Just how often do we have to play ‘rate my work’ these days instead of doing actual work?
Let’s start this missive with an illustrative quote that has stuck in my own mind for some time and has been applicable to many situations thrust upon me in the grand game since first hearing it back in 1979.
You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.”
- Hugo Drax, ‘Moonraker’
(Let’s just replace 007’s name with ‘Performance Review’ and cut out any unnecessary waffle, unlike an actual performance review, and get on with the article.)
Simply, they are a method employed by management and enacted by the minions of HR to restrict the growth, progress, and remuneration of permanently employed staff¹.
Alas, they’re currently a necessary evil if you decide to stay with any one company for more than 6 or so months and have the aspiration that they’ll keep your pay in line with market rates².
From the ‘360 reviews’ favoured by companies stuck in past centuries where employees were forced to denounce each other in the style of royalist sympathisers during the French Revolution to the current popular framing of reviews as a ‘growth’ exercise that actually serves employees (where you end up with a second-cousin three times removed manager going over your technical work), they all have one dreadful flaw in common.
No matter how effective management believes they are, how much employee growth and that HR loved word ‘engagement’ they are supposed to bring to the table, they’re ultimately a stressful, difficult, and time-consuming exercise for any progressive software engineer that detracts from doing their great work.
Some are easily circumvented, though the process has to be at least notionally followed. For instance via ‘developer pacts’ that form as a result of the ‘360’ process or where a manager is subjected to review themselves and everyone agrees just to do the bare minimum, tick the boxes, and get on with their lives.