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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Archive: Keep a grade book to track work performance — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Archive: Keep a grade book to track work performance — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

October 25th, 2013

Career Opportuntiies Logo 2012

My wife, Rosanne, recently returned to teaching, working as an undergraduate history professor at a local CSU campus. Watching her grade mid-term tests combined with my recent thoughts on office performance reviews lead to a bit of an epiphany. Instead of managers and workers relying on their (often faulty) memories for performance review topics, why shouldn’t each side of that relationship keep a grade book, like any good teacher, so that you have hard evidence of past successes and challenges? This one step could help to remove the sometimes adversarial nature of reviews and give both managers and workers a clear view of their productivity.

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Books by Douglas E. Welch

When I was working in the corporate world, I dreaded performance reviews. Despite the fact that I usually got fairly glowing reviews and a raise when the company wasn’t pleading lack of profits, there was always some “issue” that had to be addressed in the review, lest upper management think my manager was being too soft on me. In other years, I found that deficiencies were over-played mainly as a reason to justify smaller raises or none at all. In my particular environment, performance reviews were a “shell game” played out for the benefit of the company by, usually, unwilling participants. Performance reviews need not be this way.

In the past I have talked about work portfolios as a way of documenting your work and providing documentation when you are looking for a raise, promotion or a new job. This is a long term goal, though. Now I want you to focus a bit on the “mid-term” viewpoint of your work and career. What is being said about your work today and how will it be reflected in your year-end performance review? As I mentioned above, memories are faulty and often subjective. We often remember only those things we wish to remember and consign the rest to the cerebral dustbin. Who wants to remember times when we weren’t operating at our best? This is where the grade book can really help.

If you are a manager, you know how easy it is to forget the successes and failures of your team. Work comes at us all in such a frenzy that once a particular crisis is handled or averted, it is forgotten. You are on to the next 100 problems that need to be addressed. Then, almost before you know it, it is time for performance reviews. You sit, wracking your brain for information about each of your employees. Was it John who crashed the server back in March or was he the one who solved the issue with the network? Did Barbara complete her training yet? Wasn’t George out a lot last quarter? You do your best, but in most cases, your performance reviews are probably not as good as they could, or should, be.

Instead of trying to remember events that occurred months ago, why not keep a grade book from week to week. Even taking 10 minutes a week could significantly improve your performance reviews and give your employees the information and rewards they deserve. You can keep this grade book online or on paper, but bring it out as part of your weekly review. (You have read Getting Things Done by David Allen, haven’t you?). Make a quick notation about each of your employees and how they performed that week. If something extraordinary happened, make sure you note that, good or bad. This will surely be something you will want to address in their review.

Then, when performance review time rolls around, you won’t have to try to remember an entire year. You will have a week by week guide reminding you of nearly everything you need to address in the review. You will complete your reviews in a shorter period of time, suffer much less angst and worry AND increase the quality of these reviews.

For the employees out there, it is just as important that you do the same thing. Keep your own weekly grade book of successes and failures. It can be tough to note your own issues, but I can guarantee you will want this information when your review comes. Hopefully, your manager has been noting your performance over time, but it can’t hurt to gently remind them of the emergency service you provided in June or the major project you completed in September. You don’t want the review to become adversarial, but you need the ability to respond with specifics whenever something appears in your review that you find inaccurate.

Furthermore, keeping your own grade book will immediately begin to show how your talents are being used and rewarded, or not, in your company. It is too easy to float along in a job or a company that doesn’t meet your needs or desires, but when you are confronted with the stark reality of the printed page, it becomes all too clear.

Whether you are a manager or a staff member, keep a grade book like the best teachers. Note both success and failure so you don’t have to rely on your memories for something as important as a year-end performance review. You owe it to yourself and everyone around you.


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