We recently got a reminder in our “burn bag” about EERs. Basically, a reminder that it’s a new year, so there will be Employee Evaluation Reports to do this year, just like every year.
There used to be lots of EER talk on the blogosphere prior to April. But not so much this year. Maybe it’s still early but … anyway, if you’re not terribly familiar about EERs, they’re like taxes and root canals, not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination but gotta be done.
In any case, a whole bunch of folks now write their own EERs. We wondered briefly if anybody ever give themselves a poor evaluation — such as “this officer take on so much work he makes everyone looks bad;” or “this officer takes mentoring at a new level, acting like a mother hen to new chicks just hatched that she should be promoted at the earliest opportunity.”
Now, you may not know this but this is all very, VERY serious business. The future of the new global order hinges on this. Imagine if our future best Paranoidistan negotiator could not get promoted to fulfill his/her destiny because his/her boss did not know how to make him walk on water? Um, excuse us, because he/she did not know how to make himself/herself walk on water in DS-1829 or DS-5055 or whatever the form is called these days. Imagine destiny denied due to bad writing. Yes, that would be awful. Still, just between us, we happen to think that something drastic needs to be done about this process. Because — see, how can everyone all be performing in an absolutely outstanding manner? Even that screamer. Even that micromanager. Even that arse-kiss ….
And that’s not all — apparently “a misplaced comma or misused word can [snip] rile a promotion panel to the extent that it passes over the employee for promotion.”
So you work your arse off and is absolutely showing potential for the next higher responsibility but because of a misplaced comma on your EER, the promotion panel toasts you crazy? Like — yo, misplaced comma, you’re so busted! They’re also the comma police?
Holy mother of goat and all her crazy nephews!
Pardon? Oh, housemate wants to know what planet have moi been living in the past 30 years. After all people have been complaining about this like forEVER, so he’s fairly sure that nothing will be done about this. Why? ‘Cuuz — during the last go-round, they reportedly made the performance appraisal more efficient and user-friendly (oh, hello ePerformance, you wonderful bureaucratic nightmare!). There’s no mention on making the process effective; just efficient. Something you gotta love!
The EER issue makes a routine appearance on the trade publication. One September issue of the Foreign Service Journal had something on this. One of the letters (Through the Looking Glass, September 2009) was a comment on a previously published article on the journal (EERs: The Forgotten Front in the War for Talent). The letter writer whose name was withheld by request is a Foreign Service employee at an unnamed post in Africa. That in itself is quite telling:
This spring, I proofread many Employee Evaluation Reports and did not see a single negative statement — even in the one for my office’s former Office Management Specialist, whom I’ll call “Janet.” Janet was assigned to cover the phones in our busy office, but spent half the day in the hall chatting with friends. When she was at her desk, surfing the Web was one of her prime activities. She worked with us until the head of our office told the human resources director at post that he never wanted to see her again. HR moved Janet to another office, where she has continued to be unmotivated and uncaring.
Janet’s EER rater joked to me that he’d had to include her participation in a local 5K race as an achievement because it was so difficult to come up with anything good to say about her work. Apparently, being nice is much more important than being truthful.
After only one year with the Foreign Service, I’ve come to a depressing conclusion: because FS personnel aren’t actually evaluated, we are just like Soviet factory workers — lacking any incentive to excel.
Soviet factory workers, huh? A little outdated and a tad harsh, but we understand the sentiment.
A more recent Speaking Out piece, also in the Foreign Service Journal calculated the hours spent on EERs for each employee at 15 hours and the cumulative hours spent on EERs by the entire agency at 180,000 hours a year; the equivalent of 22,500 workdays, 61 calendar years or 90 working years. You can read yourself scared silly about that on the FSJ September 20012 issue [See Overhauling the EER Process).
The FSO who wrote the article helpfully points out:
We need a system that significantly reduces the amount of time and energy it takes to produce a review, freeing up that time to pursue the important work of diplomacy and development. It should also accurately and fairly evaluate employees and, without overstating their accomplishments, produce EERs that enable promotion panels to identify high-performing employees.
Please do not think that there are no great workers out there. There are. And it is a disservice to them and all who spend far too much time making things work and doing things right (as oppose to just doing things) not to have an effective performance evaluation system. The heart of the problem is that supervisors with some exceptions lack the spine to do the right thing when it comes to performance evaluation. They’d rather let things slide than document a bad performance (let the next guy deal with dat) or conduct real counseling, cuz that can get complicated, and you might end up in the grievance board, or some elsewhere place you don’t really want to be. Or if they have the spine and they don’t play the game, their ratees suffer as a consequence since others then play the inflationary board game much better. See the problem there?
The performance review, if you look under the rug is an exercise in artful rhetoric.
Did you hear about that one where Front Office executives gave a Section Chief a glowing EER complete with fireworks, only to be contradicted with a firehose by an inspection evaluation review from the OIG? The Front Office rater and reviewer talked about ratee as a big deal mentor and leader, and almost everyone else at post unfortunately, told the OIG inspectors the exact opposite. As you might imagine, the case ended up as part of the Grievance Board statistics.
On a related note, over at Foreign Policy (registration required), commenters on Nicholas Kralev’s recent piece had some fun:
Geo Frick Frack: “… The successes are exaggerated, and the failures are obscured or explained away. Yet most have wonderful evaluations and the occasional award….”
SKB: Go ahead and give yourself a Franklin Award. This round is on me. 😉
Geo Frick Frack: Thanks. I’ll repay the favor with a Group MHA.
Anyway — in keeping with belt tightening and the “Bank of Afghanistan R Us” spending bandwagon, let’s introduce one money saver here — what if EERs become “Energy Expended Ratings” without the calorie counter in a pedometer? Wouldn’t it be perfectly normal and acceptable to rate the energy expended in a 5K race, surfing the web, etc. ? Just think — no more excessive time wasted on drafting, revising, reviewing, beautifying, soliciting global input from friends on the other side of the world on EER texts, or editing, finalizing, what have you, tinkering with these reports.
Imagine the “personhours” saved! Sorry, we get an itch everytime we hear “manhours” so we try to avoid using that term.
Another possible money saver? Just do away with convening the promotion boards. Why not just let folks toss out colleagues and bosses in an “EER Survivor” reality show via BNET? Something like “outwit, outplay, outlast.” A real 360 degree feedback without those wacky questions; and even wackier answers from BFFs and uber friendly colleagues and subordinates.
You think this would really be more difficult than the process that is now in place? Um, don’t know. We will executive produce it if you want to try it …
What about make-up artists?
What? Oh, no, no! The EER Survivor Reality Show has no line item for make-up artists. All wrinkles will be up close and personal; no airbrushing allowed for mediocre performance, either. Of course, the reality show will also have a “classified” or at a minimum, “SBU” (sensitive but classified) viewers’ ratings so members of the media, bloggers in pajamas and nosy taxpayers will not be able to use it as a date-night excuse. But the good news is — it’ll be available for viewing at the cafeteria!
How about it — these are great money savers and fantastic ideas, if we may say so ourselves? Anyone? ANYONE out there?
BTW, one of our former bosses wanted to become ambassador one day and declined the invitation.
But.. but… boss, you’ll be on tee-vee!!
P.S. No EER was harmed in the writing of this blog post.