Tis the season for those dreaded Performance Reviews

Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen cities like Phoenix endure weeks of sustained temperatures over 110 degrees, and we’ve experienced the hottest July in recorded history. We’ve seen Maui on fire and water temperatures off the coast of Florida reach 100 degrees. We’ve seen devastating wildfires and suffered through smoky skies in our own Pacific Northwest.

We’ve seen a hurricane pass through Southern California leaving flooded streets and mudslides. As a bonus, California had an earthquake in the midst of the storm. And, most recently, we were subjected to the first 2024 Republican Presidential “Debate.”

Like most everyone else I was beginning to think things couldn’t get much worse. Then I checked my work calendar and realized that it’s time for that annual exercise in sustained peevishness, that hallowed corporate ritual, the Annual Performance Review.

In past years, the review season held out the promise of potentially volatile and incendiary personal exchanges and the possibility of explosive interoffice caterwauling and unchecked unflattering invective leading to a cacophony of slammed office doors and early lunches and the balkanization of the office into surly factions.

But since the advent of COVID, much of the entertainment value of Performance Reviews seems to have disappeared. And whatever excitement COVID didn’t kill off, my employer snuffed out by shifting from hand-written, free-form reviews to a computer-generated format that allows precious little opportunity for creativity. Performance Reviews are now about as exciting as checking the boxes on a driving test or completing a survey from your dentist asking about your recent teeth-cleaning experience.

I’ve been both a reviewer and a reviewee in recent Performance Reviews, and I don’t find that being on either end of the process does much to nourish my soul. Mostly what I feel at the end of a long day of serious performance reviewing is a burning desire for a hot shower and a cold drink, preferably at the same time.

Theoretically, the corporate Performance Review is an opportunity for management to tell workers what they did well in the past year and what they can improve on in the coming year. However, most of us already know only too well our own personal strengths and weaknesses (not to mention the strengths and weaknesses of the person reviewing us), so we tolerate the whole demeaning process only because the results of the review might determine how much of a raise we can expect to receive in the coming year.

Without the galvanizing presence of a large potential raise, the already-thin justification for doing Performance Reviews pretty much evaporates.

As part of my employer’s review process, we are required to identify three goals for the coming year. For most of the past 29 years, I have identified exactly the same goals for myself: (1) optimize my core competencies and proactively grow a robust suite of deliverables; (2) re-engineer and right size my work platform by enhancing my interfacing in a user-centric dynamic and fluid environment; and (3) calibrate the metrics on my performance bandwidth and synergistically incentivize my direct reports to onboard them with some blue sky touchpoints I’ll championing later this year so that, at the end of the day, I can circle the wagons and strategically leverage and spearhead some game changers and goal post movers.

I have not yet gotten formal feedback about my goals from my boss, although preliminary indications are that I found my goals considerably more amusing than she did. I’m afraid I may have set myself up for the dreaded Reverse Raise.

On the negative side, if my boss actually reads my goals from last year and tries to figure out if I’ve accomplished them, I’ll have to scramble to offer a convincing explanation about why it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t achieve them, coupled with a plausible plan for accomplishing them this coming year. On a going-forward basis, of course. While taking the temperature of the room. On a macro level.

Tom Tyner of Bainbridge Island writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.