19 (More) Tales of Performance Review Horror

Everyone hates their annual performance review but we dutifully do them. (For some good reasons, but I digress.) I few weeks ago, I published 18 True Tales of Ridiculous Performance Appraisals, and what I got was even more tales of ridiculous performance appraisals. Enjoy, but managers, don’t use these a template.

  1. There was a statement about a complaint made on me the previous year. I’d never heard about it. I asked why she never told me about it and my boss then went on to say she didn’t put much stock in that person and had problems with them making complaints about her, too. Yet still, she wrote it on my appraisal.
  2. I was told I had far too much biased language in my analysis reports. I asked for examples. Was told to “go back and read through them and you’ll see what I mean”. I wrote one whole report that whole year. It was all financial figures and dates. But, yes, if I’m being truthful, I’ve always hated the number 9. I just didn’t realize how much it showed…
  3. The orders to smile and to be less direct in speaking turn up often in women’s evaluations. “Somebody said they didn’t like your facial expression” sounds suspicious too. Some of my female coworkers used to joke with me about getting “you need to be more direct” and “you need to be less direct” on alternating years’ evaluations because one can’t be appropriately assertive and still be unthreateningly demure in some offices.
  4. I had a review from a boss who subscribed to the theory that all reviews must have at least some bad things in them, and was told didn’t answer the phone right because (among other things) I identified myself as soon as I picked it up. And a flat refusal to tell me how I should answer it, like, say, a script (which *is* provided to the folks out in the stores).
  5. Great manager of 5 years left, replaced by Satan’s dufus little brother. Very good reviews for 5 years. Suddenly, I talked too loudly on the phone. I ignored a manager who needed to speak with me (he popped his head in my doorway, saw I was on the phone with a client, nodded and came back at a later time). I didn’t care enough to come to work at 7am instead of 7:30 and left at 5:30/ 6:00 instead of 7pm (hours were 8-5). I dressed too loudly (“like an Easter egg” I was told- too many bright colors. My suits btw were professional and tailored deep purple, navy blue, black, etc). This was one performance review. I started looking elsewhere for employment after that. Right before I left, I was handed a written warning for “my poor attentin to detail.” Yes, he had misspelled ‘attention’ on my poor attention to detail write up, which had no examples attached to it either. Thankfully found another job after that. Turns out he wanted me gone so he could hire his friend’s recently graduated daughter. And we work in HR by the way.
  6. My favorite? I was told I was “too polite” in my interactions with others. When I asked for an example of how I could improve, I was told to “say please and thank you less often.” It was another long year before I could get out of there.
  7. A somewhat more upbeat example: I once got a performance review that included “You need to dress more professionally.” I do fieldwork, and occasionally come into the office in field clothes (jeans, t-shirt, safety vest, safety glasses, steel-toed boots, etc) because I was doing my job. Apparently that wasn’t acceptable.

    The best part was, my interviewer was in jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers at the time, while I was in business casual. My response was simply to look at him, at which point he burst out laughing and said: “Hey, I just have to read it.” (Someone else submitted the review, anonymously, and he was obliged to discuss it with me.)

    I still work for the company. In fact, the same person is my manager. He’s a good guy, and after an effort on my part, I’ve established a better relationship with the folks who gave me the review.

  8.  I was told that no one could score over a 3 (out of 5) this year because we had too much change to cope with (x3 different managers in the year!). I over exceeded all my targets and spent £40k less than the previous year to achieve this. I feel a bit like companies of a certain size use them as a means of not giving people the pay rises they deserve. A previous example is being told that “we can’t increase your salary this year as you only scored a 3 on your end of year.”
  9. I was told I “use big words that make people feel stupid.”

    When I asked for an example, my boss could not give me any. When I asked who had said this, my boss would not say.

    A co-worker laughed at this story and said our boss was talking about himself.

  10. A former supervisor cited “attendance issues” on my performance review because I used my vacation time in small increments (half-day here, full-day there). I never missed meetings or deadlines and was available by phone or text 24/7.

    There’s a place on the form for a rebuttal, so I said, “if my supervisor had any problems with my use of vacation time/attendance, the time to bring it up, was when signing my time sheet every other week” (this had never been brought up as a problem, and was clearly a “reach” by someone who was trying to distract from their own incompetence.)

  11. The diagram of optimal thumbtack placement reminds me of the time my review included the fact that I had had to be taught how to paperclip pieces of paper together correctly.

    I am not kidding. At this company, you had to put the larger loop of the paperclip in the front and the smaller loop in the back. The person who told me this was astonished that I did not already know this. And that’s why it was on my review–I should have known this vital office skill before going to work there.

    Ever since quitting that job, I have been the world’s most random paper clipper.

  12. I was given straight “3”‘s on a 1-5 scale because the person I reported to did not understand my job or duties. This is what happens when the department leadership does not share your professional specialty. When I asked what I could do to improve, he said he did not know. At this point, I was past caring about what they thought as I was job seeking and had a new one in 2 months.
  13. My current boss in my first-year review gave me an item or two to improve upon during conversation and then after added a bunch of other items into my review that I couldn’t change and wasn’t made aware of in the meeting. His behavior has been quite sketchy as far as going from being a total micromanager and crippling my ability to do anything and now being completely hands off. My review this year was great so far, so we will see what happens. Last year’s review supposedly a few people said I was combative. I’m not–just honest and have a high quality of work expectations for myself and my team. Funny two women I worked with, both insecure, were not a part of my review this year and no one said anything about being combative. Funny how insecurity work
  14. Never received a horrible performance appraisal but was told verbally several times, I should not speak to employees.How does that work when you are HR Business Partner. The only HR personnel! Needless to say I was actually laid off for talking to employees.. kid you not! The management team, or should I say, “boys club” were disgruntled with employees coming to me complaining about their leadership tactics.. should I say, sexual harassment, abusive, demeaning acts.
  15. We had a clothing closet of donations of dress clothes for our clients to use when they needed something nice to go on interviews. I spent a whole day sorting through donations and hanging them in the space we had them stored. Our CEO came in and chastised me for hanging them on wire hangers. I felt like I was in the movie Mommie Dearest. Although it was not an official performance evaluation, it has stuck with me for many years as a really poor example of leadership and being a good supervisor role model.
  16. I once received a complaint about my sloppy punctuation on the subject line of an intra-office memo. No complaint about the substance of the memo. Or even the style of the body of the memo. An unpunctuated subject line.
  17. I once found my performance evaluation simply left on my chair. No discussion or meeting set to discuss. I had to request a meeting with my boss, the HR Director, to discuss my own performance evaluation. Oh and in that meeting, I had to request that she not refer to me as “little Ms. Snickerdoodle” (a play on my maiden name?) any longer, but most particularly at meetings with the other statewide HROs. True story.
  18. Many, many years ago I was summoned by the HR Director of a fairly big organization I worked at. Mr X I was told, needed to see me immediately. I was flummoxed and panicked, racking my memory for any instances where I screwed up or where in my mind, my work performance fell short. He barked “Enter” shortly after I knocked on his office door. Invited me to take a chair directly in front of his desk. I sat there nervously awaiting my fate as he picked up a folder and opened it. After half a minute of silence, me waiting, him reading the content of the said folder, he looked up at me and said: “Sorry, wrong Andy, you’re free to go”. What, the fudge? Seriously? My perception of him and his department was significantly altered after that episode of gross incompetence.
  19. My old boss at Red Hat put me on a CAP after I tweeted a recommendation of the book “Maverick” by Ricardo Semler. He asserted that in doing so I had undermined the chain of command. I quickly found a better boss.

This originally appeared at Inc.

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