back to article Annual reviews: It's high time we rid the world of this insanity

An inescapable and widely dreaded fact of life for people employed in the financial industry is the annual review. Unlike the way this process might have worked a few decades ago, and still does in most other industries, it’s not a simple matter of sitting down with your manager at the end of the year for a casual discussion of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And this is why I'm an IT contractor

    My appraisal process is easy. If they like me I get renewed. If they like me a lot or are scared of me going I get renewed with a rate-rise.

    Anonymous Coward, obviously...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

      It's not so much different on the "permie" side of the fence. Seems we now have an annual redundancy process, and if you make it through that, you can assume you did okay on your annual appraisal. Of course, zero expectation of a bonus in the spring - if the firm was making any money they wouldn't have had to have the redundancies.

      Anon, for the same reasons...

      1. hplasm

        Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor


        if the firm was making any money after the Chief's Bonuses are paid out they wouldn't have had to have the redundancies.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

      +1 It changes your mindset and you have less stress about such things.

      As well as letting people go, "you're unexpectedly rubbish" is also handy if the bonus pot is rather small this year.

    3. Cliff

      Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

      Totally agree - I used to contract and I saw the pain permies went through year on year at various companies, it was sorrowful. As a contractor the best bit was that I didn't have to care about all that

      And it worked well for management as well - they didn't have to appraise my character, team play, and a load of other impossible to quantify vectors, and write paragraphs about them, they just signed a sheet every month and I showed up again the next month. They loved it, frankly so did I.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

      Mr Edwards Demming - the man who got the Japanese industries going after WWII - in his profound cleverness said, "Annual reviews are bullshit" (shortened and refined somewhat).

      He said, (more or less) that Annual Reviews are just total fucking mental illness gone haywire.

      Some of these videos are parts of series - but they are worth downloading as a higher quality video and studying much.

      Much better than all these fucking morons in management.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And this is why I'm an IT contractor

        I agree, one of the big advantages of contracting is avoiding the monkey-wank of the annual review.

        Two of the sickest cos' I have worked in also had the most broken annual review schemes.

        The first one was the use of the "annual bonus pot", a fixed percentage of profits was allocated for the annual bonus thereby creating the manager mentality that the less I give to you the more there is for me. My experience of that was a manager who would ask if their pet project X implemented yet, to be told that it hadn't because projects A B C D E and F had highest priority (usually the roll out of service pack to address critical problems). The manager then goes to managers meeting and announces that employee is holding up project X. No bonus for employee. When I announced I was leaving I started hearing other horror stories like the employee who was refused a bonus because they didn't do enough unpaid overtime. The reason that the employee didn't do any overtime was because they the only person in the section capable of doing their days work within a normal working day. Company eventually went tits up.

        Company two allocated bonuses according to the dreaded bell curve. To score a 4 and be eligible for a bonus you had "exceed all your targets", Exceed only 99.999999999% of your targets, well that not all so no bonus again, but I did consistently score what managers call a "high 3" whatever that is, it's still not a 4. Still I'm glad I never scored a 4 because it meant that somebody else didn't have to get a 2 to to keep the bell curve balanced.

        And managers wonder why the plebs are cynical of the review process?????

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Quoting dead people is for the lazy

        Remind me again how well Japan is doing ? While you're at it, do me a favour and explain the similarity between manufacturing and finance that leads you to believe Demming's view is relevant.

  2. I like noodles

    Buy yourself out

    I stated to my manager that I was buying myself out of the process.

    He said that wasn't an option, that there was no process for buying out of the process, that it was the only way to get a raise, etc.

    I told him the annual raise that I wasn't going to get would be what I'd use to buy myself out.

    Got him, and the HR department, in a right old tiz.

    Thoroughly enjoyable experience, that was.

    1. jai

      Re: Buy yourself out

      that's brilliant! i'm so going to try that next week!

    2. peter 45

      Re: Buy yourself out

      I tried that and the management and HR went completely froot loop. Then went barmy 'cos their bonuses were calculated on the percentage of completed assessments. It got as far as being threatened with written warnings but I held out as they could not actually sack me. What spoilt the management attempts to get me to take part was their reluctance acceptance that the whole assessment process was an utter waste of time for anything except to get the percentage figures up.

      Course they didnt know that I was going to hand my notice in with a couple of months

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Buy yourself out??

      OK, I don't understand. Can someone explain this concept?

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Buy yourself out??

        Effectively saying he wanted to pay not to have to go through the process. He was going to pay with the bonus he wouldn't receive for not complying.

        1. I like noodles
          Thumb Up

          Re: Buy yourself out??

          @Gene - didn't see your question. JDX answered it more concisely than I ever would have.

          I see I've a downvote - who knew my manager read the register!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As someone needing to keep stuff going all year round as a sysadmin I consider an anual review completely and utterly pointless... And I have stated this to my manager this year when I had it. After sleeping on it she actually agree on it. If I wasn't doing my work stuff wouldn't be working and it would be blatantly obvious. So for me it now really is a nice chat with a few forms to copy from last year and adjust some things.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it really just the financial services industry that follows this kind of process? I work in IT in the FS industry and go through this rigmarole, but I assumed it was common in any large company?

  5. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    I blame the MBAs

    They seem to have crept into management positions like fungus and all seem to come armed with the conviction that if they have a number for something, they have an understanding of it and they're managing it. So everything is reduced to a number, whether it's implicitly numerical or not.

    Classic examples from my past: assessment grades based on whether or not 'objectives' were missed badly, missed, met, exceeded, exceeded impressively. And then an objective that had a 100% requirement to meet, like 'fills in time sheet every week'. And an annual pay rise that depended on a significant number of 'exceeded' or 'impressively' grades. Or objectives to do a certain number of training courses, the funding and the time for which were assigned (hah!) by someone other than me and beyond my control.

    I think I refused to accept the appraisal five years on the trot.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I blame the MBAs

      "......if they have a number for something, they have an understanding of it....." Never a truer word has been spoken! I'd upvote your post a dozen times if I could.

  6. Magister


    >>All the “exceeds expectations” rankings this person had received were lowered to “fails to meet expectations<<

    I've seen that situation; someone changed the definitions to show a below acceptable score resulting in the person being fired. However, the person had managed to keep a paper copy of all of the forms; these were handed to a legal advisor. Once the company had received a letter detailing the exact information and realised they had been caught out, they quickly agreed to a very handsome settlement out of court. The person concerned is now quite happily enjoying an early retirement with many years still to go and no need to ever work again. (And it was someone working in HR!)

    The review process should be a very valuable way of motivating staff; sadly, we have too many PHBs that know bugger all apart from what bonus they should be getting.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Busted!

      ".... someone changed the definitions to show a below acceptable score resulting in the person being fired....." I was once asked to "find something we can fire that guy on" and refused as it was constructive dismissal. The guy concerned (who was simply a pr*ck rather than being incompetant) left soon after of his own accord, someone having (allegedly) pointed out to him it was probably better to find another berth.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Busted!

      "However, the person had managed to keep a paper copy of all of the forms; these were handed to a legal advisor. "

      very smart move.

      Should be SOP when dealing with PHB's.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you (the author) obviously had bad experiences. every goal has to be numerically measurable, without any subjective points. I find them beneficial, if you don't need to spend more than 1 day per year with your own review. I agree though the these reviews are a weapon when needing the fire somebody in a company with a strong work union.

    Some companies though need to line the goals of that employee at the beginning of the year (sales: sell so much; research: take that and that course to be compliant and be allowed to work).

    Also these discussions are also used to help the employee find her way in the professional life, if done properly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not at RBS it wasn't

      When we went into our appraisal meetings they'd already decided our pay-rise and bonus. By 2008 they were already assigning departments a "quota" of how many 1-5 they could have. Our department was told we couldn't have any 5s, so the best you could hope for was a 4. That was motivating.

      As a line manager but not a departmental head it was doubly frustrating, as I got told by my manager what grades to assign to each member of my team, regardless of what was actually written on their appraisals. We spent half the appraisal meeting talking about this and how I was going to break this to my team. Needless to say, I got killed when I did my appraisal meetings with my team.

      Unsurprisingly, we all left RBS within about a year of each other.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not at RBS it wasn't


        It was a bit like the current Kwik Fit adverts.

        It was "mates ratings" when it came to what you got - nothing was based on what you did.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not at RBS it wasn't

        They've solved this at RBS now. They fired most of the permies.

        Anon, as I'm still there

      3. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Re: Not at RBS it wasn't

        "When we went into our appraisal meetings they'd already decided our pay-rise and bonus. By 2008 they were already assigning departments a "quota" of how many 1-5 they could have....." Saw something similar when contracting at a non-financial a few years earlier. What was worse was the managers' scores were largely based on savings made on their departmental budget, and since training and pay came out of the departmental budget it was in the managers' own interests to restrict payrises and ensure the reviews did not highlight any requirements for training. It was a sure-fire way to drive the good staff out of the company and I picked up two of them as contractors at my next gig.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not at RBS it wasn't

          Ooooohhhhhh....... How did Stephen Fester et al do in their reviews this year after the massive fuck-up due to off-shoring CA7 work to India?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I agree though that these reviews are a weapon when needing the fire somebody in a company with a strong work union

      No, no, no. You live in cloud cuckoo land, sorry. It's a weapon for a company which doesn't like paying redundancy. If they can engineer a bad performance review for you, they can dismiss you without that unwanted impact on their bonus pool. To cloak what is happening, they usually have some "performance improvement" process which means you get to report so often and so detailed you are actually not in a position to do your wrk properly.

      I'm not sure if you could suggest companies to inspect, but if there is a government department that could investigate this sort of activity (for instance, to establish eligibility for government work) I know where I could point them. Plenty of witnesses.

      1. Corinne

        Re: Bull..

        "but if there is a government department that could investigate this sort of activity (for instance, to establish eligibility for government work) "

        Most government departments do this themselves now!

  8. David Hicks

    Contracting definitely has its appeal

    I have a project. If I do the project on time and to a good standard we're done. Maybe I'll get another, maybe I won't, maybe I'll take it, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll raise my rates, maybe I won't.

    But there's no bullshit appraisal based on management opinions. There's no writing down your useless goals for the year which are irrelevant a month later, never mind a year later when you have to try and twist what you actually did into a narrative that somehow supports what you said you were going to do, despite the fact those goals were discarded ages ago and you did an awesome job on whatever the hell else it was you were doing but somehow that might not count because it doesn't align with the agreed targets and anyway you haven't been engaging with the wider company and perhaps we can push for a little more leadership training in the next period and would you like to write an article for the staff news letter next month and by the way we've got an all-hands staff meeting this afternoon that's going to take three hours but be entirely content free because the visiting that exec has mastered the art of saying long strings of vaguely encouraging sounding words without conveying anything close to what might be considered a fact, factoid or piece of information in them......

    Bugger all that for a lark.

  9. Velv


    Nice article about rating colleagues and peers on the very day El Reg brings in Badges.

    Badges which are awarded based on contribution record, and at higher levels on peer rating.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Ironic

      This might be taken as meaning that you are taking these badges FAR too seriously

      OOH! Shiny!

    2. Ian Yates
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Ironic

      "based on contribution record" and thus how little time you spend doing your real job ;)

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Re: Ironic

        "based on contribution record" - I note you need to get so many upvotes for a gold, so maybe that should be how much popularist ar$e-kissing you post?

        1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

          Re: Ironic

          Two things:

          1) Lighten up, Francis.

          2) I just upvoted *Matt Bryant.* I may faint.

        2. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Ironic

          >>I note you need to get so many upvotes for a gold

          No you don't. That's the kind of comprehension failure that would be marked for "needs improvement"

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Shark? what shark?

            Re: Ironic

            Do down votes count against for the total?

            I think I feel a guerilla anti-badge campaign in the offing.

            Now all we need is a motivational tool to encourage down voting. Perhaps awards for services to negation honoured by badges...

  10. thenim

    Having participated in this lark at a very large bank for nine years...

    I can definitively say, that it is simply the biggest load of bullshit. For two months of the year, there is intense focus on "reviews", and the number of reviews that one has to do can vary from 10-30 reviews (other people's in addition to your own.)

    Most end up being a cut-and-paste job, and really, if you want to stitch someone up, it's the perfect way to do it (I know, I got stitched up* - and by that point, it's too late to do anything about it.) I really see no point in them, if your manager sees what you do day in day out, why is a written essay required to re-highlight your activities throughout the year. It's for this and budgeting that middle management exists because once the reviews are done, the next activity that keeps them busy is budgeting.

    It's great if you are a junior though, means those without a clue stay out of your hair for about half of the year.

    * - not sour at all about it, got a nice little pay-off when I was made redundant...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should be mandatory declared

    Perhaps if the shareholders had to be informed of how many expensive man-hours were wasted on this crap rather than doing something productive.......

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Should be mandatory declared

      Good idea. Some appraisal systems I have seen could very efficiently be replaced by throwing darts. You simply take the score modulo 5 and there you are!

      Some employees might prefer throwing darts at senior management, however.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Should be mandatory declared

      On the other hand - given what a mess the banks make of things when they are only working 10mnths/year, perhaps the reviews should be made monthly?

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Should be mandatory declared

      "Perhaps if the shareholders had to be informed of how many expensive man-hours were wasted on this crap rather than doing something productive....."


  12. Skywalker-
    Black Helicopters

    It normally gets you sacked but not promoted or that illusive bonus..

    My experience is that no matter how well you do by the time the bonus pot gets to the IT boys its all spent!

    Promotions, well only if you are cut from the same cloth as those cloned middle managers and none of us really are. Besides do you want middle management promotion? Doubt it you only want the reward for you skills.

    I am still kicking myself for being such a fool thinking if I worked like a dog I would be rewarded. The good thing is I noticed my mistake after a few years and switched to contracting..

    You work hard, produce the goods and they like you, you get renewed. Simple for everyone.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ... stack rank, forced curves and sacraficial drones

    this isn't just the finance industry... it's anywhere where bright young MBAs have a hand in management through business books.

    as a former employee of the company that brought you Vista I can report it's out of control and tearing the company apart. Not only the mindless paperwork involved, the peer rating and 360 reviews and the mid-year check-in but you overlay that on a dog eat dog forced curve stackrank where survival depends on you not being in the bottom 10% and any chance of a bonus means you have to be at least in the median group ... and they wonder why morale is shot to hell?

    Sure, you need a way of evaluating and appraising individuals and teams, especially in a large organization but having the process turn into a driving factor for decision making (can I send out a self congratulatory email if I do X) means you stop focussing on your customers and start competing with your peers...

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: ... stack rank, forced curves and sacraficial drones

      "where survival depends on you not being in the bottom 10% and any chance of a bonus means you have to be at least in the median group ... and they wonder why morale is shot to hell?"

      But the beatings must continue till the morale improves.

      Do you think that management might have lost sight of the purpose of all this?

  14. AJames

    Don't worry, it's all random anyway

    According to author Daniel Kahneman (Nobel price in Economics) in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, perceived "performance" in the financial industry is all an illusion based on random factors. So don't worry about those reviews, it's just a roll of the dice anyway. :)

  15. Pete the not so great

    Never mind

    It'll be objective setting season soon

  16. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    We're in the middle of it at the moment. This year though our goals and aspirations are apparently not relevant. It appears that they want us to say what we did well and what we'd do better.

    I'm a programmer. I wrote code. I hope more code?

    Oh and one group says it shouldn't take longer than fifteen minutes and another tells me I've not put enough detail in.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "I'm a programmer. I wrote code. I hope more code?"

      But imagine this conversation.

      "boss. John (moustache twitching) we've noticed you use structured constructs in your code"

      "me That's what we were taught to use in the latest version of the language"

      "boss. We normally use GOTO's for compatibility with the old machine"

      "me. Err right. If then else bad, GOTO good."

      "boss.OK then, carry on."

      This is neither an UL nor a funny story. It happened in the early 90's.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What did Deming think?

    Here's a summary of W Edwards Deming's views on the subject.....basically focusing on the fact that "performance" is an attribute of the extended team (rather than an attribute of each individual person).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What did Deming think?

      IMHO, performance is a direct function of good team building and leading.

      I am almost aggressively opposed to people calling this management - to me, management is for kit, not for people. If you want a group of people to do something you LEAD them. You assemble the right skills (and the right budget to support it) with a degree of overlap, and then you tune the people until they work as a team. It tends to take a bit of time, also because new team members have to learn to trust you, but you *know* when you get it right because the resulting energy almost keeps the lights on by itself.

      At that point you can practically perform miracles with the team. People will come to work eager to contribute, problems genuinely turn into team challenges (not because calling it a "challenge" is an MBA trick to avoid bad news) and I personally had to throw peopel out in the evening because they would have worked overnight (your job MUST be to protect "your* people from harm as well - otherwise you don't deserve their trust).

      I have had the pleasure of doing this a few times as contractor, and it's the job I love best. It only produces winners, but it does take someone with a spine to remain a human being and not an accountant..

  18. Cliff

    Beware of bell curves

    When I saw the bell curving over and over again, with scores from 1-4 being the only allowed scores out of 5 being normalised and marked against other bell curved and normalised and blahblah numbers... well it was immediately obvious that the best that could eventually happen was a score between 2 and 3 out of 5, when those subjecting you to these bell curves were somehow outside the tedious process themselves and just took a healthy rise for being so clever...

  19. Ally 1

    Ooh did I get a badge?

    We had to do our own appraisals and then the management came told us why we were wrong in our assesment. I had to set my own targets which I made sure were easy

  20. Ally 1

    noo I didnt get a badge

    One of the problems withbadges is that people write any old inane crap to get to the highest level. Quantity over quality every time

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Ally 1

      "noo I didnt get a badge...." Well, just like the appraisal systems under discussion, El Reg Badge Bonanza is just another system to be gamed. I couldn't possibly suggest you go create 100 throw-away email addresses at Gmail and similar sites, and then create 100 El Reg accounts, and then give yourself 100 upvotes to get the Ultimate El Reg Shiny! That would be cheating.

      1. Michael Xion

        Re: Ally 1

        Can. Up vote this 100 times so you get a gold badge? Nice one, off to gmail I go........

        1. Michael Xion

          Re: Ally 1

          They really should allow everyone to edit their own posts. Previous reply should have read ' can I upvote....'

          Does this post add to my total? Can I just keep replying to my own posts? (looks like, i'm not going to be getting any work done today)

          1. Michael Xion

            Re: Ally 1

            Sorry, random comma in previous post. I'm on a roll here, where's my steenking gold badge? Am I there yet?

            1. Michael Xion

              Re: Ally 1

              Ahhhhh, nope.

            2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

              Re: Re: Ally 1

              ".....where's my steenking gold badge?...." In the good old days of the El Reg Forum Dominitrix Bee you would already have been sentenced to the whip by now! Then again, some posters might prefer that to a gold badge.....

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Ally 1

        "" Well, just like the appraisal systems under discussion, El Reg Badge Bonanza is just another system to be gamed. I couldn't possibly suggest you go create 100 throw-away email addresses at Gmail and similar sites, and then create 100 El Reg accounts, and then give yourself 100 upvotes to get the Ultimate El Reg Shiny! "

        But if it's so easy why do you want it?

        Also it might have something to do with the ratio of downvotes to upvotes . A 100% approval rating is very unlikely and some saddo is probably using some sort of down voting script already.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re; Re: Ally 1

          "....But if it's so easy why do you want it?....." I don't, I'm gaming the gamers. If all the posters looking for approval are happily gaming the system to get goldies then suddenly the silver becomes the badge of the noncompliant and independent-minded.....

    2. JDX Gold badge

      You can only game yourself to silver. Gold is hand-picked. Though by an idiot based on the recipients.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge


        And that after I let his children go without demanding a ransom..

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    While it's not quite as bad where I work, I did become gradually more nauseated as I trawled through the blatant Dilbertesque HR spew until I came to the following "soft goal" gem that made me need to walk away from my review form:

    "... tenaciously working to meet or exceed goals while deriving satisfaction from that achievement and continuous improvement."

    Paging Catbert, paging Catbert . . .

  22. Don Jefe
    Thumb Down

    Bad Review

    It sounds like the author of this article got a bad review from his superior. This whole little rant was much more suited to Facebook as opposed to a full length whinge fest on El Reg.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bad Review

      I disagree. There is a point beyond which it no longer produces value for the company (the only metric that counts IMHO). If the process soaks up man hours but does not lead to business improvement you need to start taking it apart.

      I've come to doubt the whole HR function at times. In one company I worked they were just a club of reprobates who were there to facilitate rapid ejection of people without causing any legal problems, usually just before the company bonus pool got calculated. They had a collection of the vilest tricks I have seen used on people, so I was very entertained that a friend of mine managed to get one arrested because he tried to keep him in a room until he signed an objectionable bit of paper.

      In another company they were given the job to find a security manager. By pure chance (and their mismanagement) I ended up with their pile of rejected CVs. I found the absolute PERFECT man for the job in that pile, but the CV had a fat NO scribbled over it. When I enquired I was told that the HR person thought "he would not fit into the culture". Thew HR out of the process, got the guy in and he got hired on the spot - and did a good job for years until he outgrew the role.

      It's about people. The moment we forget this we're losing.

  23. Jan 0 Silver badge

    What proportion of Banking Staff actually stay for a year nowadays?

    When I werked in an investment bank, 50% of the staff would move, mostly to another bank, during a year. I left after 6 months. Is the rate higher or lower in 2012? If staff are that mobile, do they really get caught by appraisals? Doesn't appraisal time signal that it's time to move to the next employer?

  24. Herby

    Everybody wants to be the best

    Just ask a bunch of people (random sample) and see how many feel they are "above average". The number is almost always over 50%. So, to get "above average" people, you need some "below average" people, because that is how it works.

    Life is like that. We can't all be above average, much as we try.

    An exercise: Go look at job descriptions and see just how many want "rock star" or similar type people. Sorry, but the pool is limited, so you get what you are given. That's the way it works, good, or bad. Deal with it!

    Now back to the end of year stuff.........

  25. Andy 115

    Echoing others…

    This certainly isn't the preserve of the financial world, I'd hazard a guess and say that the cancer has spread to most FTSE companies.

    Certainly the pharma I used to work for would do much better in developing treatments for human cancers if it treated the human-resource cancer first!

  26. wim

    non smoker

    I gave myself a 10 for following the smoking guidelines as I was a non smoker and was told that 10's are not to be used. Why are they even in the process then ?

    this was working as a grunt hauling luggage on the airport. Utter waste of time.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: non smoker

      ".....I gave myself a 10 for following the smoking guidelines...." Cuts both ways - smokers at one company I know were marked down for timekeeping and attendance because some genius in HR calculated the average smoker lost two hours a week to smoking breaks! Even as a non-smoker I sympathised seeing as I probably spent just as much time getting coffee.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Carefully Twisted

    I've just been through this. I got a good rating. Unfortunately, those who got the rating below me (who get criticised and just one step away from actionplans) and the rating above me (who are non-existent as far as anyone knows) are subject to EXACTLY the same pay grade increase! Motivation gone.

    It doesn't help much that our department, which works with specific, measurable and achievable pieces of work is judged on (on our scorecard) - "Peer opinions".

    This mean that you can do the work at or above standard, but if one person says "they didn't make eye contact with me in the lift at lunchtime one day during the past year." then that's it - that person is on an action plan, regardless of the fact that their current work went without a hiccup! (True story).

    And if you're happy in the job, heavens help you. Those who do not seek promotion are marked as cannon fodder for low grades.

    Two months of stress which does nothing but lower my performance.

  28. Robert Grant

    Microsoft followup

    Random - I've just been reading through the formerly-awesome Mini-Microsoft blog. SO many comments from MS employees who hate stack ranking, and the occasional idiot commenting that it's amazing because they happen to have done well out of it.

    E.g. check out the article/comments from 2011. Never underestimate the ability of HR to totally ruin a workplace.

  29. Richard Wharram

    HR departments

    Just create work for HR departments so they have to expand and become managers of the new guys. A few years later the new guys want to do the same so they have to invent more long-winded processes to justify the expansion.

    HR is a parasite :)

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: HR departments

      There's a subtle shift in emphasis when a company moves from 'Personnel' to 'Human Resources' philosophies.

      With the first, they can at least pretend that the department is there to look after the well-being and for the general benefit of the personnel. With the second, it's suddenly explicit that you're no longer a person; your a plug-in, infinitely replaceable and ultimately disposable 'resource'.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My line manager doesn't know what I do

    Someone who technically does not know what you do should not be writing your review. It will be interesting to see how this turns out - all my completed objectives got reset by my new manager (so now no completed objectives) and the company has added 'attributes' - which is basically a statement on your personality where office politic agendas can be fully played out.

    I had a major achievement for the company this year - my reviewer does not know how important or difficult it was.

    I imagine I will not accept my rating and just the process has had me looking for a new role... my major achievement has its value after all.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dilbert's take

    For those of us who read Dilbert every day, the matter has already been settled:

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked at a company where they saught to allegiate the problems by having reviews every month. Apparently that would make sure that there were no "surprises" come year-end reviews. I was doing a brilliant job getting high end scores for a year until my crazy bi-polar boss took a dislike to me. At the end of the year I was called into the IT Director's office and told that he wanted to fire me because my boss had said how badly I was performing. I showed him all the copies of my great reviews but that was for naught. My boss told him that in reviews that I intimidated my direct manager in the frequent reviews to get good scores.

    It was absolutely insane. I don't think I've intimidated anyone in my life.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "I worked at a company where they saught to allegiate the problems by having reviews every month. "

      "Allegiate?" I am not familiar with this concept.

      "My boss told him that in reviews that I intimidated my direct manager in the frequent reviews to get good scores.

      It was absolutely insane. I don't think I've intimidated anyone in my life. "

      Me either. Indeed at one point my supervisor at the time said "You don't scare me."

      Odd thing to say really.....

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bell curves

    Where I work, the general intent of the bell curves is fine, as they are used to even out scores so that one manager isn't scoring more liberally or harshly than another. The seniors keep pumping the results through a spreadsheet until the scores fit the curves. This should be OK as long as the sample size is large, but individual line managers typically only have 10 or fewer direct reports, so if they have to force people into scores just to fit the curve and not their performance relative to their peers, it gets frustrating for both manager and employee.

  34. Corinne

    Not just FS companies

    The dreaded annual review process has been a mainstay of central government for many, many years. In my old Department it used to be "box markings" of 1-5 but someone in their wisdom decided there were too many people with a 3 "average" marking so they made it a 1-6 rating so you could only be above or below average, then insisted that no more than 50% of staff could possibly be above average by definition so of course people who were genuinely OK but nothing special would be down marked & put on monthly improvement reports. Naturally your pay rise would be based on your overall box marking. They eventually changed it back to 1-5 (1 impossibly brilliant, 5 crap).

    In recent years they've introduced the ball curve theory of defining how many people overall should get what box marking. Bell curve theory works with large numbers (in the thousands) but they applied it to smaller & smaller numbers until it got down to individual teams so by definition if you were in a team of 10 then at least 1 person HAD to get a box 5 (the lowest), at least 2 more had to get a box marking of 4 (needs significant improvement), a maximum of 1 person could get a box 1 (but was rarely given) etc. This was applied across the board, including a team a relative of mine was in which consisted of only hand picked elite specialists.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just FS companies

      The use of bell curves is all the more unreasonable seeing that most of the box 5 people (the very lowest rating) are undoubtedly in HR and management, wasting their time and others cooking up such schemes.

  35. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    How to beat the dreaded review!

    WARNING! This is not adviseable unless you are ready to pick a fight, go prepared and already see the result of your imminent appraisal as a management-manufactured fit-up, irrespective of what actually happens during the review. I accept no responsibility, bla bla bla, if you follow this advice and get fired - tough! This will not make you flavour of the month. Now, on with the fun!

    If HR insist the review is a two-way process, which they all seem to do nowadays, make sure it is just as painful a process for them as for you. Remember, you cannot be fired for following the correct HR process, so if they emphasise discussion and compromise then you're onto a winner, otherwise it's off to a tribunal.

    1. Make sure you set the appointment for the end of the month, preferrably a Friday afternoon. Managers having to tidy up figures for their end of month reports will want to spend as little time as possible on a review. If they have given you tasks they cannot complain if they keep you too busy to meet with them at a time of their convenience, so arrange your work to back up your claim of only being available at a time inconvenient to them. End of year periods are mana from heaven! Keeping their nagging spouses or their bosses waiting will cause them more pain than giving you a few extra points.

    2. Pick your battleground - if you have multiple offices and a reason to travel then insist on the one which is going to give the reviewer the biggest traffic nightmare getting back. You won't believe how agreeable they become when faced with two hours of Friday evening rush-hour traffic! Just picking the meeting room with the worst heating/aircon can help. Remember to plan your journey and warn your spouse you may be late, having that already in mind will make it less of a problem to you, whereas the unexpected additional traveltime will be a nasty and distracting thought lurking in the back of their mind during the review.

    3. Go prepared to "discuss" and then discuss EVERY minor point! Your process insists it should be a discussion so make sure you can manage a reasonable amount of disagreement over "what you have achieved" and do not be afraid to backtrack and repeat valid arguments if they get obstructive. After all, it's a discussion, you're just following the process, and at the end they need you to sign the bottom to say you agree with the appraisal. Refusal to sign gives them a massive headache with HR. The aim here is to waste their time by doing exactly what the process says you should do, so the longer you drag out the appraisal the more likely they are to want to hurry through later points without arguing. If you play this right in a two-manager review you can even have one manager telling the other to hurry up!

    4. Set them up with HR - most formal reviews require more than one manager or an HR bod, so if you remain calm and argue your points in a reasonable manner, and your manager starts getting irritated and insistant (because he's thinking about the traffic and the bollocking waiting at home if he's late) then the HR person is much more likely to think the manager is the problem. Letting other managers know "there could be a personality clash" beforehand will help deflect blame if you do get to a refusal to sign or a seriously angry manager.

    5. Be careful as most managers worked their way up and may be wise to your schemes, so even if they don't win that review they will be looking to get their own back! Don't pick a fight you don't need to fight. These tactics will work with the spotty MBA grad, they may backfire with the grizzled oldtimer. And that last bit is not just for any of my team members reading this....

    /Once more unto the breach....!

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: How to beat the dreaded review!

      Most entertaining.

      You are the cube warrior.

      How many jobs have you been invited to leave?

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: How to beat the dreaded review!

        "....How many jobs have you been invited to leave?" You should always be PAID to leave a job....

  36. SoaG

    Reviewed on doing your job?


    A properly designed-by-MBA review process will only look at tasks and objectives that are not part of doing your job. Thus the only way to score 4 is to do less actual work so you can do the BS special project instead. Then, the guy who picks up the slack and does your job, in turn doesn't get much done on his something-to-measure project and gets canned.

  37. cortland

    A more efficient way to achieve the same hyper-alertness was devised some thousands of years ago.

    The centurions would call out every tenth legionary and club him to death. The tribunes would call out the centurions. The praetors would...

    One needn't wait for a Legion to lose its eagles. It makes more administrative sense to decimate preemptively.

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