Triumph Over a Bad Performance Review Monster

Weigh Your Options

"It may be giving you a true picture, but not something you want to hear," Phillips says.

It may be tempting to simply quit and look for a new job, but Phillips urges caution. It could be that you will need to find a new position -- if, for example, you have tried everything but just aren't clicking with your boss, or you have had more than one bad review. But rather than quitting immediately, it's often better to try to address the issues your boss has raised first.

"If you overreact to it, it actually ends up being harder in the long run," Phillips says. Your unhappiness about the review is likely to come through when you're interviewing for new positions. "It takes you longer to find another job, because you're out there maybe feeling a little resentful," he says.

[May 11, 2011] FindLaw Legal Career Center

Here's What You did right in this conversation. (1) You asked for advice, which flatters the potential advice giver. (2) You didn't bombard him/her with additional questions. You asked an open-ended question that gave the other person wide latitude in how to respond. (3) You got the advice giver to point out problems; but more important strategically, you got him or her to partner with you in working on the problem. You moved the advice giver into your corner as a helper/facilitator. (4) Finally, you didn't become a pain in the ass by dwelling on the subject. You moved on, allowing the supervising attorney to do the same.

... ... ...

Some of the changes in this article may feel ill-fitting the first few weeks you try them; but none of them-smiling more, saying "thank you" when appropriate, controlling your negative emotions-will seriously compromise your individuality.

[May 11, 2011] Respond to a Bad Performance Review

  1. Assess your boss's power to affect your life. Getting a good review is essentially about pleasing your boss. Whether it's important to please your boss depends upon your goals. If you want her to promote you or expand your responsibilities, then pleasing your manager is very important, even if she's a complete idiot. But if you are planning to quit in the next few months, her opinion may not really matter (and you don't need to read the rest of this). If your future is at stake, however, then you need to handle this interaction well.

  2. Avoid knee-jerk emotional reactions. Your manager probably expects you to become defensive, argumentative, or upset, so surprise him by remaining calm and reasonable. Getting angry or sobbing uncontrollably will accomplish nothing.

  3. Listen to the reasons. Even though you may not agree, you need to understand why your performance was viewed negatively. By understanding your manager's view, you will be in a better position to change her perceptions in the future.

  4. Ask questions to clarify. You can't change your boss's opinion unless you understand exactly why he is unhappy. Therefore, you must explore any feedback that is not clear. However, the questions you ask must be phrased positively. Bad question: "How did you come to such a stupid conclusion?" Good question: "What could I have done to prevent the problem?"

  5. Focus on the future. Avoid getting sucked into pointless debates about past events. Discussing the past is only useful if it helps to clarify future expectations. Here's a future-focused question that can short-circuit debates about past problems: "What specifically can I do differently this year to get a better review next year?"

  6. Present your views calmly and logically. You do not have to sit back and take criticism that you feel is undeserved. But you should offer dissenting opinions in a calm, adult manner, focusing on facts and observations. Angry, emotional reactions will only reinforce your boss's negative view.

  7. ... ... ...

[May 7, 2011] How to Recover From a Bad Performance Review - Careers - WSJ.com

Tips

[May 6, 2011] How To Survive A Bad Performance Review LIVESTRONG.COM

... ... ...

Step 4 Pay attention to your responses. Try not to appear nervous. Remain calm and collected with your behavior. Show a genuine interest in what your employer is saying. Don't disagree with what they say. Instead, try to respond by accepting that you made a mistake and that you would like to be given another chance to improve and learn from that mistake. The "Wall Street Journal" reports that most performance reviews are political and subjective. Be open-minded and considerate of your employer's thoughts and concerns.

Step 5 Avoid an argumentative conversation and tone with your employer. Even if you are angry or feel attacked by what she is saying, keep a professional posture. The University of California Berkeley states that most employers are prepared to handle your response to tough questions and, in some cases, expect you to get confrontational. No matter how heated the conversation is, avoid a harsh rebuttal. Avoid getting angry or blaming your problems on other employees or personal circumstances. ....

... ... ...

[May 5, 2011] Mediocrity by areas of improvement

"Maybe instead of working on our weaknesses, we should be enhancing and exploiting our strengths?" Interesting counterargument that you can use during performance reviews :-).

... how much emphasis do you put on those areas during a performance review?

Maybe instead of working on our weaknesses, we should be enhancing and exploiting our strengths? What if the price for working on weakness (and who even decides what is and isn't a "weakness"?) is less chance to be f'n amazing?

There are several books out about this, although I haven't read them -- but the idea gets my attention:

Teach With Your Strengths, which says on its Amazon page,
"Defying the orthodoxy that teachers, to be more well rounded, should work to strengthen their weaknesses, this book, drawing on research by the Gallup Organization, maintains that great teachers are those who teach with their greatest talents and abilities."

That book is an expansion of the ultra best-selling Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham. I don't know if the books are actually good, but again, it's the idea I enthusiastically support.

Too many companies (and managers, spouses, etc.) focus too much on bringing everyone up to some level of competency in a laundry-list of attributes including time-management, communication skills, writing ability, filling out TPS reports, teamwork/teamplayer, attitude, organization, sensitivity, adhering to corporate goals and policies, etc. Clearly, there is some minimum threshold for each attribute beneath which a person might be impossible to work with no matter what the situation. But too often those minimum thresholds are set MUCH TOO HIGH and not specifically tailored enough to the individual.

By focusing on "areas of improvement", we're putting a square peg in a round hole. What do we end up with? A crappy, rounded off peg who meets the minimum thresholds at the expense of their most kick-ass attributes. What if let ourselves (and those we manage) spend a lot more energy in the areas where we are--or could be--amazing? I suggest taking a very hard look at the "areas of improvement" list and see if we can rearrange the context so that those things become less important. In other words, why don't we try to make a square hole?

I know that everything I've said here can be abused and used as an excuse for poor performance in every area. But remember, this is about tradeoffs -- so I'm assuming that we're cutting some "areas of improvement" slack to those who demonstrate that they HAVE areas in which they are--or could be--amazing. And I'm also assuming that those areas have some real potential use/benefit. But really, do your best programmers need to be filling out their TPS reports? How many of us have lived through the cliched scenario where the time-sheets we fill out need an entry for "time spent filling out time sheets"?

OK, I admit I have a thing against performance reviews in general, but if we must have them, I'd love to see some big changes to the typical form. I'd like to see a teeny, tiny space reserved for "areas of improvement", which lists only those things deemed absolutely critical that are below the minimum threshold, and I'd like to see a BIG space titled "Areas where you are (or can be) f'n amazing." Then a plan can be custom-tailored for removing not the areas of weakness, but the things which make those weaknesses a problem (and which get in the way of using their strengths).

And this isn't just for employees--many of us need to think about this in our startups (something I'm just beginning to deal with now)... are we trying to exploit our strengths, or are we in a position where we're forced to spend too much precious effort improving our weak areas? To use the business cliche, are we trying to do business in areas that aren't our "core competency"? Agile companies are those who can turn on a dime and recognize when an area might be profitable but is slowly leading them in a direction away from their unique strengths.

If we have everyone working on their weaknesses, we do smooth out the attribute curve. But then we get mediocrity in a wide range of areas, and less f'n amazing work in narrow ranges. For many of us, we just can't afford mediocrity. There's too much competition there.

So, what can we do to make more square holes?

[Apr 15, 2011] Uncontrollable anger out of no where

Anger Management Message Board

i think you are fine, and you need to try telling that to yourself. Yes anger can cause a lot of damages.
Since you have been a nanny, maybe you have some set rules in your mind, yes you can bear these rules in the premises of the employer, or maybe rules set by your employers over the period of time have got into you.

yes i had rage in me before, and there were times when i feared the rage in me, as it could so easily break relationships.

i think you are very lucky to have a submitting husband, who is calm when the weather gets rough. A good thing is that you appreciate this gesture and you are aware that this trait is causing a wedge in your relationship.

It is also good to know you are looking for the patterns, it is time you looked for trigger, and also finding and advising a remedy to your partner that can help you when you are in the state of rage and in his presence.

Make a plan to figure out a trigger and remedy, talk to your fiancee about it. find yourself a time with your partner, which in your best wisdom is the time when there are least chances for you to flare out. and before you get to talk to him, prep and tell yourself over and over again, imagine, etc no matter what he says or doesnot say, does or doesnot do, you will not react. you know his every move, his expression, imagine your self in every possible expression of his and imagine over and over again that you will not react in rage. also take some emergency contingency into this conversation, and also tell him about it before hand and not to feel offended by your contingencies. the moment you feel your tone flaring up, stop, say nothing, hold a rolled up sock real hard, or walk out of the room and scream at the wall in the bedroom, come back and continue to talk to him. you could explain all this to him before hand by handwritten note or email.

get your self in a state of complete awareness, by telling yourself, today and for the next 1 week, i will watch my mood and note everything that dis-an also try looking back into your past to search for the instance that got rage out of you.

the rule of thumb, no one knows you better than yourself, not even your fiancee, as you rightly noted the problem, the solution is also in you. and you have taken the right step by being aware and looking for answers.

another thing that could help, let us say in your nearest past you know the things that caused you to rage. these are like unwritten rules that someone broke in your presence. break the rule yourself for a change. as an experiment, try to get yourself in the situation that you hate the most and control your emotions.

everyday look in the mirror and tell yourself over and over again that your beautiful, you are good person, you are a happy person, you wont get angry. smile more often, and i mean genuine smile, like you would when an infant smiles at you...

treat yourself to something nice, even if you fail to control your emotions, this will help you accept that mistakes can happen, and will keep you going for the next cycle of attempt.

watch a movie that you are sure you would hate. and try to like it, i mean look for things you could like in the movie. you could try this with music as well. this will help you find a positive outlook in life.

put yourself in controlled safe dramatic situations and build your temperament without causing any emotional or physical harm to yourself or anyone.

find a nice scenic spot, spend sometime alone, watching the scene, sensing every sense around you, like smell, temperature, breeze etc... this way you will learn to get your mind away from your actual emotion and you will learn to ignore signs of rage.

or find a really quiet place, tell your fiancee you want to be alone in a real quiet place say for 30 mins, in total darkness. where there is no distraction whatsoever, and go over every moment that caused you rage and imagine yourself reacting positively to it.

ignorance helps. it may sound strange, but every time you feel even the slightest of disturbance in your mood, ignore the thought and replace it with a happy thought, better if you can replace it with happy times / moments with your fiancee.

yes the above guidelines, requires a lot of patience and awareness on your part and you are bound to fail the first time, or few times over and over again. try writting a blog or a journal where you are making a note of your failure, and close every chapter with a positive note encouraging you not to give up and pushing you to reach your goal.

this one also helps, avoid reading or watching news in the first part of your day, or through the week, all news are bad news and they generally trigger a feeling if hatred and remorse within you, and in most cases rebound as a disturbing trait.

[Jan 26, 2011] A painful performance review from "The Office" UK version.

[Mar 29, 2007] Mini-Microsoft: FAQ on reviews, promotions, job changes, and ...

[Mar 29, 2007] Career Consulting for Midlife Professionals

5. Delay your response.

Ask for a second meeting, explaining calmly that you need time to think. Use the time to collect your backup file. Consider a consultation with an outsider: career coach, consultant, human resources professor – even a lawyer if the situation warrants.

Do not discuss your report or your decision to seek help with your peers. Ever.

6. Back up a rebuttal with facts, not emotion.

Assemble your own evidence of performance. Collect letters of appreciation, dates and times of project completion, statistics showing how you helped the company.

Often simply placing a rebuttal letter in your own file will defuse the impact of a negative evaluation. When you've had a strong track record, your company will ignore an occasional negative, unless someone has introduced a new agenda.

Your boss may be ordered to grade on the curve, i.e., assign some employees the "low" category even if everyone's doing great. And, being human, he may assign those ratings to those who are least likely to speak up. A strong, carefully written rebuttal will clarify your strength of purpose.

7. Avoid jumping to conclusions – or to a new job.

When clients ask, "Should I look for a new job?" my answer will be, "When you work for any organization, keep yourself marketable. Maintain your network. Identify reputable recruiters and build ties with them."

It's rarely a good idea to share your career change plans with your colleagues or boss until you have a written offer in hand. And it's rarely a good idea to accept a counter-offer from your present company. (Over half of all workers who accept a counter-offer are gone within six months, one way or another.)

But if your company wants to send a "Go Away!" message, they may be happy to give you a good reference that reflects your real contribution.

Overcoming a Negative Performance Review

... .... ...


Handling a poor review requires discipline

Most people come out of a review that is critical of their performance understandably upset or angry. One important thing to remember is that you're still at the company ( not applying for a job) so there's a lot you can do before resigning yourself to being terminated or being forced to leave.

The key is whether you want to stay.

If you like your job and want to remain with the organization, your response to a less-than-favorable review becomes that much more important, because ( believe it or not ) many supervisors hate to deliver bad news. Your ability to digest it and learn from it without becoming antagonistic may be critical to your getting back into the company's and your supervisor's good graces.

It's not an easy task. It takes the ability to stand back and get outside of yourself , to view yourself dispassionately, at least for the duration of the review.

The "trick" is to understand, going into the review, that there may be some negatives and that you have to be able to separate your performance on the job from your perceptions of yourself as a bad or unworthy person because you were criticized.

This also allows you to determine, with a clear head, if those negatives can be fixed.

Even if you disagree with a negative perception, it's still your supervisor's perception and unless it's a factual issue that is in question ( i.e. sales growth or the number of new accounts added ) there will be gray areas that are matters of personal objectivity.

... ... ...

Five keys to help you cope with and overcome a bad review

1. Go in with a list of accomplishments that you have accumulated over the past year. By recording (daily) completed projects as you do them, even you will be surprised at how much you've accomplished. You'll also short-circuit a generalized, unthoughtful criticism of your work, if it's not based on the facts.

2. Go into the review assuming there will be some negatives, and thinking of your meeting as a way to learn what specific issues you have to work on to get to that next step. It's your boss' job to let you know about areas where you can improve, so try not to be offended. Your goal is to convince your supervisor, in a positive manner, that you are willing to make that commitment.

3. Before going into a review, separate a page into two columns. The first should be headed "Specific Areas of Strength"; the second, "Specific Areas of Improvement." It's very important that you hear both the good and the bad comments, because you'll never improve, to your boss' satisfaction, if you deny, in your anger, that there were any areas needing improvement. Remember, we're talking about your supervisor's perception, not necessarily yours.

4. Ask for clarification and specific examples if you hear generalizations or don't understand what the problem is. But try hard not to be too argumentative. Offer specifics of your own to buttress your argument if you feel that there is an incorrect perception.

5. Find out how your boss might solve these issues, and ask for another review in thirty days to address these specific issues, to see if headway is being made.

Remember that if you spend your time being hurt by or defensive about what is said, and not learning about what you can do to change your boss' perception, you're doing yourself a disservice.

What you are trying to accomplish is to leave the meeting with a good idea of what you can do to improve your boss' perception of you before the next review.

You're also creating an image of a thoughtful employee who is willing and able to modify behavior.

To do this, you have to be prepared to hear what the issues are, so that they can be addressed.

Remember, perception is often someone's reality.

Separating the "learning" from the "hurting" parts of the review is the key The hurt over a bad review may not go away, but by taking pains to separate the "learning" from the "hurting" part of the meeting, you stand a far better chance of correcting perceptions and having a more positive review the next time out.

Good jobs are hard to come by, and if you like your job this approach should help to give you a fighting chance to assess and correct areas that your supervisor feels may have been overlooked, without allowing your personal feelings to dominate.

David Gordon, President of Gordon Communications, a marketing and outplacement consulting firm in Highland Park, Illinois.

Chainsaw The Notorious Career of Al Dunlap in the Era of Profit-At-Any-Price by John A. Byrne

Corporate Hellhole, April 3, 2001
Reviewer: Dan Moreland - See all my reviews
by Dan Moreland

We've all had bad bosses. Very few of us have not had the joy of working for a barbarous, bullying taskmaster that makes you dread Monday mornings.

Then there's Chainsaw Al Dunlap. Think of the most egotistical, arrogant, selfish, greedy, low-class and verbally abusive manager from hell you can think of. According to John Byrne's "Chainsaw: The Notorious Career of Al Dunlap in the Era of Profit-At-Any-Price", Al Dunlap is all of these things, and maybe more. He makes Mr. Dithers look like Richard Branson.

Flying the pirate flag of cost cutting, Chainsaw Al made his name rampaging through companies as a high level executive in the 1980s. He cut thousands of jobs and closed factories in the blink of an eye. During his reign of terror, Dunlap became the scourge of those with a corporate conscience while becoming the darling of investors and a media icon.

It wasn't until the mid to late 90s that the financial world got wind of what "Rambo in Pinstripes" was up to. As CEO with Scott and then Sunbeam, Chainsaw ate the heart out of both companies, allegedly falsified financials, and wooed Wall Street to pretty them up for a quick sale. Chainsaw would pocket millions while thousands of regular working stiffs were out of jobs- many after decades of service.

It's the Sunbeam debacle that Byrne documents in "Chainsaw" and boy what a fun ride. From Dunlap screaming and shouting at his bewildered executive staff at his first meeting to the apocalyptic crash from $50 to $5 a share, you get to see and hear it all. The author does an excellent job of recreating what life working for the guy must have been like, and it is obvious that he did very careful research.

Talk about a corporate nightmare. Dunlap, in his pinstripe suits, tinted glasses, dyed blonde hair and very loud voice would arrogantly hand out copies of his autographed book "Mean Business" and scream at anyone that told him anything he didn't want to hear.

My favorite scene is Dunlap is yelling one of his staff. He begins his tirade by telling his victim to be quiet and not to utter a word. After piling on the poor sap, he asks if he is going to respond to his accusations or just sit there silent. The executive reminds Al that he wasn't allowed to talk during the meeting.

"Shut up!" bellows Dunlap, "You don't deserve to speak!" Priceless! Suddenly Gordon Gekko is Ghandi!

"Chainsaw" kind of plods at first as you are barraged with a cast of characters that you quickly lose track of. But time and again Byrne pulls you in with great narratives. For instance one scene depicts the dark side of Darwinian capitalism: the financial travails of a former laid off Sunbeam employee contrasted with a description of Big Al negotiating a new multimillion dollar contract over an expensive steak dinner.

By the second half of "Chainsaw", you are hooked. Wall Street catches on to his shenanigans, and Sunbeam quickly spirals out of control along with our anti-hero.

Besides way too many players, my only other problem with "Chainsaw" is a section devoted to his ill-fated first marriage and the treatment of his only son. The author uses divorce testimony to imply Dunlap abused his first wife, and interview quotes revealing he abandoned his son. We also learn that Dunlap didn't even go to his father's funeral. This is tricky ground. Whether or not this is true, the author already makes a good case that the guy was a creep without having to include so much of his personal life. And, as the saying goes, there are two sides to every story (in Byrne's defense, Dunlap refused to cooperate with the book, but still).

There are other instances where you can really feel the author's venom. Byrne covered the subject in several articles for "Business Week" and reveals a deep personal dislike for Dunlap. He even refers to him as a "loudmouth" and makes other nasty remarks. It may or may not be well deserved, but these comments and the personal detail make John Byrne border on being as mean-spirited as Chainsaw himself.

This is a terrific read, and is definitely a business model for NOT how to manage a company. In the same vein, I also recommend the educational but more tedious "Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania and Business Blunders" by Jim Carlton, and "Trumped" by John O'Donnell.

If nothing else, "Chainsaw" will definitely make your crummy job seem a lot easier!

[Sept 26, 2005] Jack Welch mentality

I worked for a 30 billion dollar company who embraced the self-made, highly esteemed Jack Welch. I sat in a meeting as a manger and was told we would be paying the top 10% well and that we MUST get rid of the bottom 10%. Next down from the top was 20% of my employees. They got a little bit of the spoils. 40% were just corporate drones who were told they met expectation. Some would not be eligible for "cost of living" increases. They were just fortunate to work for the company.

Then you have the 20% who were going to be kept as employees, yet not eligible for collecting a dime more than last year, even when factoring in inflation. They lost money if they kept working for this stupid company.

The last 10% were sent to "The Tower." If you do not know British history, "The Tower" was death row. 10% were to be fired within the next 90 days. I was told to find 10% and get their 90 day paperwork going so that I could fire them.

You said "I believe that most associates will decide that the deck is stacked against them and will not try as hard as they had in the past." YES, YES, YES and YES. Why? Because managers have no idea how to mentor the unlucky 70%.

I love this:

"It was like a bomb went off when we were told, basically, that some of us were not going to get rewarded or rewarded as well as we should since the bean counters did their spreadsheet and stated only a few employees could really do a good job."

Thank you Jack Welch for your success in infiltrating the mostly blind and stupid corporate American leadership with absolutely the most idiotic plan. This may sound harsh; however, this man has done more damage than good.

Here is how he is described:

"Jack Welch may be the most talked about and widely emulated manager in business history. He's used his own uncanny instincts and unique leadership strategies to run GE, the most complex organization in the world, increasing its market value by more than $400 billion over two decades."

Well, that is a great bottom-line figure, but the carnage left behind is irresponsible.

Uinseann says "The defections are starting, we lost two key people in the last week and we are going to lose two more soon."

Yes, and you Uinseann, your offer will come. Hang on and get ready.

When you get your new job, be sure and drop Jack a Christmas card and let us know. We are cheering for you!

Thanks for sharing your story. Unfortunately it is all too familiar now.

Acing Your Performance Review by Alexandra Levit

You need to prepare for the "bad day"

career-intelligence.com

Most people roll their eyes when it comes time for performance reviews. This is because the review is, by nature, an uncomfortable and contrived process. In most companies, reviews happen once or twice a year, and during this time, every employee is forced to sit in a room with his boss and talk turkey about how he's progressed and how he's screwed up. Performance review documentation is notorious for being generic and vague, complete with ratings that are totally subjective and impossible to measure. Unfortunately, many reviews also take place in a vacuum: the items discussed are often not mentioned again until the next review.

As a result, many people perceive reviews as yet another bureaucratic exercise that wastes valuable time and need not be taken seriously. However, for all its flaws, the performance review is the only door to promotion inside much of the business world, so you must take advantage of it if you want to get ahead.

Preparing for the Big Day

If you don't care about your review, no one else will. The worst thing you can do for your career is to go through the process passively. Whether your company's review cycle takes place annually or bi-annually, your preparation should typically start weeks before. Think of your review as an opportunity to sell your manager on your value to the company.

You'll have a great head start if you've mapped out clear career goals and you and your boss have discussed them on an ongoing basis. Take your last review out of the file cabinet and dust it off. Look at the goals and/or action steps outlined last time around and gather facts to support how you've progressed in each area. Brainstorm concrete examples that illustrate outstanding performance and practice communicating them so they're on the tip of your tongue. Then, make a list of all of the things you would like to cover in the review conversation, independent of your manager's agenda. Your objectives will probably include soliciting feedback on your progress, identifying new goals and growth opportunities and hammering out a long-term promotion plan. This last item is particularly important. While you can't reasonably expect to be promoted after every review, you should at least leave with an understanding of where your current responsibilities are leading.

When it comes time for the actual review, make sure your boss gives it to you. This may sound ridiculous, but you'd be surprised how many companies will allow managers to get away with skipping the review process entirely. After all, bosses are busy and employee reviews are not on the top of their list of priorities. Remember, though, that it's your right to request a timely appraisal. During the meeting itself, maintain a good balance between listening to what your manager has to say and playing an active role in the conversation. Just because your boss offers constructive criticism doesn't mean you won't get a promotion or raise, so keep your defensiveness to a minimum. Even though a casual chitchat session might be more comfortable and fun than a serious conversation about your career aspirations, insist on getting through your objectives for the meeting.

Don't be afraid to ask questions about your boss's feedback and make sure you read over your written review carefully before signing it. Once the cycle is complete, your manager might be perfectly happy to forget about your performance for the next five or eleven months. Don't let her. Be proactive about setting up regular meetings to review your progress, address potential problems and incorporate new responsibilities and priorities into the master plan. If you keep the lines of communication open, nothing that comes up in your next review will be a surprise. Who knows, maybe you'll even look forward to it!

Asking for a Raise

If you are going to ask your boss for a raise, make sure you have a good reason. And needing the money doesn't count. Your company doesn't care if you are drowning in student loans, can't make your rent or have to finance a wedding this year. Like everything else in the business world, the money you get paid is all about the value you add to the company. Before you sit down with your manager, you'll want to be prepared with a list of contributions that have positively impacted the bottom line. As you're putting together your case, be hard on yourself. Look at the situation from your company's point of view. Have you honestly acquired such valuable skills, performed at such a high level and exceeded expectations to such a degree that your company should shell out more assets to keep you?

You also have to look at the big picture. Check out compensation surveys like the National Compensation Survey by the U.S. Department of Labor ( http://www.bls.gov/ncs ) or Web sites like Salary.com to determine how your salary stacks up to what other local employees in your position are making. Don't forget to take into account other financial incentives you may receive from your company, including bonuses, stock options, insurance packages, 401k contributions and tuition reimbursement.

Of course, you also have to get real and evaluate your request in the context of the current economic conditions, your company's financial status and internal policies regarding raises. In today's business climate particularly, many companies are foregoing merit increases or are only issuing them at a certain time of year. Some organizations also have fixed salary ranges, or grades, that prevent managers from increasing compensation beyond the amount pre-determined by your level or title. Still others place the authority to decide matters of compensation in the hands of a few individuals - and your boss may not be one of them. You'll save yourself a lot of agida if you find out about such things ahead of time.

What is a good time to ask for a raise? Coming off a strong performance review in which your boss acknowledged your accomplishments is a good bet because he will probably be expecting you to broach the subject of money. If you have just taken on a new role or your management has raised the bar for your performance, it is perfectly legitimate to ask for an appointment to discuss "compensation commensurate with new responsibilities."

When scheduling the meeting, pick a time when your boss's stress level and workload are as manageable as possible and tell him what you want to talk about so he's prepared. An informal setting like lunch often works best because it allows you to relate to your manager on a personal level. Before you meet face to face, decide on a number that you'd be satisfied with and think about how you'll respond if you don't get it. You also may want to practice your tone on a family member or friend prior to the meeting, because there is a fine line separating the assertive/sincere and boastful/arrogant approaches.

Now, on to the actual "raise discussion." If you're underpaid and you know it, don't complain. Acting bitter or angry will only put your manager on the defensive. Instead, remain calm, positive and professional. Tell your boss how much you enjoy working at the company. Talk about your performance in a factual manner and provide concrete examples of how you add value to the organization. When it comes time to pop the question, use the word compensation rather than raise or money. In the event that your boss declines your raise, don't close your ears to the rest of the discussion. She may be willing to offer you other perks instead, like extra vacation time, flexible hours or a nice dinner with your significant other on the company. These concessions may not be as valuable as cold cash, but they can come in handy when you're struggling to afford the good life outside of work.

Despite your best efforts, you may not get the compensation you've earned. This is not an unusual scenario, as often the only way to get a serious pay increase is to switch to a new position. At this point, you must decide if you are willing to trade more money for your current positive work experience. If the answer is yes, swallow your negativity for the time being and ask your boss what you need to do to receive an increase and if it's possible to revisit the issue in a few months. Do not give an ultimatum unless you are prepared to walk out the door right then and there. Even if you have another job offer in hand that pays more, you cannot assume that your manager will make a counteroffer.

Your boss may tell you that she would like to give you a raise, but her hands are tied. If this is the case, ask her if the two of you can schedule a meeting with the higher-up responsible for the decision. Do not go over her head without her knowledge and make sure she is kept on the loop on all matters concerning your compensation.

Raise discussions are never easy for either party, and if your boss is the passive-aggressive type, he may tell you what you want to hear simply to get you out of his office. Make sure that you follow up appropriately on any verbal promises he makes, and if possible, secure an effective date for your increase. The issue is not closed until you see the change on your paycheck.

[Sep 14, 2005 ] Bad Bosses/ How Do You Deal With A Micromanager?

That's pretty naive...
9/22/2005 | NPR
September 14, 2005

What can you do if you discover that your boss is a micromanager? Working with a micromanager is generally a losing proposition. You may feel you can learn to live with the tyranny, but there are consequences.

First, decide if you want to continue to work for this person. If you can find another job you like with a different manager within the company, your answer should probably be "no." If your answer is "yes" then you must make changes. You must respect your abilities and talent enough to ensure that you are being fully utilized. If you do not respect yourself, you will be miserable. The onus is on you ultimately.

If you have decided to continue to work under the microscope and have no other immediate alternatives you must make a promise to yourself. You must commit to "managing up." If you do not know what that means, I have written several posts that will explain what it is and how to do it effectively. You must commit to working through the issues appropriately with your boss. I really emphasize appropriately. Inappropriate behavior on your part will and should get you fired.

  1. Stay emotionally neutral in all discussions with your boss. Do not raise your voice. Even if you are ready to scream, keep it inside. An emotional outburst on your part will give a micromanager all he needs to continue controlling everything you do.
  2. Ask if you can be direct with your boss. You should ask permission to be "frank." [never do that -- that's stupid -- NNB] Why? Many micromanagers are not mature enough to have a direct conversation. So if the conversation goes south, you can always remind your boss that you asked if you could be direct [Well, psychopaths never keep their word -- NNB]
  3. Give concrete examples where you "feel" you have been treated inappropriately. This is the hardest part, but the most important. You should prepare for this part of the discussion very diligently. The examples must be recent. They should be the best examples you can think of where the micromanager cannot refute what actually happened. If it is totally fact based the only way a micromanager can deny what you are saying is by manipulating truth. That is another whole issue.
  4. Your goal should be to change one behavior. That's right, just one at a time. That is all your micromanaging boss can probably handle. This will be an incremental process, so get ready for a commitment. An example would be for you to get your micromanager to let you be responsible for one task completely without his approval. Focus on things that you do that you know should be your responsibility completely. Your boss should not have to put a stamp of approval on it. Even sell the idea as removing something off his already unmanageable schedule.
  5. If you are not getting anywhere with your boss during this process you must decide to escalate this up to the next level. But remember, micromanagers tend to hire micromanagers, so assess your boss's boss. Even if he is a micromanager you still must give that manager the opportunity to address your concerns. This is critical. It is only fair that you treat your managers as you want to be treated. Even if you do not think it is fair or necessary. Trust me on this.
  6. If the management team does not address this issue, your next step is Human Resources (if you have an HR department).

If all goes sour and you have no HR, start dusting off that resume and pounding the pavements. You do not belong there.

posted at 9/14/2005 12:12:00 PM | 0 comments links to this post

[Sep 10, 2005 ] Which Is Worse - A Fly or a Micromanager?

Typically micromanagers hire micromanagers. So look out for your boss's boss. S/he might be micromanaging your boss. So what you bring to the table is almost zilch.

Surviving and Thriving (At Work and At Home) September 2005

Someone recently responded to my blog by describing their fearless leader's attempt at doing an annual review. There is a disclaimer here. I am assuming what this reader has shared is totally factual.

So here is the reader's description of her annual reviews:

"In 16 years at my last job, my annual reviews were an opportunity for my boss (Director) to nit pick and criticize about little petty things from 11 months prior, or we talked about his latest "new toy" he purchased. I knew everything about him, kids, wife, parents and in-laws. Even his neighbors. He didn't even now that I had a child. Better yet, would have been to celebrate my many achievements and all the money I saved the company. I have to admit my bonuses were great - he always rated me Superior Performance, so there was some solace in getting the money. But he would never tell me that, why? So although the mid 5 figure bonuses were appreciated, the lack of acknowledgement did offend me."

Wow!

We can learn from this post. If this boss is for real, the Blogging Boss assumes he is a menace to corporate America.

Why?

1) An annual review should have NO surprises! None. Zero. If this boss had issues during the past year they should have been addressed all through the year. You NEVER dump on an employee during an annual review. NEVER. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I really hate this.

2) The employee knows all about the boss (most likely their personal life was vomited upon the employee). The boss never listened enough to even hear that the employee actually had a child. Folks, this is the NORM! Most managers have wax-filled ears. Even if they had it removed they still could NOT listen.

3) The boss never acknowledged exactly what the employee did well. Yet the boss compensated as if the employee was doing a stellar job. People want to know what they are doing well. This is KEY to self-esteem and confidence. This boss compensated at a high level, but did not marry the compensation to the accomplishments. BOOOO!

So what do we take away from this wonderful post?

1) The boss was self-centered and never made an effort to learn more about the employee. Actually my guess is that he really did not care.

2) He used an annual review to needle the employee and then sent a mixed signal. The employee was never told WHY they deserved a 5 figure bonus (not a trivial bonus).

3) The employee was compensated for the level of achievement but never appropriately coached or mentored.

4) The resulting message was "money is good." The net result - offensive management. "My boss has offended me and has not been my advocate."

On the Blogging Boss scale, this manager gets a barely a 1 on a scale from 1 to 5. He has violated some very important principles as an advocate, servant and leader.

Send me your comments!

Surviving a Bad Performance Review, Part I By Jamie Barnes

Infirmation.com

Many lawyers and professional legal staff prefer to think of themselves as in business for themselves, merely using a group to provide office space, support services, and occasional camaraderie.


This assumed sense of personal independence undergoes a rude awakening when a senior partner calls you into his or her office to detail for you, without your asking, how you are perceived. Some of the thoughts that may go through your head at a time like this are:

"Just who the hell is (s)he to be judging me?" "All that negative stuff has been coming from X, who has been talking behind my back. I knew I couldn't trust him/her." "(S)he acted as if (s)he thought I was pretty cool. Now the truth comes out!" "I feel dirty. I am neither as good or as bad as they say." "Why is all this ancient stuff being drudged up and thrown in my face?"

Recognize yourself in any of this? Had similar feelings? They are normal. By understanding anyone's normal self-centered and defensive reaction to being judged, and realizing that your feelings are automatically programmed to respond self-protectively in such situations, you have won half the battle; because with understanding can come a modicum of control.

You can't avoid professional criticism. You may have strong opinions as to the innate fairness of the appraisal process. You may be unfairly damaged and have documents to prove it. You may be thinking that you're being criticized for stuff that happened months ago and is no longer relevant. Regardless, the criticism hurts and remains potentially lethal as long as it sits in some partner's drawer already signed off on by other partners. Well, if you've ever felt abused by the performance-review process, you're not alone. Such 'heart-to-heart' talks trouble everybody. What you need is a survival strategy to deal with performance appraisals. Otherwise they can drive you nuts.

Then there is this alarming news: According to Ellen Wayne of the New York Law Journal, "Evaluations have taken on an importance they never had before. Associates are not only judged on the basis of their work skills and performance targets but now have the added anxiety that termination could be the result of a less than glowing review." Rest assured that as law firms continue to be operated more like businesses (as opposed to being run like private men's clubs), the performance appraisal becomes an important tool for weeding people out, as well as identifying top performers at all levels, from associates to paralegals to legal secretaries.

Most of us would agree that some sort of evaluation system is needed for everyone. The problem is how to construct a system certifiably free of bias. This may be impossible: evaluation systems are constructed by humans, and humans are fallible. Furthermore, it is difficult if not impossible to categorize and quantify the qualities that identify perfection in professions such as the law, meaning billable hours alone do not tell the tale. For associates there is something called "partner potential" which remains both on the appraiser's mind and on yours. Paralegals may also be evaluated based on billable hours, but they and legal secretaries are also being evaluated on how well they support a partner, carry out support functions, and are team players. How does one evaluate all that?

Let's deal first with the emotions that surface any time you receive a performance appraisal. Unless these emotions are well understood and contained by you at the start, a rational discussion of the performance appraisal as an institutional tool--and how you can successfully deal with it--cannot take place.

Reason Versus The Emotional Self

Nothing is more threatening to one's inviolable sense of self and its importance than to have a relative stranger sit down and dissect you both professionally and personally. First of all, the mere fact of delivering the appraisal solidifies that person's superior rank. This relative stranger also is acting summarily as judge and jury, dispassionately (hopefully) enumerating your strengths, faults, succethrough when you wrote X, did Y, or said Z.

To further muddy the waters, performance reviews can often be subjective. They can reflect group consensus or be driven by personal spite and used to settle personal scores. At times, it can all seem so unfair: A heroic performance against all odds during recessionary times can be considered inadequate; an average performance during spectacular economic times can be considered superior. All of this can make performance appraisals uncomfortable to contemplate, difficult to suffer, and almost impossible to trust. Now that this has been said, let's examine the other side of the equation: the appraisal rationale. We'll briefly discuss this and end with adaptive strategies you can employ to weather the stress and get on with the job.

The Appraisal Rationale

Talk to law firm partners and they will tell you that many positive outcomes can derive from performance appraisals, among them (1) meaningful feedback, (2) improved inter-firm communication, (3) maintenance of standards, and (4) facilitation of career planning. Not all of these claims can be fulfilled all of the time. Some are code for firm agendas the individual lawyer, paralegal, or legal secretary may or may not pick up on. Let's examine each of these suggested outcomes more fully so that you can understand why they exist and what traps they may conceal.

  1. Meaningful feedback. The idea here is that if you know what more experienced others think of your work product and conclude about you personally, you'll want to mold yourself into what is expected, and, parenthetically, if you don't want to mold yourself into this image, you'll leave. Either way, the firm benefits. In this instance, the performance appraisal is 'meaningful' as a tool for generating conformity and weeding out misfits. Before you raise a cry of outrage, think about this a moment. The goal is not to turn you into a Stepford Wife. You can be a cross-dresser outside work and secretly pull the wings off of live flies for all anybody cares. The purpose is to encourage you to become part of a team while at work and not a planet circling around some distant star. On your own, you can be as counter-cultural as you wish, unless, of course you bring unfavorable public attention to yourself and your firm. Do that and you're likely to hear about it on your next performance appraisal if not before.
  2. Improved communication. This is a dubious claim. It can happen, but frequently the opposite occurs. Bad vibes are generated. Yet, if the people being reviewed can be convinced that the system is unbiased and the appraisal process conducted dispassionately, the occasional bad feeling will not become part of a rising chorus of smoldering discontent. The component missing here, it ought to be mentioned, is discretion. Rather than create improved communication, which smacks of corpspeak, the goal of the appraisal process should be to remain confidential--a private summing up between appraiser and appraised that hopefully clears the air, establishes baselines for future on-the-job conduct, and sets the agenda for a less fractious future.
  3. Maintenance of Standards. Hard to argue with this one. A firm has a right to set standards, and it has a right to expect you to adhere to them. The problem comes when these standards are not clear at the start. In an article on performance appraisals in the March 17, 2003, edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, which specializes in local legal news, the writer, Consultant Ida Abbott, advises any law firm to first assess the competencies desired and then:

    "…identify five to 10 specific components to be evaluated for each key performance standard. If one of your standards is 'professionalism,' it must be dissected into specific, observable tasks, skills, attitudes, behaviors and attributes that characterize what a lawyer must do to demonstrate that quality. For example, one component might be 'attention to detail: Is thorough and tenacious in completing complex and multifaceted tasks; work product is neat and free of errors.'"

    What Abbot does not address is this: a subjective judgment is still required because everyone screws up, and not all screw-ups are equal. What needs to be judged is the importance of the screw-up. Did it cause the loss of millions of dollars in client revenue or, say, was the mistake made on a will and trust that had no substantive effect on the efficacy of the document? The firm culture and its guardians must decide. They may disagree among themselves but eventually must reach consensus. That is how the appraisal process works. Thus, note that even the consensus judgment handed down to you on your appraisal may be a matter of dispute among the partners. The fact that there was internal disagreement will most likely not appear on your appraisal, although it may be hinted at during your person-to-person interview.

  4. Facilitates Career Planning. In managing associates, this is corpspeak for "Am I Partner Material?" The whole purpose for most associates slaving away at their jobs and conforming to firm production and decorum standards is to eventually grab the metaphorical brass ring: a partnership. If you achieve that, you think that you truly can be considered your own business, your own profit center, with control over your own destiny. Again, there is some deception involved in any process which purports to outline the personal qualities and performance level needed to make partner: Let's say that you are nice to your mother, don't smoke, drink or frequent hookers, don't beat your kids, are still happily married to your original spouse and are punctilious in your weekly attendance of religious services. You have worked your way onto the boards of some small corporations. You are one of your suburb's council members. You have brought in new business, and you bill an ungodly number of hours. Sadly, you can meet all these qualifications and still have your partnership delayed if, say, existing partners do not retire when they say they will, your firm has financial problems, or a new partner arrives from somewhere else accompanied by several big-timxample, there may be supervisory positions available such as floor secretary or office manager with commensurate pay and/or seniority perquisites. Alternatively, a paralegal may become head paralegal or be allowed to specialize in handling only certain matters or working with only certain partners. Insofar as you demonstrate your value and skills, the firm should try to recognize and reward those efforts. Whether firms will do so or even contemplate such a system varies from firm to firm and will likely be rooted in the simple math of is this person adding value (and real dollars) to the firm or not.
Next week: Part II will provide guidance on how to proceed now that you understand the review process.

Surviving a Bad Performance Review, Part II By Jamie Barnes

Infirmation.com

Part I of this piece examined the growth of performance reviews at law firms and detailed the rationale behind them. In Part II, LawCrossing gives advice on how to handle the review process.

Okay, So The Appraisal Process Is Not Perfect! How Do I Proceed? Your first battle is to win a fight with yourself. As we have said, you are emotionally predisposed and programmed to protect yourself from bad news, especially if through your actions you caused the bad news to happen. Your mind will deliberately rationalize your mistakes. It will attribute them to events beyond your control. It may even shift blame to others. In short, your brain will do almost anything to avoid confronting the truth of your own error. So your first job is to confront this aspect of yourself and attempt to override it. Easier said than done, right? Well, awareness is half the battle.

When you make a mistake, go ahead and rationalize it all you want, but allow part of your brain to recognize it for what it was, a blunder. Start with prevention. Where associates and professional staff get themselves in needless difficulty is not owning up to mistakes. Most mistakes can be fixed quickly. If you find yourself making the same type of mistake over and over, you need to be on the outlook for this predilection. Then your brain can start building fail-safe mechanisms to guard against similar future mistakes.

Learn the system. Every firm has its idiosyncrasies. For instance, in your firm, what is considered a respectable amount of billable hours? Are partners down in the trenches with associates or do they have a tendency to remain aloof? In general, how is work assigned? How is it evaluated? If you get in the flow sufficiently to operate automatically, then the aspects of the system that seem petty or unnecessary will eventually be forgotten.

Get feedback. But don't do so too often. Don't go running into a supervising partner or senior associate every three or four hours to ask "How am I doing?" Your insecurity will soon cause irritation, and you will look like a whiner and not a "take charge" individual. Instead, choose quiet times, outside the office if necessary, to ask the assessment of someone senior whom you trust. There are good and bad ways to do this. A bad way might go like this:

You: Well, how am I doing? Partner: What do you mean? You: You know, my work performance. Is it okay? In your opinion, am I partner material? What does the bonus situation look like this year? How much do you think I will get?

Here's what you did wrong in this conversation. First, you put the partner on the spot. You did not give him or her enough time to reflectively respond to your first question before you asked the second question. As for the second question, if you have only been with the firm a few years, there may be no way of telling if you are or are not partner material. True, impressions about you have begun to form. But those impressions can and will change over time. So the first piece of advice is to avoid asking about partnerships. Likewise, asking about bonuses and promotions is rarely a good tactic.

Instead, whether you are an associate or professional staff, keep your questions specific to a particular assignment or series of assignments. This is only reasonable. The long-term decision regarding your competency and/or partnership potential is the result of many private discussions by others that eventually result in a consensus after a period of years. A better way to inquire about your performance might go like this:

You: Do you think I did okay on the Laughingbod Case? I'm only asking because I respect your opinion, and your feedback can only be helpful. (Pause)

Partner: I thought you did okay. (Pause) You might edit your stuff a little more carefully before turning it in. You write persuasively, and I've complemented you on your citations, and you're great at meeting deadlines, but, as you know, I've also pointed out some problems from time to time; not serious, you understand, but an indication that your language can use some tightening. I'll work with you on this. It was a problem I also had when I first started working here. I had to learn how the law firm did things. I might add that others have noted how well you handle the client. You're very relaxed and professional and I've heard a lot of favorable comments.

You: Thanks. Now, about the Laughingbod Case. I next plan to…etc.

Here's What You did right in this conversation. (1) You asked for advice, which flatters the potential advice giver. (2) You didn't bombard him/her with additional questions. You asked an open-ended question that gave the other person wide latitude in how to respond. (3) You got the advice giver to point out problems; but more important strategically, you got him or her to partner with you in working on the problem. You moved the advice giver into your corner as a helper/facilitator. (4) Finally, you didn't become a pain in the ass by dwelling on the subject. You moved on, allowing the supervising attorney to do the same.

The above hypothetical conversation may or may not be difficult to replicate. It suggests an already comfortable relationship between a supervising lawyer and his or her report; but a loose approximation of such a discussion can be conducted with anyone as long as you remember to keep your question simple, open-ended, and focused on a specific task or tasks. Your primary task: Get a supervisory attorney to take some responsibility for your development. This does not mean mentoring in the classic sense of the word. You're merely asking for an occasional on-the-job critique from someone who may even busier than you; so you cannot ask for this directly but only hope that it is offered. If it is, this person could eventually evolve into your mentor.

Constantly evaluate yourself. The first and most important question you must ask is, Would I want to work with me or for me? You can decide this by asking such questions as: Do partners, other associates, or people in the support staff avoid me? If so, why? Am I brusque in my professional dealings? Do I complain a lot? Do I pick arguments? Do I fail to say "Thank you" when somebody goes out of their way or does something nice for me? Am I absent more than I should be? Do I fail to return calls promptly?

Being aware of others is often difficult when we have spent all of our lives focusing on ourselves, with our noses in books and with one test hurdle after another always staring us in the face. But the truth is, in a work environment it is all about interpersonal relationships. You don't have to turn yourself into a back-slapping life of the party, but you need to be moderately skillful socially when at the office. You may arbitrarily dismiss such social niceties as "office politics." But the fact of the matter is that all work life involves human interaction, and all of human interaction is political in the sense that to work and live together, we must make accommodations and compromises in order to get along.

Periodically, force yourself to evaluate your social interactions. What aspect of these interactions can you manage better? Which relationships seem to be working best? Why might they be? Do these relationships work solely because you genuinely like these particular individuals? Because you share some interest no matter how banal? Or is it because you take the time to recognize them as unique individuals?

Proactively, always find something about somebody else to compliment, but do so judiciously. Don't just make up something. The compliment has to be sincerely felt or noticed or the other person will likely intuit your deception and react unfavorably to you. Monitor yourself to see if you are walking around looking distracted or unpleasant. If you are, a smile can fix the problem even if you are boiling inside. In an article in JD Jungle, the author (anonymous) comments as follows: "Success at a law firm is about human relationships," says Peter Sloan, a career development partner at Kansas City's Blackwell Sanders. Every time you meet someone new-a partner, another first-year, your secretary-smile. Introduce yourself. Take the time to ask the person a bit about herself. Be the kind of person people like to work with, says Sloan. "You'll lay the groundwork for the relationships you'll need to get ahead."

Sloan makes smiling sound like a cynical career move, but it is more than that. It may not help you get ahead, as he assumes, but smiling can reshape your approach to work, to your fellow lawyers and life in general. Like physical exercise, it is necessary for a healthy existence. So look upon smiling as producing multiple benefits, some of which may be that people will like you better and be more disposed to giving you a break.

Conclusion

You cannot avoid performance appraisals. Even partners get appraisals. You will be evaluated in one form or another all of your working life. Because you cannot avoid the process, it is better that you manage it as best you can. You must first manage your emotions. This is the toughest part. Secondly, you must identify and establish a comfortable feedback relationship with those responsible for judging you. This means getting constant feedback without having to ask for it; which in turn means establishing the kind of open and eager-to-improve attitude that permits criticism, which also has much to do with managing your emotions. Finally, your task is to get supervising attorneys ready to help you improve, which starts with your being open to all suggestions. If you can do most if not all of this, you likely won't be "blindsided" at appraisal time. So, good luck to you. Take a while to think about what you've just read. Try to dispassionately analyze your current work attitude towards your fellow associates, the partners, the support staff, and your attitude towards yourself. Some of the changes in this article may feel ill-fitting the first few weeks you try them; but none of them-smiling more, saying "thank you" when appropriate, controlling your negative emotions-will seriously compromise your individuality. Instead, you'll find your work easier and the dreaded performance appraisal easier to digest.

===========

You can't avoid professional criticism.

You may have strong opinions as to the innate fairness of the appraisal process. You may be unfairly damaged and have documents to prove it. You may be thinking that you're being criticized for stuff that happened months ago and is no longer relevant. Regardless, the criticism hurts and remains potentially lethal as long as it sits in some partner's drawer already signed off on by other partners. Well, if you've ever felt abused by the performance-review process, you're not alone. Such 'heart-to-heart' talks trouble everybody. What you need is a survival strategy to deal with performance appraisals. Otherwise they can drive you nuts.

Then there is this alarming news: As law firms continue to be operated more like businesses (as opposed to being run like private men's clubs), the performance appraisal becomes an important tool for weeding people out as well as identifying top performers. According to Ellen Wayne of the New York Law Journal, "Evaluations have taken on an importance they never had before. Associates are not only judged on the basis of their work skills and performance targets but now have the added anxiety that termination could be the result of a less than glowing review."

Most of us would agree that some sort of evaluation system is needed for everyone.

The problem is how to construct a system certifiably free of bias. This may be impossible: Evaluation systems are constructed by humans and humans are fallible. Furthermore, it is difficult if not impossible to categorize and quantify the qualities that identify perfection in professions such as the law, meaning billable hours alone do not tell the tale. There is something called 'partner potential' which remains both on the appraiser's mind and on yours. How does one evaluate that?

Let's deal first with the emotions that surface any time you receive a performance appraisal. Unless these emotions are well understood and contained by you at the start, a rational discussion of the performance appraisal as an institutional tool -and how you can successfully deal with it-- cannot take place.

Reason Versus The Emotional Self

Nothing is more threatening to one's inviolable sense of self and its importance than to have a relative stranger sit down and dissect you both professionally and personally. First of all, the mere fact of delivering the appraisal solidifies that person's superior rank. This relative stranger also is acting summarily as judge and jury, dispassionately (hopefully) enumerating your strengths, faults, successes and failures and summarizing all this with either a 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' that leaves you either euphoric, confused or devastated. Even when an appraisal is flattering, there remains an uncomfortable edge to the process. You may wonder why you feel so uneasy and perhaps even embarrassed. Such a reaction is driven by your knowledge that no one can know you as you do; nor can anyone else understand what you were going through when you wrote X, did Y or said Z.

To further muddy the waters, performance reviews can often be subjective.
The Appraisal Rationale

Meaningful feedback The idea here is that if you know what more experienced others think of your work product and conclude about you personally, you'll want to mold yourself into what is expected, and parenthetically, if you don't want to mold yourself into this image, you'll leave. Either way, the firm benefits. In this instance the performance appraisal is 'meaningful' as a tool for generating conformity and weeding out misfits. Before you raise a cry of outrage, think about this a moment. The goal is not to turn you into a Stepford Wife. You can be a cross dresser outside work and secretly pull the wings off of live flies for all anybody cares. The purpose is to encourage you to become part of a team while at work and not a planet circling around some distant star. On your own, you can be as counter-cultural as you wish, unless, of course you bring unfavorable public attention to yourself and your firm. Do that and you're likely to hear about it on your next performance appraisal if not before.

Improved communication

This is a dubious claim. It can happen, but frequently the opposite occurs. Bad vibes are generated. Yet, if lawyers can be convinced that the system is unbiased and the appraisal process conducted dispassionately, the occasional bad feeling will not become part a rising chorus of smoldering discontent. The component missing here, and it ought to be mentioned, is discretion. Rather than create improved communication, which smacks of corpspeak, the goal of the appraisal process should be to remain confidential -a private summing up between appraiser and appraised that hopefully clears the air, establishes baselines for future on-the-job conduct, and sets the agenda for a less fractious future.

Maintenance of Standards

Hard to argue with this one. A firm has a right to set standards and it has a right to expect you to adhere to them. The problem comes when these standards are not clear at the start. In an article on the performance appraisal in the March 17, 2003 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, which specializes in local legal news, the writer, Consultant Ida Abbott advises any law firm to first assess the competencies desired and then: "…identify five to 10 specific components to be evaluated for each key performance standard. If one of your standards is 'professionalism,' it must be dissected into specific, observable tasks, skills, attitudes, behaviors and attributes that characterize what a lawyer must do to demonstrate that quality. For example, one component might be 'attention to detail: Is thorough and tenacious in completing complex and multifaceted tasks; work product is neat and free of errors.'"

Facilitates Career Planning

Okay, So The Appraisal Process Is Not Perfect! How Do I Proceed?

Your first battle is to win a fight with yourself. As we have said, you are emotionally predisposed and programmed to protect yourself from bad news, especially if through your actions you caused the bad news to happen. Your mind will deliberately rationalize your mistakes. It will attribute them to events beyond your control. It may even shift blame to others. In short, your brain will do almost anything to avoid confronting the truth of your own error. So, your first job is to confront this aspect of yourself and attempt to override it. Easier said than done, right? Well, awareness is half the battle. When you make a mistake, go ahead and rationalize it all you want, but allow part of your brain to recognize it for what it was, a blunder. Start with prevention. Where attorneys get themselves in needless difficulty is not owning up to mistakes.Most mistakes can be fixed quickly. If you find yourself making the same type of mistake over and over, you need to be on the outlook for this predilection. Then your brain can start building fail-safe mechanisms to guard against similar future mistakes. Learn the system. Every firm has its idiosyncrasies.

For instance, in your firm, what is considered a respectable amount of billable hours? Are partners down in the trenches with associates or do they have a tendency to remain aloof? How is work assigned? How is it evaluated? If you get in the flow sufficiently to operate automatically, then the aspects of the system that seem petty or unnecessary will eventually be forgotten. Get feedback. But don't do so too often. Don't go running into a supervising partner or senior associate every three or four hours to ask 'How am I doing?' Your insecurity will soon cause irritation and you will look like a whiner and not a 'take charge' individual. Instead, choose quiet times, outside the office if necessary, to ask the assessment of someone senior whom you trust. There are good and bad ways to do this. A bad way might go like this: You: Well, how am I doing? Partner: What do you mean? You: You know, my work performance. Is it okay? In your opinion, am I partner material? What does the bonus situation look like this year? How much do you think I will get?

Here's what you did wrong in this conversation.

First, you put the partner on the spot. You did not give him or her enough time to reflectively respond to your first question before you asked the second question. As for the second question, if you have only been with the firm a few years there may be no way of telling if you are or are not partner material. True, impressions about you have begun to form. But those impressions can and will change over time. So, the first piece of advice is to avoid asking about partnerships.

Instead, Keep your questions specific to a particular assignment or series of assignments.

This is only reasonable. The long-term decision regarding your competency and partnership potential is the result of many private discussions by others that eventually result in a consensus after a period of years. A better way to inquire about your performance might go like this: You: Do you think I did okay on the Laughingbod Case? I'm only asking because I respect your opinion and your feedback can only be helpful. (Pause)

Partner: I thought you did okay. (Pause) You might edit your stuff a little more carefully before turning it in. You write persuasively, and I've complemented you on your citations, and you're great at meeting deadlines, but, as you know, I've also pointed out some problems from time to time, not serious, you understand, but an indication that your language can use some tightening. I'll work with you on this. It was a problem I also had when I first started working here. I had to learn how the law firm did things. I might add that others have noted how well you handle the client. You're very relaxed and professional and I've heard a lot of favorable comment.

You: Thanks. Now, about the Laughingbod Case. I next plan to…..etc.

Here's What You did right in this conversation.

(1) You asked for advice, which flatters the potential advice giver. (2) You didn't bombard him/her with additional questions. You asked an open-ended question that gave the other person wide latitude in how to respond. (3) You got the advice giver to point out problems; but more important strategically, you got him or her to partner with you in working on the problem. You moved the advice giver into your corner as a helper/facilitator. (4) Finally, you didn't become a pain in the ass by dwelling on the subject. You moved on, allowing the supervising attorney to do the same.

The above hypothetical conversation may or may not be difficult to replicate.

It suggests an already comfortable relationship between supervising lawyer and associate; but a loose approximation of such a discussion can be conducted with anyone as long as you remember to keep your question simple, open-ended, and focused on a specific task or tasks. Your primary task: Get a supervisory attorney to take some responsibility for your development. This does not mean mentoring in the classic sense of the word. You're merely asking for occasional on-the-job critique from some one who may even busier than you; so you cannot ask for this directly but only hope that it is offered. If it is, this person could eventually evolve into your mentor.

Constantly evaluate yourself.

The first and most important question you must ask is, Would I want to work with me or for me? You can decide this by asking such questions as 'Do partners, other associates or people in the support staff avoid me? If so, why? Am I brusque in my professional dealings? Do I complain a lot? Do I pick arguments? Do I fail to say 'Thank you' when somebody goes out of their way or does something nice for me? Am I absent more than I should be? Do I fail to return calls promptly?

Being aware of others is often difficult when we have spent all of our lives focusing on ourselves, with our noses in books and with one test hurdle after another always staring us in the face. But the truth is, in a work environment it is all about interpersonal relationships. You don't have to turn yourself into a back-slapping life of the party, but you need to be moderately skillful socially when at the office. You may arbitrarily dismiss such social niceties as 'office politics.' But the fact of the matter is that all work life involves human interaction and all of human interaction is political in the sense that to work and live together we must make accommodations and compromises in order to get along.

Periodically, force yourself to evaluate your social interactions.

What aspect of these interactions can you manage better? Which relationships seem to be working best? Why might they be? Do these relationships work solely because you genuinely like these particular individuals? Because you share some interest no matter how banal? Or is it because you take the time to recognize them as unique individuals?

Proactively, always find something about somebody else to compliment, but do so judiciously. Don't just make up something. The compliment has to be sincerely felt or noticed or the other person will likely intuit your deception and react unfavorably to you. Monitor yourself to see if you are walking around looking distracted or unpleasant. If you are, a smile can fix the problem even if you are boiling inside. In an article in JD Jungle, the author (anonymous) comments as follows:
"Success at a law firm is about human relationships," says Peter Sloan, a career development partner at Kansas City's Blackwell Sanders. Every time you meet someone new -a partner, another first-year, your secretary-smile. Introduce yourself. Take the time to ask the person a bit about herself. Be the kind of person people like to work with, says Sloan. "You'll lay the groundwork for the relationships you'll need to get ahead." Sloan makes smiling sound like a cynical career move, but it is more than that. It may not help you get ahead, as he assumes; but smiling can reshape your approach to work, to your fellow lawyers and life in general. Like physical exercise, it is necessary for a healthy existence. So look upon smiling as producing multiple benefits, some of which may be that people will like you better and be more disposed to giving you a break.

Conclusion

You cannot avoid performance appraisals. Even partners get appraisals. You will be evaluated in one form or another all of your working life. Since you cannot avoid the process, it is better that you manage it as best you can. You must first manage your emotions. This is the toughest part. Secondly, you must identify and establish a comfortable feedback relationship with those responsible for judging you. This means getting constant feedback without having to ask for it; which in turn means establishing the kind of open and eager-to-improve attitude that permits criticism, which also has much to do with managing your emotions. Finally, your task is to get supervising attorneys ready to help you improve, which starts with your being open to all suggestions. If you can do most if not all of this, you likely won't be 'blindsided' at appraisal time. So, good luck to you. Take a while to think about what you've just read. Try to dispassionately analyze your current work attitude towards your fellow associates, the partners, the support staff, and your attitude towards yourself. Some of the changes in this article may feel ill-fitting the first few weeks you try them; but none of them -smiling more, saying 'thank you' when appropriate, controlling your negative emotions-will seriously compromise your individuality. Instead, you'll find your work easier and the dreaded performance appraisal easier to digest.

[Aug 9, 2005] Room At the Top. In the Pipeline

3. Andrew Duffin on August 9, 2005 3:30 AM writes...

In the beginning, businesses were run by their owners.

Then, experts took over - engineers and scientists who actually knew how things were made. In those days, you chemists would have made it to the top - my father nearly did, in the 3M company, and perhaps would have done had he not retired early, and he was a PhD chemist.

After the experts, the bean-counters had a go - some companies to this day are run by accountants; they are easy to spot - they're very hot on compliance and never take risks.

It soon became apparent that the bean-counters were stifling creativity, so "professional" managers came next. In many places they are still in power; again they are fairly easy to spot: they know (or imagine they know) everything about management per se, but absolutely nothing about the things that make their businesses work.

This is not a recipe for success either, and the latest wave (MBA's) is merely a late-flowering remnant of the managerialist philosophy. MBA's know even more about management, and (if possible) even less about how things actually happen. This too will pass.

But I am afraid us techies (I include myself, as an ex-chemist IT techie) are at least two fad-generations too late to get to the top of anything.

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[Mar 10, 2020] Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us by Paul Verhaeghe Published on Sep 29, 2014 | www.theguardian.com

[Nov 03, 2018] Neoliberal Measurement Mania Published on Nov 03, 2018 | www.rako.com

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Office Space

February 03, 2009 | 20th Century Fox
Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is a computer programmer working for Initech in Houston. Every day, he and his friends Samir (Ajay Naidu) and Michael Bolton (David Herman as not THAT Michael Bolton), suffer endless indignities and humiliations in their soulless workspace from their soulless boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole). For Peter, stuck in his cookie-cutter apartment with paper-thin walls and IKEA furniture, every day is worse than the one before it -- so every day is the worst of his life. To cap it off, Initech has hired a pair of "efficiency experts" to downsize the company. One Friday night, Peter's soon to be ex-girlfriend Anne (Alexandra Wentworth) forces him to go to an occupational hypnotherapist to relieve work stress. While Peter is under hypnosis, the therapist keels over and dies. As he never snaps out of his hypnotic state, Peter has a new outlook on life. If something annoys him, he just ignores it or walks away from it. He is completely relaxed and enjoying life for the first time in a long time. On Monday, Peter skips work and sleeps in. He gets up for lunch and drives down to a restaurant next to his office and asks the waitress he's had a crush on, Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), on a date. When Peter stops into the office to pick up his organizer, he's called in to talk to the efficiency experts. Relaxed and friendly, Peter charms them as he describes everything wrong with the office, including his boss. Even as Peter now appears at work only as the mood strikes him, the experts decide he's management material and give him a promotion even as they lay off the hardworking Samir and Michael. Peter then convinces his friends to exact revenge on Initech based upon an idea from Superman III. Not everything works out quite as planned. Office Space originated from writer/director Mike Judge's first animated short of the same name, created in 1991. The short was about Milton (reproduced in the film by Stephen Root), a damaged office drone whose complaints and threats about his sufferings go unheeded. ~ Ron Wells, Rovi

Scotty's Got an Awesome Blog - Chicagosphere by Mike Doyle

When mediabistro reported the firing of Scotty Iseri last week, it seemed like a golden era of Windy City videoblogging hijinks might be coming to a close. Last June after seven years as a freelance foley artist (that's sound designer to you and me), Iseri launched Scotty Got an Office Job (SGAOJ), a hysterically sneaky video blog lampooning the absurdity of corporate-cubicle culture recorded from inside his workplace (with lots of nifty post-production thrown in).

This month, Iseri's bosses--collectively code-named "Brian Boquist"--got wind of the blog, accused him of corporate insurrection, and summarily canned him. Fools. Had they done their due diligence in the first place, they might have known the hard-to-bridle creative powerhouse they were dealing with.

(Video: Scotty loses an office job.)

Prior to SGAOJ, in addition to being widely acclaimed for his sound-design skills, Iseri had won rave reviews in for his Big Rock Show, a two-man act billed as the "World's Smallest Stadium Rock Concert", as well as blogosphere clippings for his public-transit Paper Hat Game.

Surprising himself by landing an office, job, Iseri launched SGAOJ as a way to explore his new, substantially alien surroundings. In the past year, he's lampooned workday hangovers, loudmouth coworkers, office-kitchen politics, intransigent pop machines, interminable staff meetings, and much more.

My favorites are the musical numbers. Take a look at these two SGAOJ episodes to see why:

(Video: Scotty dances the dance of get-me-outta-here.)

(Video: Scotty sings the song of office insolence.)

This week, on the newly renamed Scotty Wants an Office Job, Iseri let's it be known his humorous look at office life has not come to end. His latest offering: a cautionary, tongue-in-cheek re-telling of how not to do a phone interview.

(Video: Scotty has a bad phone interview.)

I encourage you to browse the rest of Iseri's video blog (also available on iTunes), and check out this excellent review on Tilzy.tv for another perspective on his video antics. A wise workplace would hire Iseri and make him their irreverent corporate ambassador. Of course, if there were that kind of wisdom in Windy City boardrooms, he'd have nothing to riff on. So thanks go to Brian Boquist.

Really, you had it coming.

Read more: http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chicagosphere/2009/06/scottys-got-an-awesome-blog.html#ixzz1Jvi2n1Y1

Amazon.com The Method (El Metodo)

The Method is a thriller that hardly moves. Composed entirely of dialogue in a single room, packed with paranoid glances and panic sweats in three-piece Italian suits, it is the cumulating of every anxiety about interviewing for a job taken to reality television absurdity, wrapped around a scathing critique of corporate culture . The end result is a smart, cerebral drama almost entirely verbal. The idea was bound to happen eventually. When you lock people in a room together for any length of time, crazy stuff can happen. Mix that with a job application where only one person can be left standing and you've got yourself a movie! Well, a play adapted to a movie.

Adapted from the subversive Spanish play "El Método Grönholm" by screenwriter Mateo Gil (The Sea Inside, Open Your Eyes and Vanilla Sky), The Method is corporate dog-eat-dog culture taken to the level of Objectivist nightmare; a Big Brother style reality television show where ego and selfishness override all other aspects of personality. Here, candidates are selected not based on their credentials or job experience, but by an unknown set of criteria set by a team of mysterious psychologists (or so they believe). Once a candidate "fails" a section of the interview process, he or she gets expelled from the applicants, forced to leave. It's a like a Google job interview with the cast of Survivor.

Paranoia, confusion, self-doubt and cruelty set in as each candidate, whether actively or passively, begin to undermine each other's credibility and worth for the mysterious job, a position which is never defined. In truth, it could be any job-the scope of The Method is much larger than a simple job application. It is no coincidence that during the interview, the city of Madrid is currently under siege by anti-globalization protectors in the streets below. The applicants coolly undergo their rigorous and disorienting testing while the city is torn asunder by those protesting the very corporations these candidates are struggling so hard to be a part of. The film has a lot to say about the state of corporate politics; the contrast is striking, and very critical of its protagonists simply for being there, in this position, interviewing for the mother of all corporate jobs while the world burns outside.

Though I have not seen the play from which The Method is adapted in person, the story seems to translate well to screen. The singular room location creates a tense atmosphere; not quite terror, more like that profuse anxiety sweat you get when waiting in the lobby for that job interview you really want, but secretly doubt you are qualified for. It is also painfully obvious the material here was based on a play; the dialogue, the set, the entire one-room scenario, all tell-tale signs of its dramatic origins. All the tension and conflict stems from the interactions between these seven strangers, united only in their common desire for a single position with the company. The interview brings out the worst in the candidates before too long, as each begins to subtly sabotage each other's chances at advancing to the next round. In The Method, it's a kill or be killed corporate world, and the interviewees stop just short at doing exactly that.

Only the coldest of managerial hearts would fail to see the black comedy elements in The Method, the satirical edges that slice and dice viewers into fits of anxiety. As globalization takes root in the world, as job markets move from regional to international, corporations can now pick and choose the best of the best. Here, we have the employer, a multinational corporation as some mythic, unknowable entity; an all-seeing, all-knowing force that knows every aspect of its employees, laying them bare for all to see. No secret can be kept from them, and if you try; well, there's the door. We don't even know what the company does as a function to earn money. The satire cuts deep. At first glance, the film seems delightfully whimsical; a thriller fueled on all the malevolent, negative personality traits of human beings, set in the most likely of locations-the corporate board room. Then, reality sinks in. After all; anyone who's actually worked in an office would be the first to tell you exactly how honest and accurate The Method is.

Marvelously well-acted, The Method works as a drama almost entirely due to its stellar performances, all impressively convincing. At first, all the candidates are mere business suited cookie cutouts, indistinguishable from one another; but as the hours trickle by and the intense psychological tests continue on, we slowly learn more about each character-not a lot, mind you, but enough to create a sketch. All the dialogue, the behaviors, the reactions seem fully realized as individual personalities. One is a parent, the other is from Argentina. Two are former lovers; one has roots in union activity, while another was a whistleblower in his last job. Slowly, all their secrets are laid bare at the expense of attaining the unobtainable, the exalted job. And once the interview runs down to the last two candidates, things really start heating up. The ending sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

The Method has a washed out and muted style, a no doubt deliberate stylistic choice. Color saturation and black levels are virtually nonexistent; the film is composed almost entirely of steely corporate grays, which suits the film to a tee-the ambiguity of the color palate matches well with the subject matter. It looks good; stylish, you know? However, a noticeable amount of PAL ghosting is present, which is unfortunate.

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976) - IMDb user reviews

I didn't get where I am today without knowing a good show when I see it!

What average Joe suffering through the daily grind does not have a bit of Reggie Perrin hidden inside, boiling and bubbling just under the surface?

Reginald Perrin is perhaps the most thoughtful character ever seen in a comedy series. He is a deep and complex man.

Supporting characters each have an unforgettable "trademark" (for lack of a better term)... Sometimes direct, sometimes symbolic -- the creator of Reggie Perrin effortlessly distills the essence of real life oddities.

Brilliant and funny. On the whole, this is the only British comedy I put ahead of MONTY PYTHON and FAWLTY TOWERS. Reginald Perrin is worthy of such a supreme compliment. A sitcom Masterpiece. All else is just Grot.

Comedy-City, Arizona! Super! Great!

Study Finds Working At Work Improves Productivity The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Dictionary of performance review terms. [rec.humor.funny]

AVERAGE:
Not too bright.
EXCEPTIONALLY WELL QUALIFIED:
Has committed no major blunders to date.
ACTIVE SOCIALLY:
Drinks heavily.
ZEALOUS ATTITUDE:
Opinionated.
CHARACTER ABOVE REPROACH:
Still one step ahead of the law.
UNLIMITED POTENTIAL:
Will stick with us until retirement.
QUICK THINKING:
Offers plausible excuses for errors.
TAKES PRIDE IN WORK:
Conceited.
TAKES ADVANTAGE OF EVERY OPPERTUNITY TO PROGRESS:
Buys drinks for superiors.
INDIFFERENT TO INSTRUCTION:
Knows more than superiors.
STERN DISCIPLINARIAN:
A real jerk.
TACTFUL IN DEALING WITH SUPERIORS:
Knows when to keep mouth shut.
APPROACHES DIFFICULT PROBLEMS WITH LOGIC:
Finds someone else to do the job.
A KEEN ANALYST:
Thoroughly confused.
NOT A DESK PERSON:
Did not go to college.
EXPRESSES SELF WELL:
Can string two sentences together.
SPENDS EXTRA HOURS ON THE JOB:
Miserable home life.
CONSCIENTIOUS AND CAREFUL:
Scared.
METICULOUS IN ATTENTION TO DETAIL:
A nitpicker.
DEMONSTRATES QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP:
Has a loud voice.
JUDGEMENT IS USUALLY SOUND:
Lucky.
MAINTAINS PROFESSIONAL ATTITUDE:
A snob.
KEEN SENSE OF HUMOR:
Knows lots of dirty jokes.
STRONG ADHERENCE TO PRINCIPLES:
Stubborn.
GETS ALONG EXTREMELY WELL WITH SUPERIORS AND SUBORDINATES ALIKE:
A coward.
SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE:
Stupid.
OF GREAT VALUE TO THE ORGANIZATION:
Turns in work on time.
IS UNUSUALLY LOYAL:
Wanted by no-one else.
ALERT TO COMPANY DEVELOPMENTS:
An office gossip.
REQUIRES WORK-VALUE ATTITUDINAL READJUSTMENT:
Lazy and hard-headed.
HARD WORKER:
Usually does it the hard way.
ENJOYS JOB:
Needs more to do.
HAPPY:
Paid too much.
WELL ORGANIZED:
Does too much busywork.
COMPETENT:
Is still able to get work done if supervisor helps.
CONSULTS WITH SUPERVISOR OFTEN:
Pain in the ass.
WILL GO FAR:
Relative of management.
SHOULD GO FAR:
Please.
USES TIME EFFECTIVELY:
Clock watcher.
VERY CREATIVE:
Finds 22 reasons to do anything except original work.
USES RESOURSES WELL:
Delagates everything.
DESERVES PROMOTION:
Create new title to make h/h feel appreciated.

'05 Annual Performance Review Albert Einstein

List aspects of employee's approach which require improvement for greater effectiveness.

Regrettably, I had to put you down as "poor" for "works well with others" and "shares credit appropriately." You had no co-authors on your five papers, and your citations were quite skimpy: no citations at all in your June and September paper, only one citation in your April paper, and not much better on the others. You wrote that your special theory of relativity came to you after a discussion with your friend Michele Besso. But you didn't even acknowledge him in your June paper. This is an area for improvement.

On the other hand, famous physicists are beginning to visit the offices here in Bern; Albert you must make sure that any hours spent in talking to them are subtracted from your time card and made up for later. You are responsible for making sure these visits do not cause a distraction for others in the office.

In addition, I would have to say your output, while at times quite extraordinary, has been inconsistent. In Q1 you managed to publish one paper in the final two weeks of the quarter. In Q2 you improved productivity, with your dissertation in April, the Brownian Motion paper in May, and the Special Relativity paper in June. Not bad for a quarter, not bad at all. But then you seemed to slump: you did finish one paper 3 days before the close of Q3, but it was only 3 pages long. I admit that some reviewers did find it noteworthy, but really, couldn't it have been the conclusion of your June paper? It almost seems like you held it back just to have something to show for Q3. (This flippant, almost disrespectful attitude is also evident in your dissertation: when told by your respected thesis committee that your thesis was too short, you added one sentence.) And then in Q4 -- no publications at all.

You wrote that "A storm broke out in my mind" this year. Let me remind you that our Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) covers up to three psychiatric treatments, should you find them necessary.

You seem to lack a flare for self-promotion. Lucky for us our PR department stepped in and changed your L/c2 equation into the much more marketable E = mc2.

Performance Review A BAD Quarter At Java Jamboree - Humor

PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
Name of personnel evaluated: Dan Heath
Position: Assistant Barrista
Name of Evaluator: John Dinsmore, Store Manager
Evaluation Period: February 1 through April 30, 2004

SKILL ASSESSMENTS
1 = excellent
2 = highly effective
3 = satisfactory
4 = requires improvement
5 = unsatisfactory

Willingness to take on responsibility 4
Ability to work effectively with peers 5
Verbal communication skills 4
Organization skills 5
Punctuality/Attendance 1


COMMENTS
Dan, on January 31 we gave you a performance review that served as a written warning of our concerns about your job performance. Since then we have noticed improvement in some areas. For example, you have stopped pretending that you are a dung beetle. Also, you are doing a better job of making change and no longer insisting that customers "round up." However, your performance in most areas remains unsatisfactory.

We will outline four areas in which we expect to see improvement:

1. Acting responsibly. On March 18, a customer told you that he wanted a large hot coffee, and you told him that "hot costs extra". We both know that there is no such price policy here at Java Jamboree.

On another occasion, we found you wearing a coffee filter over your face and telling customers that you "don't like the way they smell". After offending several dozen customers, you apparently went back to the storeroom and took a nap.

When confronted with these incidents, your defense is invariably that you are "thinking outside the box". Dan, this is not acceptable. We must insist that you get back inside the box. Please remain inside the box until you are notified otherwise.

2. Greeting customers. In your training period, you were taught our GRINTM program for interacting with customers. You have consistently failed to implement GRINTM during your shifts. This is troubling to us because GRINTM is the bedrock of our Customer Compassion Initiative.

Dan, pretending to talk to customers with your belly button is not part of GRINTM (nor is serving customers without a shirt). We reject your defense that it's not a joke and that your belly button really is talking. This behavior is simply not something that we can embrace at Java Jamboree.

In your last review, we insisted that you give each customer a verbal greeting when they enter the store. You have complied, but you have insisted on giving the greeting in the N|u African clicking language. This is not acceptable. We are pleased to have a bilingual employee, but we need you to greet the customers in English. However, if the customer initiates a conversation in the N|u clicking language, you are free to respond in kind.

Finally, please stop telling each customer that her "epidermis is showing". This has not been funny for quite some time.

3. Wearing appropriate attire. On 112 occasions, i.e., every day that you have been to work, you have been cited for inappropriate clothing. To review, we ask that you wear a pressed pair of khakis and a Java Jamboree polo shirt. You may wear comfortable dress shoes or unscuffed hiking boots.

A thong is never appropriate, particularly on your face. Your response, that "You never said I couldn't wear a thong on my face," is unacceptable. Unfortunately, these literalist interpretations of the clothing handbook have become a habit of yours. To our disappointment, you only seem to respond to highly specific instructions.

For this reason, we have compiled the following list of items that are not to be worn as clothing in our stores: FBI ("Federal Breast Inspector") T-shirts, fishnet stockings, any form of underwear worn on the outside of your clothing, Gravedigger tank tops, scarves made of PEZ, infrared goggles, capri pants, trash bags, boxes with arm or leg holes cut out, cling wrap, any article made from human hair, ketchup packets, anvils, gauze, chicken suits or any sort of costume, spray-on hair (on any part of your body except your head), bath mats, and babies. Also, WD-40 is not clothing. We hope this list helps to clear up any confusion you might have.

4. Treating management with respect. You have continued to treat the store management with an oppositional attitude. For example, on April 4, you began a "strike" for barrista health benefits. Dan, you already have health benefits. We reminded you of this, but then you continued to strike for "customer health benefits." This is unacceptable. We simply cannot afford to provide health insurance for our customers. We must also insist that you come back to work immediately and stop defacing the Jamboree Latte-Lovin' MonkeyTM.

SUMMARY

This performance evaluation serves as a second written warning that your performance level is unsatisfactory. We expect to see immediate improvements in these areas or we will be forced to consider further disciplinary action, including, but not limited to, termination of your employment and revocation of your employee discount card. If you are unclear about any of these issues, please ask me for clarification, but please stop calling me at 4 am and saying that my epidermis is showing. Dan, it is unacceptable.

Reprinted from 4.26.2004



Etc

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D


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Last updated: March 12, 2020