Out with the Old Year, In with the New Year
When the year is winding down, and about to go into the history books, it’s time for a bit of reflection and renewal. At the end of the year, many people are taking a “breakation” from their usual routines, and find it a good time to take stock of where they are in life, and where they are headed in the coming year.
Back in my corporate days, year-end was all about cleaning out your project files, starting a new calendar, and writing the dreaded annual performance appraisal. In my former company, each salaried employee was required to compile a list of “accomplishments” for the year, which the supervisor would take and expand upon. Ultimately, the supervisor would “rate” each achievement (which was always tied to a goal set the previous January), and then assign an “overall” rating for the year.
This was an extremely important process, since your salary increase (if any) and annual incentive payment would be tied to these results. Non-management or hourly employees went through a similar process, but without the emphasis on incentive compensation.
What Were Your Expectations?
Unless outcomes are tied to expectations, an appraisal rating is virtually meaningless. In other words, if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, anything you do will be enough. Alternatively, anything you do will never be enough. It only gets meaningful if you’ve set some goals and objectives for the year, and then look back to see how well you did (or did not) meet those expectations.
In fact, the appraisal rating system we used was all about how we did relative to those “expectations.” Since I have retired from the company, I have lost touch with how they do things today. But I am relatively certain, however, that there still is some sort of evaluation process in place, and that the year-end or start of a new year is the time it takes place.
So, what exactly was the scale that they used? Glad that you asked. There were many versions over the years, but this is the last one I remember using. Disclaimer: It is written in my own words, as opposed to “Human Resources Speak,” so enjoy.
- Consistently Far Exceeded Expectations – which means you were a rock star. You crossed all of your T’s and dotted all of your I’s, finished everything on time or early, and stayed within budget. Not only that, everybody loved you in the process. This would be the “walks on water” rating. It also means that you “successfully responded to extraordinary circumstances and made exceptional contributions well beyond the standard responsibilities of the position.” That having been said, one does not always have the opportunity to “far exceed” expectations, if there are no challenging opportunities available.
- Consistently Exceeded Expectations – this is still a stellar rating, given only to superior performers. You didn’t walk on the water, but you at least floated all of the time. You didn’t make any egregious errors, and you didn’t tick anybody off. It means that you “responded to typical circumstances in an exceptional manner.” You should note that theoretically anyone could achieve this level of performance, depending on their behavior.
- Consistently Met Expectations – which some might suggest means “average,” since it’s in the middle of the scale. Nothing could be further from the truth. You still had to work diligently and consistently (hence the name) in order to earn this appraisal rating. I always advocated a six-point scale, since it would eliminate the “middle.” I never gained very much support, but I still think it’s a fine idea. There was a lot of “organizational development” work done, in order to get employees comfortable with the notion that this rating meant more than “showed up and did the work.” I don’t know if they ever succeeded.
- Usually Met Expectations – is a dangerous rating to receive. It means that your performance was “sketchy.” Sometimes you made it, sometime you didn’t. You were, in a word, unreliable. If you get too many of these ratings, you need to start sucking up immediately. Oh, and update your resume. But you can turn things around if you show “the willingness and ability to improve.”
- Consistently Below Expectations – which is synonymous with “failed.” Not much more needs to be said about this rating, other than the fact the employees in this category were put on a “performance improvement plan” and given a very, very short leash. If immediate and sustained improvement was not seen, then your job was in jeopardy. This rarely happened, but it could. And the threat of it kept most employees walking the straight and narrow.
So, How Did You Do?
Since I am retired, I no longer participate in a formal appraisal process, but I still (out of force of habit), look over my year to compare my personal “expectations” for myself with my actual “performance.” And this year was no different.
I am delighted to say that this past year I did “far exceed” my personal expectations in several areas of my life. Publishing would be one of those. I published more hubs than I had planned, plus I authored and published an EBook for the first time in my life. I even published, and was PAID for a poem (haiku) that I wrote.
On the flipside of the coin, I am chagrinned to say that I also “did not meet” expectations in some other areas. In my retired state, this outcome is more “feedback” than anything else, since I can’t really get fired from retirement. What it tells me is that I need to re-evaluate my priorities, and adjust my life to do the things I love, and not undertake those projects and processes that do not motivate me to do my very best.
But enough about me. How did you do? I think it’s an important question to ask yourself before you create your New Year’s Resolutions or goals for next year. But whatever you undertake, I wish you all love, joy, health, happiness, peace, and prosperity in the coming year.