Sunday, April 29, 2012

My worst performance review

Recently my current company started the quarterly performance review. This reminds me my last performance review two years ago in my former company - QuickPlay Media Inc. I believe that was my worst performance review in my life, because of that reason I left that company.

The whole process was terrible, some time when I recalled it, I still feel angry, ridiculous, and nonsense. I will try to write it down because I want to remove it from my mind.

 I remembered 2 years ago in QuickPlay, my performance review  process was terrible: the review was totally depends on manager, there was no quarterly checkup, no objective metrics, each employee's performance is relies on the manager's impression. If she likes you and give you a good project, then you will get a better performance, on the other side, if you work on a project which is outside the scope of your boss, then you are doomed, because he/she did not know how you worked. This is totally unfair game, and for each employee it is the only time you have a chance to get promoted or salary increase.
 My manager's name was Donna, unfortunately I did not work on her project, and also she did not like the way I was working, I am not the guy always say YES to the boss, I have my own brain and I have my own principles. I know that I might not get a better rate, but I did not expect that my final rate was so worse.

I can feel her bad attitude at the beginning, because my meeting was cancelled and rescheduled so many time, finally it was delayed for 3 months! This was totally unprofessional for a manager, and she never show some apology to me for that.

During the performance review, I can feel she did not like me, the meeting is one way instead of 2 ways. She controlled the talking, most of the time she was talking and I was listening, actually I would say she was announcing, and did not give me any chance to explain. I prepared lots of my thoughts, but none of them were discussed. She tried to give me a low rate for every check point based on her bias, she tried to prove I am a bad developer. because I did not follow her order just once, and she wanted to punish me. It looked like she collected all my mistakes quietly in the behind, save them for one year, then presented all of them to me. Is this a good way for a manager? This is totally wrong, a manager's job is try to improve her team members, once she found an issue, she should take action right away, either criticize him or help him to realize his problem, help him to fix the problem. A manager's job is to correct developer's mistakes, not collecting mistakes. Manager is not like police, her job is just issuing an parking ticket. She need to figure out why the employee made an mistake, provide solution, and make sure the employee is improved. We are human and easy to make mistakes, that is the reason why we need managers.

The main issue she mentioned was I got negative attitude, because I report a issue of my colleagues quite angry. I agree I did not have good attitude at that moment, but so what? You should focus on the issue first.  I found very bad issues and I feel I need to stand out and want manager to fix it. I exposed the problem in the team, and this is a good chance to fix them. My manager should ask why I had a bad attitude, because she need to find the root cause and fix it, I believe the manager's job is to fix the issue among the developers. I don't think hiding/cover up the issue to your colleague is good, avoiding conflict is teamwork, and just focus on remaining the surface of agreement is a healthy team. Unfortunately my manager even did not want solve this issue, looked at what she said: "Why did you say bad to him? Because he did not say anything bad to you." What? I don't know what to say it.

It was really made me angry was for all of her comments/feedbacks, I did not know how to solve them. When I tried to analyze them and want to improve them, I found they were all no actionable, which drive me crazy. I know the solution was: follow her order, always say YES, you should not have your own ideas, just compliance, that is it!

It made me into deeper thinking: what is a good employee? Just always say YES, always nice to other people, not to stand out when finding a problem? Of course NOT.

This performance review totally lost its purpose: set goal, identify the issues and improve them; it becomes a means of manager to control her team members. It will look for compliance. It becomes a tool of governance, not for management.

I understand this would be the common issue of the command-and-control management style, the result will be always the same: mediocrity, compliance, lack of innovation.

Now I am happy in my current company, we do performance review, but quite different: we have 360 degree peer review, and quarterly review. Which are much better than before. I feel I was so lucky because I don't need to do that terrible review any more.


  1. Ouch. She sounds like she was unfair to you. Thanks for sharing your experience, Steve.

  2. Today I found a quote from Demming "The aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men". details is here:

  3. You're lucky if you even get a performance review at Quickplay now. Management needs a total overhaul

  4. Hi, I think your observations are correct.