I was reading Confessions of a Community College Dean and this struck me:

I learned this week that The Boy ‘s kindergarten class breaks up every few days for different reading levels, with TB and a few of his friends staying in their classroom while most of the class goes elsewhere, and a few kids from other classes stream in. They’re the ‘honors’ group, in a sense. The fluent readers.

They’re five years old.

Although the larger class is admirably multicultural and multiracial, there isn’t a single black kid in the honors group.

It’s the second half of kindergarten, and the tracking has already started.

It just didn’t occur to me that it would start so early.

You remember from your school days–tracking. You were in the honors group, or the slow readers group or the advanced math group, et cetera. That all ended when you left school, right? Wrong.

The reality is, if you work for a large company, you’re probably assigned to a group. In fact, your information and a profile are probably loaded into your company’s Succession Planning tool.

This is great and good–it allows managers to plan ahead, see where weaknesses are and fill the management pipeline. It allows you to recruit people with strengths where your company has weaknesses and develop what needs to be developed. But, just like the track you were placed into in Kindergarten, it can be very difficult to change tracks.

Case in point from a friend:

I received my performance evaluation this year and my manager rated me “average” (3 on a 5 point scale). I asked what I need to do to be considered a 5 by the end of this year. She said, “that won’t happen. Can you imagine the paperwork to justify a 2 level move?”

See, she had been “tracked” as an average performer. It will take her considerably more effort to be rated higher than someone who was previously tracked as a high performer.

So, what do you do about it? It depends. How much do you like your job and/or company? If you really want to stay where you are, you need to work harder and smarter than everyone else. You take whatever developmental classes you can take. You volunteer to take on the hard assignments and realize you will be criticized more than the “fast tracker” who sits next to you–regardless of what level you perform at.

My friend’s manager gave her a clue that this path will be hard–she doesn’t even want to consider the paperwork involved. This seems to me to be a ridiculous notion–if she does high level work, shouldn’t the only paperwork required be a performance appraisal saying so? But, apparently not at her company.

I advised my friend to look for a new job–within the company if she wants to stay, but the easier path would be to look elsewhere. Why? Even with a new manager, your record follows you–just like your “permanent record” in school.

If you decide to move to a new company you get a clean slate for the first little while. Just remember, you’ll be put into a track within a few months of landing that new job, so make sure you’re constantly going above and beyond in the new job.

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3 thoughts on “Tracking

  1. My former boss told me that he could not give me the highest rating on my performance review, even when I had met or exceeded all of my goals for the year. He deemed it a perfect score and told me that if he gave me a perfect score, I wouldn’t have anything to work toward. Previous to going to work for him, I had served time in our HR dept. and already knew that the performance reviews were a huge joke in the company.

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