Its possible companies bid au dieu to each year with pomp and circumstance, parties, gifts and good times, in an effort to ease the mid-January groan of managers and underlings alike at the annual memo circulated that its time for employee evaluations. I have never met anyone who didnt work for a performance consulting company or performance appraisal software company who actually enjoys this event.

Managers hate it because its extra work on top of an already harried agenda and they find it difficult to be original writing each years commentary. If they manage a team they find it difficult to write unique content for multiple people doing the same type of job. They are typically issued a timeline of events that mandates what is due when - and they generally procrastinate. I have yet to meet someone who immediately rolls up their sleeves and digs in. They usually have to worry about actually remembering what it is each employee did all year, how to very neatly fit each competency measured into a 1 to 5 scale of doesnt meet, sometimes meets, generally meets, sometimes exceeds or always exceeds expectations. When calendar reminders start popping up with due dates, they look for that dogeared book or website on annual performance review phrases - for help with how to say it.

Managers sit on the painful tip of the double edged sword of having to do reviews on others and being reviewed themselves. Its fair to say they take it in one end and give it out the other.

Most candidates do not ask what the employee review process is like during the interview or job offer - much less ask about managements informal performance feedback (hint, hint). If the company doesnt have a good process going on it can crush the relationship, demotivate, traumatize and facilitate a downward spiral right out the door. Think about companies that have very high turnover and lots of Internet gripes from staff with alias names and ex-employees and Ill wager those work environments A) are so toxic they would spin a Geiger Counter into delirium and B) do not have effective (or any) processes in place for employee/employer feedback, performance measurement, review and coaching, professional development planning, etc.

Open a new browser tab now and do a google image search for annual performance review and look at all the cartoons and frowny faces amongst the thumbs up clipart to see what I mean.

Whether you are a non-manager who is reviewed or a manager who sits on the sword, its important to manage your manager so there are no surprises. If the organization you work for has no system (or a less than good one) in place for feedback throughout the year, my suggestion is that you do it for yourself. Because while I would like to see the annual review die a hundred deaths in favor of year-round mature, open dialog about the path to goal attainment - I cant fix your bad CEO unless (s)he calls me.

Heres an easy effective way to do it.

A few years ago, Gallup, a company that has studied human nature and behavior for more than 75 years, achieved the creation of something called Q12. Though it sounds rather James Bondish, its actually a list of 12 questions that have become the standard for e-sat (employee satisfactions) surveys. If you work for a company with a robust HR department you may have taken one of them. Though sometimes companies reword the questions to make them look like their own, theyre just the Q12 in disguise. Horrors if the company is leaving out some because they dont want to know the answer or think they are not important - and double horrors if they do these surveys and then just put the results in a file cabinet.

What does an employee satisfaction survey have to do with how Im doing on the job, you might be thinking? The well paid social scientists who work for alphabet agencies who want to develop employee mind control applications (kind of kidding) work to help companies ensure they have a healthy productive workforce, know that employees with high levels of job satisfaction are more productive, more present, healthier and therefore, more positively affect the corporate bottom line. The Q12 measures this and can also help you understand if you are in the right job, in the right company, have areas of opportunity for yourself or for discussion with your employer. If the answers to the questions are very positive, there is most likely excellent synergy going on at work and its very likely youll receive at least a 'meets expectations' on your performance review. If not... well, you have some serious things to think and talk about with your manager.

The concept of no one exceeds expectations is a rant for another day (some of you know VERY well what I'm talking about).

Why hold your breath till you turn blue waiting for the swanky HR lady to pop this on you? Use it right now as a tool to help manage your relationship with your employer and your career.

The 12 Questions:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

These are yes / no answers. Be honest.

P.S. If you are a manager working for a company that doesnt measure employee satisfaction you can use these questions as topic starters with your staff at one-on-one meetings with you (You do do that, right?) and immediately bring this matter to the attention of the big cheese. If big cheese doesn't want to implement - I say run, and take your good employees with you to a more employee-centric organization.


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