|Contents||Bulletin||Scripting in shell and Perl||Network troubleshooting||History||Humor|
|News||Books||Recommended Links||The psychopath in the corner office||Steps for Decreasing Toxic Worry||Signs that you might be dismissed soon||Learned helplessness|
|Authoritarians||Understanding Borderline Rage||Anger trap||Insubordination Threat||Understanding Micromanagers and control freaks||Bully Managers||Narcissistic Managers|
|Office Stockholm Syndrome||Rules of Communication||Rules of Verbal Self Defense||Five Points Verbal Response Test||Diplomatic Communication||Humor||Etc|
Ah, spring is here, and a
young man's thoughts turn to the annual ritual of the performance
Performance review is an interesting and more modern perversion of Tolstoy "War and Peace" novel regularly replayed in corporate jungles. This is questionable idea that often is badly implemented, so in a way term "performance review" is oxymoron. It is anti-performance procedure by definition.
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, bosses either cannot distinguish them from truth or, more often, do not care as they have their own agenda (which is often "Bell curve" that need to be fitted in such a way that does not hurt patsies and 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
Problem becomes more acute, if you report to a psychopath or authoritarian manager. 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.
|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 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. Such a non-shared feeling ;-)
Most IT organizations do not give a rat’s ass about IT employees.
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 jerk :-). The latter is usually quintessential bully and "kiss up, kick down" guy.
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 with babe-magnet fantasies. 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. As all findings should not be a news to you and should be communicated beforehand during the year, you always can point out that this is an unexpected findings 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 corporations play.
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. 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 will not get you too far.
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 too much emphasis on work accomplishments and price work high in the set of life priorities. Such a dedication badly backfires. 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.
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 counterplay.
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 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.
|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.
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 jerk :-). Onion is great too.
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.
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 them 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.
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 cannot find an answer on the spot reject the question an inappropriate for performance review.
"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".
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 leave a psychological scar. It will heal, but you can speed-up or extend 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.
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.
The Peter Principle states that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence", meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position at which they cannot work competently. It was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, a humorous  treatise which also introduced the "salutary science of hierarchiology."
The Dilbert Principle is a derivative of Peter Principle and states that "...the incompetent workers are promoted directly to management without ever passing through the temporary competence stage." Generally Scott Adams writing is pretty weak, but some cartoons are great. For example a good start would be:
The Old Philosopher (WA USA)The best get better, April 18, 2005
It was beginning to look like Scott Adams would run out of material for Dilbert, but the corporate world just keeps spinning. Words.. is a new high level in corporate mayhem. From Dogbert the headhunter to the genius garbage man and of course Catbert the evil HR manager they are all here. We learn that "plundered" is now called "enhanced stock holder values." The pointy hair boss gets a body double for safety, and Dilbert invents a robot clone to double his visibility.
It's another swipe at office management and the minions who toil our lives away in cubicles. ...
magellan (Santa Clara, CA) Another funny Dilbert book, March 5, 2004
This is another very funny and spot-on book from Adams. Some of the characters like Ratbert and Dogbert don't appear as much, but Wally comes on strong and new characters are introduced like ConsulTick. What's funny is the resonant note that Dilbert has struck with so much of corporate America. Having been an employee at a major Fortune 500 company for many years myself, I was convinced that Adams was talking about my company, and so did everyone else, although the resemblances at times could be almost eerie.
Adams's cartoons of the more absurd and ridiculous aspects of corporate culture (which at times seems to be about 99% of it) continue to provide much needed comic relief for hapless cubicle dwellers everywhere, and this is another funny book from Adams that shouldn't disappoint his fans.
Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov
|Bulletin||Latest||Past week||Past month||
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
- Corporate Déjà 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.
- 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.”)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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?”
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.
... ... ...
- Stay calm and remember to take notes during the review process. It will help you evaluate your options later.
- Give yourself a few days to process the criticism and then call a follow up meeting with the boss to discuss next steps.
- Think hard about the reason behind the negative review and decide if it is something you can fix, or if it’s a sign that it’s time to move on.
... ... ...
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. ....
... ... ...
... 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?
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.
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.
... .... ...
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.
Corporate Hellhole, April 3, 2001
by Dan Moreland
Reviewer: Dan Moreland - See all my reviews
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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."
We can learn from this post. If this boss is for real, the Blogging Boss assumes he is a menace to corporate America.
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!
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
February 03, 2009 | 20th Century FoxPeter 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
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
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.
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!
Not too bright.
EXCEPTIONALLY WELL QUALIFIED:
Has committed no major blunders to date.
CHARACTER ABOVE REPROACH:
Still one step ahead of the law.
Will stick with us until retirement.
Offers plausible excuses for errors.
TAKES PRIDE IN WORK:
TAKES ADVANTAGE OF EVERY OPPERTUNITY TO PROGRESS:
Buys drinks for superiors.
INDIFFERENT TO INSTRUCTION:
Knows more than superiors.
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:
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:
METICULOUS IN ATTENTION TO DETAIL:
DEMONSTRATES QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP:
Has a loud voice.
JUDGEMENT IS USUALLY SOUND:
MAINTAINS PROFESSIONAL ATTITUDE:
KEEN SENSE OF HUMOR:
Knows lots of dirty jokes.
STRONG ADHERENCE TO PRINCIPLES:
GETS ALONG EXTREMELY WELL WITH SUPERIORS AND SUBORDINATES ALIKE:
SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE:
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.
Usually does it the hard way.
Needs more to do.
Paid too much.
Does too much busywork.
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:
USES TIME EFFECTIVELY:
Finds 22 reasons to do anything except original work.
USES RESOURSES WELL:
Create new title to make h/h feel appreciated.
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.
Name of personnel evaluated: Dan Heath
Position: Assistant Barrista
Name of Evaluator: John Dinsmore, Store Manager
Evaluation Period: February 1 through April 30, 2004
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
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.
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
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Last updated: October 26, 2014