Thursday, July 19, 2012

Appraisal Apprisings


Where I work, it’s appraisal season. It’s that time of the year when apprehensions become almost tangible, rumors about poor profits begin to circulate, when the doomsday prophets ask everyone to scale down expectations, and the more combative types insist that if their expectations aren’t met, then they will be left with no option but to…

The appraisal is corporate drama, almost as compelling as a new business pitch, although it suffers from a smaller scale and fewer actors. It is that moment when organizations are forced to do what they dread doing when it comes to ‘talent’ and ‘human resources’ – they have to show the money. But it’s not the money that’s the source of the dramatic tension. Paycheques themselves get second billing. The lead role is played by the organization’s assessment of an employee’s value. What is this person actually worth? What tangible or intangible value is he perceived to add? Can he take on more responsibilities and stress? Does the company want him to stick around? How badly? How much do people like him, and more importantly, how much do people - his bosses or team members - like working with him? 

Ultimately the answers to all these questions are compounded into a single number – the percentage gain in one’s salary. 

And this single number is the source of great tension. Because in the age of talent as capital, organizations aren’t equipped (or willing) to deal with the sometimes startling clarity that a single number provides to people. It’s easier to obfuscate, to dissemble, to serve up praise-criticism-praise sandwiches, to say that within the larger scheme of things, that single number can be seen very differently. Which is to say that 10% isn’t really just 10%, or 27% isn’t just 27%. Appraisal committees are formed to add a little context to the clarity. And employees leave the appraisal wondering what exactly they should be feeling. How should they react to the number? Is it an accurate reflection of their effort, their work and their worth? 

Some people are obstinate enough not to be swayed by context. Others believe that their contributions have been acknowledged – and they most certainly have. But many people teeter between feeling satisfied and vaguely underappreciated. And there’s an entire supporting cast of sympathetic or resentful colleagues, unusually cheerful bosses and suddenly approachable senior management to add texture to the goings-on. 

One number, and a whole lot of subtext. The truly outraged exit the stage, the murmurs eventually die down, and the drama is seemingly over. Until the next financial year.   

1 comment:

Priyanka Nayar said...

Or some just play it safe and give an overall 5% increase across the board! Socialists in Capitalist garbs.

 
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