I had dinner with a friend a few days ago and among the various topics of conversation, he was complaining about going through the yearly performance evaluation process – once again. I consider my friend to be a good people manager who cares about his employees and who is well respected by them but the traditional performance evaluation process used in his organization is far from effective.
You are most likely familiar with the process yourself. The manager has accumulated comments on your performance throughout the year (the good ones do, the others just make up the feedback on the spot!) and during a 30 to 60 minutes meeting, she will tell you the competencies you need to improve with some feedback on your strengths. The manager may even comment your performance based on the accomplishment of certain goals (the good managers have told you ahead of time what the objectives were while the others like to surprise you).
I already pointed out that traditional performance reviews aren’t effective at providing useful feedback to employees but the conversation with my friend reminded us of feedback that we heard and in some cases received ourselves over the years. Our discussion led us to the assumption that many (most?) managers aren’t really good at providing feedback so they use predefined messages. Needless to say, the feedback is empty of true meaning and rarely say the actual performance. In a humorous fashion, we reminded ourselves of the feedback and translated the message. I’m sharing with you some of the translations.
So here we go. Below is a translation of the terms used during a typical performance evaluation and the real meaning behind the vocabulary used.
- “You are one of the pillars of our team” = You are offering a decent performance but since you have been with us for a while and you don’t seem to have plans to leave, we don’t need to give you a big salary increase;
- “I’ve asked many people and they all tell me…” = I actually haven’t spent any time on this performance review thing but I figure if I tell you that I asked many people you will easily accept my feedback;
- “We really like your attitude” = It’s great having you on the team because you take the crappy work that nobody else wants to do;
- “You need to invest more time at the office so you can move ahead in your career” = My boss has pointed out to me that my employees seem to leave early and that is starting to impact how people perceive me at the office;
- “You should build a stronger network within the organization. You can’t expect to move up if you are not well connected to many people” = I wished you knew more people in other departments so you could give me detailed information on how things are going in other departments;
- “You deserve a promotion” = I can’t fire you because it wouldn’t make me look good and I really don’t want you on my team anymore. Once I promote you, other departments will pay attention to you and most likely will want to get you into their department;
- “You need to change your attitude, your teammates don’t enjoy working with you” = You always contradict me and ask difficult questions, couldn’t you simply agree to my requests like everyone else;
- “Everyone on the team likes your positive attitude” = I really don’t have anything useful to tell you so I will try to make you feel good;
- “This year has been very difficult for the company and the increases aren’t good – even for me” = I have a limited pool of money to distribute and I don’t want to create inequities so I am distributing evenly among everyone on the team;
- “I know the salary increase isn’t great but I’m working on something for you” = I’m trying to get away without a lengthy discussion for now and hope that by next time, you forget about my promise;
- “If it was up to me, you would receive a big increase because of your performance but the company won’t let me” = Thank God I can blame someone else for my in abilities to prove a big increase for you.
Have you heard empty feedback? Would you like to share the translated messages with others?