WARNING: The following diatribe may cause serious damage to the frontal cortex, morale, and general will to live for corporate employees. Do not continue if you have a history of heart conditions, strokes, hypertension, depression, irritable bowel, peptic ulcers, distemper, athlete's foot, or hangnails. If during the reading of this post you experience heart fluctuations, spastic jerking of facial muscles, a feeling of anger and/or suicidal thoughts, aneurisms, or erectile dysfunction, stop reading immediately and seek medical help. Rare but potential long-term conditions may include Tourette's Syndrome and mild dementia.
I'm smack in the middle of my company's f*cking annual review period. By "annual review period" I mean that SIX MONTH period of time when all of the big talking heads in the company decide the fate of my career over the next year, during which I have absolutely no voice other than what my immediate boss has to say about me. Hopefully I've impressed enough people with my amazing powers of innovation, or kissed enough ass, that they have a favorable impression of me and will recommend me for promotion. Unfortunately, I'm not into kissing buttocks and stroking egos, so that leaves me only the "amazing powers of innovation" part.
That's right. Six months. The process began in November with me filling out a five-page online form where I have to describe how great I am, how I've met my goals from last year, little essays about my strengths and weaknesses, and rating my own performance. The process will end in April when my supervisor hands me a page of paper that says whether or not I receive a promotion and/or pay raise (gollum!).
Why does it take so long? Good question. But then it's as inefficient as a lot of the decision-making going on here.
In the months in-between, that form that I filled out was passed to my supervisor, who added his own comments, changed the ratings as he saw fit, and decided for himself if I met the goals. Of course the goals are meaningless, since they were written down over a year ago and the company and its programs have taken a 180-degree turn since then, as they do every 6-12 months. And my current supervisor isn't the one I had then. But that didn't stop us from writing new goals and pretending we wrote them together last year.
Unfortunately that long form that we worked on and the goals that I wrote down and debated about with my supervisor are meaningless for the decision to promote me; only I and my supervisor are likely to ever read it. So why spend days on it at all, I ask? Every year it's the same circle jerk. Basically it serves no other purpose than to be a mechanism for us to sit down and for him to toss me comments both good and "constructive," but if he and I have a good, working relationship, like we are supposed to, why bother? There's nothing he said in that meeting that he and I haven't already said before. But bosses have to be "constructive" about something in such meetings, and since I am a good employee, I got critiqued not on results or projects, but about how some third party thought I meant one thing when I really meant another, how I could have worded an email to be more politically-correct, and how I could work on smiling more. Meanwhile the hour I spent listening to this could have been spent doing the experiments that I have to do. Now I'll have to work late. I'll try to remember to smile more as I come in late tonight to finish my work.
In the coming month I am supposed to meet with my supervisor again to decide my goals for the next year. These goals are supposed to be in line with the corporate goals which were handed down to us in spreadsheet form last Friday, along with an hour-long pep talk. The goal spreadsheet is eight pages long.
Now, let me say that both my supervisor and his boss, the R&D director, are good, sincere people. I honestly believe they are trying to help both me and my company succeed. But what we are working with here is an annual review process which is as efficient as paddle-boating in a hurricane, and just as meaningless. It needs to change in a big way. And only the big talking heads are in a position to change anything. I suggested to my boss that he please pass on to his bosses some suggestions from me, and I told him he could feel free to mention my name and that I'd be happy to talk with anyone about it. (Yes, I know what you're thinking. Why the hell can't I just fly under the radar like everyone else and bear the pain!).
What were my suggestions for him to pass on? 1) Let's pare down the process to, say, three months, 2) Let's either lose the meaningless form or have it actually count for something, and 3) Let's devise goals that actually mean something and are flexible enough to account for the constant rate of change at my company. Maybe instead of formulating them for a year, we can review them every six months.
My boss just smiled. Somehow I don't think my suggestions are going anywhere.
To my tens of readers: I'm almost afraid to ask, but I have a strange sado-masochistic twinge: What is your company's annual review process like? Is my evil global biotech company alone in this dysfunction, or is this drooling behemoth the industry standard?