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No overperformance please

February 24, 2009

This one belongs to the believe-it-or-not category.

An employee of a well-known multinational in KL had a chat with me recently. He knew I had done some talent management work before and wanted my opinion on something.

He said he had just completed his annual performance review and scored the maximum points possible for his core KPIs (key performance indicators) but he’s not happy. I asked him why.

He showed me a copy of his performance scorecard, appraised by his boss. True enough, he scored mostly 4’s which was the maximum on their performance scale.

So? I asked him.

Look again, he said. So I looked real hard. Then I saw the problem.

Here was the scoring plan, paraphrased.

Meets < 31% of KPIs – 1
Meets 31-50% of KPIs – 2
Meets 51-80% of KPIs – 3
Meets 81-100% of KPIs – 4

There is no 5.

According to my friend, he exceeded some targets by as much as 50%. He worked damned hard. But they rated him a “4” anyway.

Considering that his salary increment was going to be calculated off his raw score, I can see why he was pissed.

Okay, there was some space at the bottom of the scorecard for the boss to comment and right there, his boss wrote this down: “A good, resourceful employee.”

This was an American MNC, established at the turn of World War 2, whose system seemed designed NOT to recognize overperformance.

I was speechless.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2009 9:30 am

    Hahah, it’s better than those companies who have 1 – 5 but nobody will ever get a 5 because people are just not good enough for that 😀 Even if the managers give you a 5, the big boss will drop it to 4 in order to cut cost.

    Yeah, its also called puppy training. No matter how high it jumps, you hold the stick just out of its reach so it keeps jumping higher and higher. 🙂

  2. February 24, 2009 11:01 am

    It’s interesting to see other companies’ way of appraising their employees. Here’s how my company (American/French MNC) did it:

    D: Below expectations
    C: Meets expectations
    B: Exceeds expectations
    A: Outstanding performance

    C just to meet all KPIs. The Ds got fired this year due to the bad economy. As you can see, the scoring for an A or B is pretty dubious, and it all depends on general perception of upper management.

    A consistent ‘A’ grade might mean you’ll be shortlisted into the top talent program where you’ll be fast-tracked to upper management, although they will never officially tell you this until they have a vacancy available.

    A ‘B’ average will open up more opportunities for career growth e.g. chance to switch career options, transfers, etc.

    That’s more like it although with subjective scales, the system can slide about a little too much. Many prefer the measurable-KPI approach to keep subjectivity to a minimum. But then again, there’s no such thing as a perfect system.

  3. LC Teh permalink
    February 24, 2009 5:07 pm

    Hahaha.. are KPIs for real? We first started with our boss doing it for us. Then some bosses got lazy and we progressed to doing it all ourselves and getting the boss to verify it. The HR boss told her guys who scored above 80%, “If you guys are so good, you should be sitting in my chair!” She got them to lower their scores way down. Heck, it’s like giving someone a 5 foot long elastic measuring tape and say, “Go measure your own height and tell me how tall you are.” I can’t understand how the management can take such things seriously. Our local guys have only one word for it: Sandiwara.

    Hah, trust me your company isn’t the only one. 🙂 It is gratifying to thumb our noses at formality if we’ve been guided by folksy wisdom all our lives. To me, drama is harmless if everyone ends up doing what they’re supposed to do. The problem is when the drama prevents people from doing what they’re paid to do, and they’ve got nothing to offer but more folksy wisdom.

    The HR manager you described, the fact that she said what she said clearly proves she’s not qualified to sit in that chair.

  4. LC Teh permalink
    February 24, 2009 10:09 pm

    Alas, in a world where know-who beats know-how, the irony is, she’s moved on to a higher position in national head-quarters, and would come back in her flashy BMW and prowl around once in a while just to rub it in. Painful isn’t it?

    String pulling is lucrative, no doubt. Her type of profile might fit in places like marketing but a company that puts that kind of mindset in HR usually gets what it deserves.

  5. LC Teh permalink
    February 25, 2009 11:46 am

    About string pulling and other short cuts through life, I used to have random thoughts about it…

    Talk about the tale of the butterfly. In the big city, more and more kids are starting off their first jobs driving new Toyotas. Sometimes I wonder how they’ll turn out later in life.

  6. LC Teh permalink
    February 26, 2009 9:04 am

    …which brings me (again) to another flashback; about Modern Slavery

    Haha, good read. I swear if the weather was 5 degrees cooler, it’s a bicycle for me! 🙂

    Finally, you changed your icon.

  7. February 26, 2009 10:03 am

    For someone who has been in the working world for a little over 3+ years now, I have to admit this : there is no such thing as the ‘perfect employee’. I’ve come to learn that it’s all relative (i.e – it’s how well you do RELATIVE to your peers). I’ve stopped trying to strive to be the best employee (tried doing that in my 1st year as a enthusiastic greenhorn ) in my department, not because I’ve given up or anything like that…I’ve come to realize there’s more to life than just pleasing upper management.

    Having said did, it does not warrant for one to underperformed or merely just satisfice in his workplace. I always take my work seriously…just not TOO seriously 😉

    In some places, people regret ever getting best employee awards. 🙂 Personally I’d go for the middle path, one where my boss and I are happiest or least pissed, whichever the case may be.

  8. LC Teh permalink
    February 27, 2009 9:09 am

    I found my ‘face’ after I stumbled upon the page. I must be a ‘stumbling’ learner. Still stumbling my way through life…

    Welcome to the club, hehe.


  1. My Panacea for living –Uncanny Philosophy

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