Beware of people who say things like, “I’m the sort of person who likes to get things done.” They almost always make this remark when trying to impress an interviewer, colleague, or manager. The implication is that while all the losers around them are busy being losers, these are the stars of your organization. Often, though, they’re just jerks, or walking clichés at the very least.
The reality is that all of us like to accomplish things. That’s why I hate the term results-oriented to describe anyone.
Know what else I hate? Best practices. So you can imagine how I feel when I hear pundits, executives, and everyone else preach that a best practice for building a results-oriented workplace is to recognize employees who produce…results.
It’s a line that so many people repeat so many times that it’s easy to mistake it for a fact.
It’s actually an alternative fact, an opinion disfigured into a recommendation because it makes intuitive sense. If this seems intuitive to you, too, your intuition is fooling you.
Rewarded for Luck
A while back, I spoke to Michael Mauboussin, Credit Suisse’s head of global financial strategies and author of The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing. He explained something that you probably already feel in your gut but might be too panicky, egotistical, or deluded to admit: Many of your achievements—the same ones that earn you praise (or punishment)—are largely beyond your control. Mauboussin explained:
There’s a continuum of things that are pure luck on one end and pure skill on the other. When your outcomes are truly a reflection of the work that you’re doing, a results-oriented evaluation is not unreasonable, like in manufacturing, which is very skills-oriented. But things like launching a successful R&D project are inherently probabilistic, with a lot of randomness and luck to them. There are profound influences that are hard to anticipate.
And get this: The higher you are on the ladder, the greater the role that luck plays in your work. You know what else grows with each rung? Compensation. All of which means that a four-leaf clover increasingly determines what you earn in cash and recognition as you move up a hierarchy. Continue reading
One year ago today, corporations across the country—the world!—decided to scrap their performance-management models. They stopped their Sisyphean attempts to fix systems that were never really broken—because they never worked to begin with. They realized that achieving outcomes and assessing people based on achieving outcomes are not the same. They understood the following:
Focusing on results may be the worst way to get results.
What happened on January 11, 2016, to spark this revolution? That evening, I gave a DisruptHR presentation to a room of HR and business leaders called Oh No! Not Another Performance Management Presentation!
Here’s some of what I said:
- SMART goals are pretty stupid.
- You can set objectives, but gauge the worthiness of the goals themselves, not people based on meeting them.
- Stop focusing on output and start emphasizing input.
- Measuring by results can ruin your coaching and development efforts.
- Given luck’s influence on outcomes, current frameworks may be sabotaging workers.
I said a lot more. Of course, my talk didn’t incite the insurgence I imagined above…yet! Nonetheless, I’m hopeful that as the neverending exploration to improve performance management continues, more companies will not simply stick extra Band-Aids on their processes but truly transform performance management into behavior management.
Check out my talk and let me know what you think!
There’s an old Russian proverb about two farmers that goes something like this: One farmer grew enough potatoes to power a Wise factory for years (clearly, I’m modernizing). His neighbor barely sprouted a potato to distill into a shot glass (stereotyping, too).
One day, a genie comes to the unsuccessful farmer and offers to grant a single wish. What do you think the peasant asks for? A better harvest? Riches to retire in Crimea? Tickets to Hamilton?
“I wish for you to destroy my neighbor’s farm,” the poor farmer pleads.
This story is supposed to symbolize a historic attitude among many Russians—that tearing down those around you brings more satisfaction than lifting yourself up.
Russians aren’t the only ones afflicted with schadenfreude. I recently came across a couple of not-so-new studies suggesting why some employees go low when other achieve high. In “Victimization of high performers: The roles of envy and work group identification” and “Is it better to be average? High and low performance as predictors of employee victimization,” researchers delve into how less successful coworkers sometimes attack their more accomplished counterparts. They lie, gossip, undermine, deny resources—basically, they become Regina George.
Not like you need a bunch of papers to confirm what you already know: Envy mixed with an inferiority complex can cause people—maybe even you—to mutate into total jerks. At the same time, workers who overestimate their performance and don’t get the respect they think they deserve may also conspire to undercut peers.
At one company I worked, there was chitchat about two senior leaders cheating on their spouses with each other. True or not (probably not), I sensed that some people were wielding the rumor as a weapon.
So, how can companies promote a high-performing culture in the face of a spiteful counterculture? One recommendation is for flourishing employees to consider “downplaying their accomplishments and maintaining a humble outlook to avoid potential victimization in the future.”
Wait. What? No. Continue reading
What? You don’t love annual reviews?
It’s OK. You’re not alone. If you think they suck at your company, you’re probably right. They suck at most companies. They always will—because there will always be pundits who need to make money by telling you about your organization’s poorly-designed system.
But I’m not one of them. I’ll share my thoughts for free about your rotten procedures.
There are many reasons why corporate America fails its people when it comes to year-end appraisals, more than can fit into a blog post, article, book, or series of books. One such cause centers around the anonymous nature of multi-rater feedback.
What if it weren’t anonymous? Would the CHRO’s head explode? Would a company collapse? This year, I decided to find out.
The Usual Approach
Anonymous feedback about an employee from a variety of colleagues aims to provide a more complete impression of that person’s performance. You know how it goes: Jane selects coworkers of all different types who will offer unbiased opinions whom she knows will say that she parted the Red Sea. Jane’s manager then asks those people to provide comments about Jane, whose multi-raters subsequently practically cream themselves in their remarks.
Except for Bob. Bob secretly thinks Jane is overrated or incompetent or said something mean to him back in 2002, so he concocts a list of Jane’s “areas for improvement.”
“I received some troubling feedback about you,” Jane’s manager conveys to Jane, who leaves the conversation shocked and on a hunt to discover which of her colleagues/frenemies whipped out a knife that may ultimately slice into her compensation. Continue reading
I have a problem: I like to be liked. It’s a problem because not everyone likes me, and that often messes with my head. Why can’t I be like those people who never miss an opportunity to point out, “This is who I am. I don’t care if you love me or hate me”?
Because those people are liars. I never believe them. Neither should you. Not when they’re talking about themselves or their work. I don’t think even they believe their own bullshit. Nevermind that no one utters such nonsense after hearing, “Great job!”
“I don’t care” is nothing but a passive-aggressive defense mechanism to hide the fact that we all care what others think of us. We all live for the applause.
So what happens when someone can’t see what you see in the mirror? How do you feel and what should you do when coworkers criticize your work? If you’re like me, you feel shitty, binge on chips, watch Vanderpump Rules, hate your haters, binge on chips, take an Ambien, write some loopy Facebook posts, bing on chips, and feel even shittier.
I’m thinking of negative feedback right now because earlier this week, I re-launched this blog, and some people dislike the design. Perhaps you, too, agree with my friend who insists that green is a terrible color and that my blog looks “like it was designed on a PC in 1999.”
Actually, a 1989 Commodore 64.
Regardless, you know the cliché about negative feedback. It’s a gift! Embrace it! That’s the sort of garbage that crappy corporate intranet articles spew about self-development. I should know. I’ve written those crappy articles.
Except, gifts make you feel good. Comparisons to ’90s computers, not so much. You also hug kids and pets. Nineties computers, again, not so much.
So when peers tell you that your work sucks, it’s easy to mutate into a smiling Stepford Employee as your mind races with self-doubt: Do others think I don’t know what I’m doing? Is that because I really don’t know what I’m doing?
There it is. Right there. The heart of why we hate negative feedback. It’s not because we don’t get trophies as much as because second-guessing our choices makes us feel incompetent. So how should you manage impostor syndrome?
It’s a gift! Embrace it! Run for President! Continue reading