Illustrative Example #4: Introducing Managers to Organizational Politics-Performance Evaluations

Ten days ago, I related to a lack of systematic initiation into organizational politics, resulting in talented and motivated people losing out to folks with more political acumen.

To put this issue in focus,I began a series of five short posts illustrating how to initiate managers for more political awareness in the post 2008 zoo.

The goal of these posts is not to prescribe behaviour, rather to illustrate a gamut of frequently observed political behaviours, both positive and negative. It is my belief that in the same way that young kids should not learn sex from watching porn stars, neither should young managers learn organizational politics by being screwed, or by listening to some idealistic consultant or coach describe organizational life as it “should” be.

This is my 4th post (of 5) in the series, and I will relate to the issue of Performance Evaluation. (PE)

1) Overtly, performance evaluation is a tool to provide feedback to staff, create a dialogue about strengths, weakness, set goals. as well as provide a context for rewards or the lack thereof. Nevertheless, market forces ant not NOT PE set the context for rewards.

2) The entire PE process has a political dimension which has little to do with its overt goals.

3) The PE process is generally controlled by HR; it is one of the very few processes which they control end to end, and thus, PE is administered with orthodoxy. The degree to which performance evaluation is administered is often seen as a sign of loyalty to HR (and the regime).

4) There are 3 versions to each Performance Evaluation. The first is what you write down on the PE form; the second is what you say to the employee; the third is what you think to yourself. There is not a lot in common between the 3 versions. 

Example: you have a lazy employee with knowledge in a legacy product that no one understands anymore. If he leaves, there is a huge gap. If he stays, you need to put up with a lot of crap. So, you think to yourself “I’m trapped”. How to exit the the trap? Write a glowing  and stellar review, and tell the employee that he is fine, with a few minor “buts.” …and think to yourself what a comedy the PE process is.

5) Each organization plays games around PE.

  • Some merely fill out the form and make nothing of it.
  • Others use it as a platform to kowtow to HR.Y
  • Yet others subvert the system.

Before doing PE, learn what game is played and how to play it. It can be a benign game when played well, and dangerous when you do not understand the rules.

6) Never ever take PE at face value nor too seriously. There is no set of relationships, at work, with kids, or with friends, which can weather a “full review” of the state of the relationship in 30 minutes. The world of relationships is not made that way.