Frustration; or, Why Corporate America Sucks

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Sigh. I’ve worked in corporate America for about eight years: four for a bank in Ohio, a summer internship with Pepsi in Chicago, and now three years at my current company. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, one aspect that can bring about absolute dread, hurt feelings and anger, it’s the yearly review. Nothing is more annoying, more frustrating, and more hopeless than this process. Even if you perform well, you still walk away feeling like you got ran over by a train, or that you’re worthless to the company and far away from being where you want to be.

At the bank, I never really had reviews when I first started. It was my first job out of college, but I wondered why no one had told me how I was performing, where I needed to improve or anything. So I asked for a 90 day review….after six months on the job. That particular manager neither had a firm grasp on how a review should go, nor the capability to coach employees to perform better. After 18 months, I moved to another position within the bank. I had yearly reviews, but I didn’t seem to get a lot out of them. The process was informal, which can be good and bad. Good in that it doesn’t feel stuffy and forced; bad in that there isn’t follow up or things to take away from it.

I’ll ignore my internship, which deserves a whole other post on just how utterly worthless that experience was, save one.

Now, I work for one of the largest companies in the world, with over 300k employees. Here, the process is much more defined, with very specific questions and objectives and the like. Even though the procedure is better, the results are the same: reviews suck.

One of the worst parts of an annual review at a major corporation is the sense that the end outcome is out of your hands. No matter how well you perform, no matter what you did or how you did it, it doesn’t matter. Some level of management determined what the average score should be, that score filtered down the layers until it got to your manager, who then divided up available points until the average is met. Sitting in my review, I had rated myself a 4 on one category, while my manager rated me a 3. When I asked why, he said too many people in our organization had gotten 4s so only 3s could be handed out. It had zero to do with my actual work or performance.

Another frustrating part of an annual review is when your manager justifies a lower than expected score because of something they did, not you. In another category where my boss and I differed on my score, his rational was that he had agreed to take on too much work, and his performance suffered. What does HIS performance have to do with mine? I accomplished all of my objectives, even some that weren’t on my list that I did on my own. Why does your inability to prioritize your time and workload affect me? This justification was used several times, and each time made me more and more angry.

The real kicker is that at the end, you’re given your score which in no one actually represents your work over the past year. I did the work of four people (no seriously…one product manager per product, yet I had four products), but I didn’t receive any credit for that, because “it was what was expected of you.” SERIOUSLY? It’s a lose-lose situation. Either you turn the extra work down because you don’t have time or energy to do it, or you take it on but don’t get credit for it.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as angry as I was walking out of that meeting. Reviews should be honest and open discussions on an employee’s work over the past period. Their measurement should be based on reasonable stretch goals and how they achieved any progress. Performance reviews should NOT be dictated by the manager’s/reviewer’s own performance score. Justification for discrepancies should be honest and relevant; saying I lost out on a good score because only one such score can be given is a load of BS.

Anyway, that’s my daily rambling on corporate life!

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