Thursday, July 10, 2008

Employee Reviews

As a pastor and the editor of our district's newsletter, I have always been used to having to report on what's happening and how my team is performing.

Being the editor of the district newsletter this responsibility includes reporting before the full district board and the district superintendent each fall during the district planning session.

While it might sound intimidating reporting to the Bishop, it's really not a huge deal as I stay in contact with my representatives throughout the year and make sure that I know what we all did, why we did it and what we are planning to do in the year to come.

It's not much different at church board meetings. I meet with the church board roughly every quarter and we discuss the state of the church, finances and direction. I consider it part of my job to know what is going on in every part of the church, who is doing it, why they're doing it and how it's going.

Then at work I find that the process for end of year reviews is totally messed up. This is not just a slam on my current employer. I have found this to be the case almost everywhere that I have worked for going on twenty years. The whole approach that Corporate America takes is fundamentally broken.

Part of the reason for this is that Corporate America is full of managers instead of leaders. That's a rant for another day, so I'll move on to the rest of the reason. The big part of why end of year reviews are so broken is that managers don't know what people are doing because they get themselves so overloaded with anything other than interacting with their direct reports.

The funny thing about that, is that many Human Resource departments even have rules in place to limit the number of direct reports that a manager has, to ensure that they are not overloaded to the extent that they can't track their direct reports. At my current employer, I believe that the maximum number of direct reports is in the region of a dozen.

Everything is in place for the manager today to know what their people are doing. Yet they don't. I just talked to my manager yesterday for the first time in months about what I'm currently doing and that was only because I bumped into him in the bathroom. Now, my manager's a nice guy and I have nothing personal against him, but I'm pretty sure that's not how the Human Resources department thinks that information flows in the corporation.

As I've spoken of before, the size of the congregation that I pastor is in the low thirties. I can tell you how they're all doing. I see these folks once or twice a week for a few hours at a time, yet I know more about my congregation than most managers know about their direct reports who come to work five days a week for a minimum of eight hours a day. Does this strike anyone as odd? I think it's disgraceful.

I know which ones of the congregation are undergoing medical treatment and have visited a number of them (or their spouses) at the local hospitals. I know which ones are struggling with issues and what the issues are. I know which ones are trustworthy when it comes time to ask for tasks to be done. I know which ones with kids are in charge and which ones let themselves be walked all over by their kids. I know which of our men wear the pants at home and which ones have abdicated the family leadership to their wives. I know who works in which industries and how their jobs are going. I know who is happy at work and who isn't. I know who is praying regularly and who is tithing regularly. I don't do this to pry. As far as I am concerned, this is just part of the job. You cannot lead someone or minister to them if you don't know them.

But it gets better. Almost everywhere I have worked, the end of year review process involves the direct report filling out a self-assessment review in which they write what they've been doing and rate themselves on how they've done with their projects. The big giveaway is that when the manager hands out the end of year review, that it bears an uncanny resemblance to the self-assessment that the direct report handed in.

Did I say "uncanny resemblance"? How about when you get your evaluation and the manager has copied and pasted your text into their document changing "I" to "You". Perhaps I'm alone on this, but I find that uninspiring and unimpressive.

May I kindly suggest to any manager who can't give an on-the-spot report of how their direct reports are doing that you are obviously not managing. I don't know what you are doing (and it's likely that your staff don't know either), but you are not managing. Please, either start managing, or ask for a different job title and have your direct reports transfered to someone who is prepared to put in the effort to know what they're doing!

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