A Bombshell from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

The Supreme Committee must have been working overtime on this chapter. Well, maybe not. I’m sure some minion was assigned to this. I found this chapter taped behind one of those pictures of a soaring eagle on the wall of an empty office.

Chapter 4 Great Performances with Performance Appraisals

It’s that time of the year again! The dreaded performance appraisal forms are stacked up in your inbox. You’ve managed to amass a large contingent of direct reports with a massive organization beneath them. It’s a true reflection of your power and prestige in the organization. But now all of that has created a lot of work for you. What nonsense! You already know who you’re good employees are – and the bad ones as well. How dare Human resources burden you with useless paperwork! You have many more important things on your mind, like building an even larger empire. Hmm, that might result in more of these cumbersome forms to fill out. Keep reading, we have a solution for that.

This is an annual event and probably the only time of the year Human Resources has any real power whatsoever. For some strange reason, your boss may have bought in to this tripe so there is really no way to avoid it. But there are ways to mitigate the drudgery and perhaps even use it to your advantage.

Dealing with the paperwork:

1. If your boss is a stickler for completing reviews on time, insist that your direct reports review their employees in accordance with the timetable set by HR. Do not allow them any slack. You’ll score points if your department turns in all of their appraisals either on or ahead of time. This is all non-valued added activity. Evenings and weekends provide perfect opportunities for your staff to work on these.
2. Remind your direct reports that the sum total of their employees’ overall ratings must be distributed in a nice bell curve. HR loves that stuff. You know that the traits, behaviors and attributes of any group of human beings are distributed that way. You learned that somewhere. Have your direct reports complete a summary sheet and keep you updated. If the results do not fit the curve, press your subordinates until they do. Just make sure that those you have chosen to be the “winners” and “losers” are rated as such.
3. Insist that your direct reports complete their own appraisals as well, particularly if the forms are complicated and require a lot of thought. You don’t have time for that. Let your subordinates think that they are actually having a say in the assessment of their performance. You can make them change it all anyway if you don’t like what they’ve written. The key here is to get all of these forms off of your desk and into someone else’s hands.

Dealing with goals and developmental plans for your own staff:

Goal setting

Never mind that the instructions on the form state that goals should be concrete, measurable and attainable. Who is in charge here anyway? The goals you set for your direct reports must be intentionally vague. You need to keep them guessing as to whether or not they are doing a good job. If you provide concrete goals, your staff will focus on them. If vague, they’ll work harder on everything!

Measurable? You’ll be the judge of that! How are you supposed to manage without exercising your personal discretion? You know how quickly people fall in and out of favor with you. Sometimes it’s even on a daily basis. It’s important that you measure personal loyalty too – and there’s not even a section for that on the form. As we all learned while coming up through the organization, people turn into suck-ups, saints and workaholics during the five or six week period prior to their annual appraisal. You’ve practiced that yourself during your rise to the top. Do not allow your staff to get away with that! They’re supposed to act that way all of the time.

Attainable? There must be “stretch.” Your staff needs to go for the gold! If the results exceed expectations, you’ll be able to take most of the credit anyway. If they fail, it’s their own fault.

Developmental plans

1. Make sure that you are not on the hook for any tasks associated with any developmental needs of your direct reports. After all, they need the development and they can take care of it themselves. If they need a seminar or training, let them find it. You may or not approve it. That’s your prerogative.

2. Remember, these reviews also give you the opportunity to “counsel” your staff about their personal habits and behaviors. Do not put any of this in writing. Plant seeds, wink, and nod. You can conveniently forget about all of this later if you need to.

Conducting the appraisal meeting:

1. Always schedule the meetings at the last minute, when your subordinates are off guard or tired and worn out. Make sure that you’re fresh and well prepared. Talk fast and try not to let them get in a word edgewise. The goal is to get them to sign off on the form and get it back to HR as quickly as possible.

2. Members of your staff who argue or refuse to sign their appraisals claiming that the reviews are not fair portrayals of their performance do not deserve to be part of your team. Their unflinching belief in your innate ability to judge them cannot be called into question. If they have somehow managed to amass documentation in an attempt to refute your assessment of them, you must question how they are spending their time. They are paid to work and not to waste time keeping records to defend poor attitudes.

3. However, you do not need issues with HR during this time so diplomacy is the key. Sometimes a little “sweet talk” goes a long way. A veiled threat may even be needed to straighten out a real malcontent. At any rate, start making plans now to expunge them before their next appraisal.

4. Remember, get the forms signed, sealed, delivered and forgotten about. You’ve done your job.

Whew, that was a lot work! Now it’s time concentrate on you. The annual executive “bonus” distribution is being considered right now. You have five or six weeks to become a suck-up, saint and workaholic. It will be over soon. Good luck!

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