Although I never had an assignment I didn’t like, the only one I asked for and received was Post-graduate school at Bethesda. At the end, when I was offered a staggered assignment that would eventually (maybe) gain me a major command, I began to feel about Fitness Reports like a longtime friend expressed when we were on our first ship. He was playing poker and was interrupted twice by his Senior Chief who opined that he was needed by his men, an invitation he declined. Finally, the Senior Chief said, “this may affect your Fitness Report.” To which he answered, “The only way a Fitness Report could hurt me now is if it were rolled into a tight point and stuck in my eye.”
This actually turned out not to be quite correct. He was discharged some 1500 miles from his home and had to pay to get home out of his own pocket, including paying for shipment of his personal possessions.
Through my career I saw a change in the method used to evaluate and be evaluated. Gradually there crept in some goal-setting, with accountability. Metrics replaced vagaries, and job definition became clearer.
About that time I found myself closing Hunters Point NSY and having only a First Class Petty Officer to assist and be evaluated. Shortly into the interview I realized that what was important to me for him to do was not what he thought important. If I wanted him to clear my hurdles I would have to make his expected goals clearer. That knowledge served me well in the rest of my Navy career and through my 20 years in the corporate world.
Several recent occurrences precipitated my writing on this subject. For one, I asked my oldest son who is in sales, whether he would receive an annual review. The answer was essentially, no. Instead they are assigned target sales goals at the first of the year, with little interactivity in how they are set, tied to a bonus. There may be adjustments, and even changes in territory throughout the year, but little of what I would recognize as goal setting and accountability exists in the traditional sense.
My younger son had an evaluation recently, but again it was less traditional and more in line of a demonstration of application of principles, and understanding school goals.
So, if traditional reviews are a thing of the past, what has replaced them?
An article in a recent WSJ titled “Are You Happy in Your Job? Bosses Push Weekly Surveys” may offer a clue. Some companies are finding that anonymous motivation may result in more productivity, greater commitment, and general higher morale. Several times during the work day or work week, a brief three or four question survey will appear on the worker’s screen. Questions such as, “What was your major accomplishment this week?”, or “Do your managers appreciate you?” or even, “What embarrassed you as you were growing up?” offer clues as to how management may improve work assignments across the board. If nothing else, this may move HR persons into a more empathetic and less risk-avoidance position.
We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, as a pretty-much retired person, I hold a Staff Meeting with my support personnel as I shave in the morning and I can modify my goals so I am always on target.I realized as I composed my annual Christmas letter, that I had more knowledge of Uber than Mary, and possibly more than the people to whom I send cards. So, in my next Post I will catch you up on what I know of Uber and why it presents an enigma in our developing society. I hope you will join me.