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April 5, 2011 9:45 AM   Subscribe

What reason do I have to fill out my annual performance review?

I work as a research assistant for a university research center. I don't want to fill out my annual performance review.

Why I don't want to fill out my annual performance review:
  • Filling out the form is time-consuming.
  • This is an extremely busy time of the year for me.
  • The form requires me to keep track of every administrative report I've written in the past year.
  • I find the process and the outcome meaningless and trivial.
Why I think the review process is meaningless:
  • In the past, before I was hired, annual reviews were tied to merit raises. Merit raises were cumulative and could apparently make a difference. There have not been merit raises (or even cost-of-living raises) in over three years, and there will not be for years to come.
  • As a possible outcome, since there is no longer a financial carrot, almost everyone has started receiving inflated performance grades. I suspect my overall grade of "exceptional" is basically meaningless.
  • The person who evaluates my performance has very little contact with me. She is only nominally my supervisor. I see her approximately four times per year. She has very little meaningful feedback for me.
  • We are not eligible for promotions of any kind. Hence, reviews can't be used as a basis for requests for advancement.
  • The review focuses on my administrative, paper-pushing duties. They are not the main focus of my job, and I don't plan on using them to impress potential future employers.
  • The actual researchers I work with are quite happy with my performance and have said that they will gladly write me letters of recommendation if required.
All I can see is a string of cons. Help me identify if there are any pros.
posted by Nomyte to Work & Money (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Not being written up for refusing to follow required procedures.
Not giving bosses something to hold over you.
posted by Jahaza at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Pro: Not being seen as a difficult employee.
posted by amicamentis at 9:49 AM on April 5, 2011

Jahaza points to powerful pros! However it seems that, with the carrot gone, you may be in a good position to renegotiate the process for something less arduous and more meaningful. It may well be worth a shot (although of course, likely to be time consuming itself).
posted by Salamandrous at 9:50 AM on April 5, 2011

I'm guessing this is an institution-wide (not just your department) procedure? Not filling it out will:

- Cause you to be perceived as uncooperative.
- Create grief for your boss, who is likely responsible for making sure his employees fill it out.

Most of us have to, from time to time, perform what amounts to busy work with no value. Consider yourself luck it's not the entirety of your job.
posted by mkultra at 9:52 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps needs mentioning: the actual researchers I support would rather that I keep doing real work leading up to our end-of-quarter review, rather than take half a day to fill out this form. Filling out the form would actually take vital time away from doing meaningful work.
posted by Nomyte at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2011

With a performance review you can actually document that you are doing a good job. You'll never know what will happen in the next couple of years. You might need this evidence.
posted by eau79 at 10:02 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Delay until convenient-ish?
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2011

If/when merit raises do come back into vogue, who do you think is going to get them? People who filled out their performance reviews.

Also I am pretty lazy, but I think it is bad to let yourself rationalize ignoring things that are simply part of your regular job. They're a hassle for everyone, but they're the cost of doing business.
posted by hermitosis at 10:06 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keeping your job.
posted by Grither at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2011

If you look at this as an -opportunity- rather than a problem then you can very probably find ways to game it enhance your position. This might not be "for now" but if you find ways to, e.g., state some of your less-recognized abilities they at least become part of your record and may go unchalleneged even if they are a bit of a stretch.

My favorite part of any review is "What can the employee do to improve workplace effectiveness?" This is a cheesy way for the reviewer to get quick "Items for Improvement" line items. Write this section like so: "Nomyte sometimes takes more responsibility than is needed." Add flowers and decorations as you see fit. What is the reviewer going to do, say "stop taking on so many duties"?
posted by jet_silver at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you talk to your boss about doing it a bit later in the year and/or making it less comprehensive? It seems a bit extreme to have to include every report you've written; the point is that it's supposed to be a review after all. Perhaps the researchers you support can talk to your (nominal) supervisor and request that you do the review after the end of the quarter when things settle down and it wouldn't be taking time away from urgent work.

A few other pros:
  • Filling it out and getting another "exceptional" review might be handy if you ever need to claim unemployment in the future. It's a lot harder for them to maintain a claim that you were fired for poor performance if you can show that they rated your performance to be "exceptional."
  • You say you don't plan on using the skills discussed in the review to impress potential future employers, but why not? Since you get to fill out the form, you get to bring up whatever skills you want. Include the stuff you're proud of. Even if you have good letters of recommendation from colleagues, some employers are going to feel more at ease with hiring you if they can see a good performance review too.
  • You are, literally, in a dead-end job (no promotions) and you're not getting any raises, which means your salary is actually decreasing in real terms. If and/or when you're looking for a new job, you'll have an official document from your employer calling you "exceptional." That's a decently handy thing to have in exchange for a half day or so of paid work.

posted by zachlipton at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

The form requires me to keep track of every administrative report I've written in the past year.

I'd probably just do it and phone it in.

When you say 'keep track' -- does it require an analysis, or can you do a broad search of sent items for attachments and note down the dates you sent the whatnot?

I really don't think you can fully get out of doing this unless you ask the supervisor to help you out and do some of the writing since you're occupied. In that case, I think you'd just be outsourcing the phoning it in. In any case, I don't know about lab work but I've found the fine art of on-demand bureaucratic bullshitting to be helpful and to be ultimately less of a headache than fighting it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:19 AM on April 5, 2011

Pros :
- Fulfill the expectations of your employer.
- Document your success in meeting other, more substantive expectations.

This will not be the last performance evaluation you'll complete. It might not even be the most pedantic or the least impactful on your salary. But the completion of such evaluations are a condition of your employment. They occur in each and every one of your potential careers.

And be honest with yourself. You say this will take half of your work day, but will it? Most likely not, particularly if you're not going to use the evaluation as a means of communicating an as yet unvoiced concern.

Complete the form, turn it in, get back to what you'd rather do.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:23 AM on April 5, 2011

Most workplaces with a performance review process require them from absolutely everyone. Not a pro, necessarily, but a reason to do it. You may or may not get disciplined for not doing it, but you'd get badgered by HR and it would reflect poorly on your supervisors.

I've definitely worked for bosses who were all like "we're only doing this because it's required of everyone, and you already know you're doing well, so let's just make it quick and get it over with," and then it's forgotten for the rest of the year. It sounds like you're in an environment where you can get away with this attitude.

Annual performance reviews and self-evaluations are usually one of those annoying administrative things no one likes, but everyone has to put up with as part of the job. If this is one of the biggest annoyances at your workplace, you probably have a pretty decent gig (and one you will want to keep, all the more reason to just grit your teeth and do it).
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:31 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a formal documentation of the projects you complete and your employers agreed upon you completing. In the unfortunate event of your termination or layoff, this would be a vital document for ensuring an unemployment claim, as it would document the acceptance of satisfactory work by your employer. Should your company be reorganized, this would be your first line of documentation for job justification.

Personally I take the time filling out my performance review to also update and circulate my resume (this is actively encouraged by my direct manager).

My organization has three separate groups in it. Our group is the only one to update our performance review every quarter. We include this in timelines before we accept work. By updating frequently, we spend less time remembering stuff we did at year end, meaning it goes faster. As such, we're done *quickly* while the other two groups spend an exorbitant amount of manpower avoiding filling the damn form out. Do we like it? No - but we play the game. We're seen as stellar performers that stay on top of our documentation and that is reflected in the jobs we do by the respect we recieve and tentatively the financial compensation.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:49 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

the actual researchers I support would rather that I keep doing real work leading up to our end-of-quarter review, rather than take half a day to fill out this form.

They think that... but when they start to get an escalating hassle by HR for your non-compliance (e-mails, phone calls, visits), they may change their tune.
posted by Jahaza at 10:55 AM on April 5, 2011

References are often drafted from your last appraisal.

If there is a schedule for appraisals and you're not getting them, imagine the following scenario: your boss is replaced by someone who isn't nearly as happy with the quality of your work, the first review you get is a negative one, and then your funding runs out because there's no evidence that your performance justifies keeping you on.

Oh but wait. You don't like this and you stand up for yourself, being careful to agree a factual reference before you go. Since all the facts are good facts, and the appraisal is signed off, you're confident. Then a prospect requests the reference, and the person in HR assigned to provide it is unaware that you agreed a reference and/or can't find it, so they just look through your file for your last appraisal and draft it from that.
posted by tel3path at 11:03 AM on April 5, 2011

The review focuses on my administrative, paper-pushing duties. They are not the main focus of my job

What is "the main focus of your job"? Are you doing work that's not in your job description? Because if you are, and it's not documented anywhere (for example, in an annual performance review), there's no official way for you to get credit for it - even if that credit only exists as the actual official knowledge of your manager.

If it isn't documented, it never happened.
posted by shiny blue object at 11:09 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it isn't documented, it never happened.

There's no way to highlight with gold sparkly stars and exclamation points, so pretend that is what I've done there.

If they have you doing a bunch of off-label work, then if there is ever any question about whether or not you're fulfilling your job duties it is EXTREMELY EASY for them to claim you're having performance issues if they choose to focus on what they have listed as your 'official tasks'. And then they can document it, and then you look like an inadequate employee even though you're doing two or three people's work.

I am ordinarily on the side of doing more than your narrow job description entails, but those additional responsibilities MUST be included on your review.
posted by winna at 11:24 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agree on other comments, but also, if you're only thinking about your performance once a year, I can see that it would be a pain.

If you're tracking it for yourself on a monthly or weekly basis, filling out the paperwork is going to be a lot less painful when the time comes, plus you're also reflecting on your work more often than you might otherwise.

We have the kind of evaluation processes you have, and I'm in a similar situation with no raises in sight. It drives me nuts that I get feedback on my performance only once a year.
posted by idb at 11:28 AM on April 5, 2011

I'll be the voice of dissent and agree with you - filling out performance reviews is an annoying waste of time that could be better spent just doing the job for which you were hired. My experience has been, in the grand scheme of things, that no matter how stellar the "grades" you receive on your performance review, when companies start laying off employees due to financial concerns they're going to look at the overall balance sheet. Employee A has average-to-slightly-above performance reviews, but has only been with the company for three years and is not fully vested. Plus A has a spouse who has excellent health insurance, so A is not on the company health plan. Employee B has been with the company for 12 years, is fully vested and has had exemplary performance reviews since Day One. But the company has to put money into B's retirement plan, and B also is on the corporate health insurance plan, and despite his experience and expertise, the company would save money by laying B off and delegating his responsibility to two lesser-qualified employees with less seniority (i.e. their combined salaries are less per year than what B was earning). So B gets laid off when the ecomony tanks, and A and another employee assume B's responsibilities.

Performance reviews are (IMHO) simply a rote procedure done because, well, it's the thing all successful corporations do. Will you be penalized for not filling it out? I don't work at your company, so I can't say what the penalties (if any) would be, but I will tell you that I once left page three of a three-part annual review form blank (too many essay questions) and my supervisor (who conducted my in-person review and had supposedly read and evaluated my form) didn't even notice. All his comments/suggestions were based on page one of the form, which led me to believe that because he had so many to review by a certain time he'd only read the first page of everyone's forms.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:56 AM on April 5, 2011

You are quite right to say that performance reviews are a dreadful waste of time and, largely, utter bollocks of the form all too familiar

The reason we do them is to keep the peace and not jeopardise our situation at work. That said, I did once persuade my entire department to refuse to participate, and because we were all solid on that there were no fell repercussions. It also resulted in a massive and very welcome streamlining of the process for the following year. I would not advise such action unless you can get a similar degree of solidarity.
posted by Decani at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2011

Umm... that first sentence was supposed to end "...utter bollocks of the form all too familiar to anyone who has worked in a modern business environment."
posted by Decani at 12:05 PM on April 5, 2011

Wait; you do university research in 2011 and you think for an instant that your research isn't on the chopping block of an administration and board of trustees hell-bent on regaining their endowment?

Sure, your fellow researchers will write you a letter of reccomendation - they may need to. A lack of performance review may mean the administrative asshats they work for don't decide to defund your branch - and since they have no idea what purpose you serve - you no longer need to serve any purpose. I'll be honest - if I was working with you, I'd thank you for being the sacrificial lamb hell bent on quixotically sticking it to the administration - I'd certainly write you a letter of reccomendation, and my backhanded compliment out the door would probably praise your ability to stick to your moral laurels over the personal freedom to slough off paperwork. You'd sound like a folk hero to a department and a pariah to a university employment agency - in other words, no job offer and in the event that wasn't the case - certainly not a tenure track.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:39 PM on April 5, 2011

When I have been in supervisory positions, I have always asked my direct reports to fill out a self-evaluation. Most did, some did not. I concluded that the ones who did took their performance reviews more seriously than those who did not.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:54 PM on April 5, 2011

Are you funded by University money or Research? If University, then if in the future there are any furloughs then the people without good performance review documentation will be the first to go, no matter how much the researchers you work with like the work you do. If Research money, then be aware that things can change (PI's get lured away elsewhere, "hot" research topics no longer are, etc.), in which case your position will be axed and you'll be trying to find another position within the University, and the performance review documentation will play a big part in whether you're offered another position. I've seen both events (furlough's due to funding cuts and research $'s drying up) happen back when I worked at a university.
posted by Runes at 1:06 PM on April 5, 2011

the actual researchers I support would rather that I keep doing real work leading up to our end-of-quarter review, rather than take half a day to fill out this form.

Of course they're going to say that, it's not their problem if you don't do it. They're not the ones who will have to answer to your supervisor or HR or both when you don't submit it.
posted by anderjen at 1:09 PM on April 5, 2011

What this really boils down to is: you have to do it BECAUSE YOUR JOB SAYS YOU DO. Doesn't matter if it's pointless and stupid to do at this point or not. They said to do it, you will probably be in big trouble if you don't do it, so do it. The end.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:39 PM on April 5, 2011

the actual researchers I support would rather that I keep doing real work leading up to our end-of-quarter review, rather than take half a day to fill out this form.

Get these people to go to bat for you. Tell them "I can't do such-and-such... unless you can get me out of doing this review this semester." They can contact the HR person and send them emails like "Nomyte's work is essential to our success. Nomyte is our most valued support staff. In order to preserve every precious ounce of Nomyte's time during our critical crunch time, we beseech the HR department to waive Nomyte's performance worksheet for Spring 2011. We will plan ahead to ensure that we can live without Nomyte during his/her Fall 2011 performance review, but at this point, we simply cannot spare such a valuable employee and ask for an exception."
posted by salvia at 8:49 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I meant to add -- if all HR does is justify your lack of a review by sticking 2-3 emails like that in your file folder, that will similarly help with job security. You'll stand out from the other staff in a good way.
posted by salvia at 8:50 PM on April 5, 2011

Follow-up: In the end, I copied and pasted text from my last year's evaluation into this year's form. My nominal supervisor summarily checked off "outstanding" in every box, congratulated me, and I was on my way in less than five minutes.
posted by Nomyte at 4:32 PM on May 5, 2011

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