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
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.
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?
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
employees the information and rewards they deserve. You can keep
this grade book online or on paper, but bring it out as part of
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,
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
It can be tough to note your own issues, but I can guarantee you
will want this information when your review comes. Hopefully, your
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
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
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