Appraising the future

  1. At my law firm we did annual appraisals. Of course we did. We were market leaders, a state of the art law firm. Even as far back as 1980. As a young associate solicitor I had my first in 1981. It comprised broadly the following:

Partner: ‘Sit down, Geoff.’

Me: ‘Thank you.’

Him: ‘Well, how do you think it has gone?’

Me: ‘Well, ok. I think.’

Him: ‘Good. So…?’

Me: ‘Well…?’

Him: ‘Must get on.’

They improved. I became one of them. We improved. We took it very seriously – in theory. It was just that, on the day, things kind of slipped.

Partners were to offer constructive criticism.

Him: ‘Oh and well done.’

Then we were encouraged to press for some self analysis from the associate.

Him: ‘Really how do you think it has gone?’

We agreed to focus on the specific job done, so the associate had a reference point.

Him: ‘How do you think it has gone? Specifically.’

And at all times we would be positive.

Him: ‘No really. Well done.’

And then we reached 1995 and forms appeared and we poured over them and the associates poured over them and we read what was written on the forms and we discussed each answer with the analytical minds you would expect to be brought to bear by a serious, top notch law firm. Prepared, we went into the appraisal meeting…

Him: I liked the way you filled in the form…

And it still went much like the above except, afterwards, we filled in the boxes that recorded what had been said and the responses. And that was the opening salvo in weeks, if not months of negotiation between interviewing partner and associate around what might, or indeed should have been said and the likely responses had the partner actually said what he had now written.

We gave HR more power to make us behave. We ignored them. HR took sticks to us. Then planks, and girders. They went on courses in mind management and torture to try and force us to say what we should say.

They thought they had the answer: the 360° appraisal. They were sure, if the associates could appraise us then we would them. It was sure to be symbiotic you see.


Of course not. These are young men and women who wanted to become us; they knew what was expected from a partner/associate appraisal. Say what they thought we wanted to hear. And us? Say what would keep them working hard.

Finally they scrapped the annual appraisal as a stand alone set piece; instead there would be more regular appraisals, with the purpose of ensuring every associate was assessed against a matrix of basic levels of skill expected of someone at each stage of their career and then judged against the experience they had in fact received.

Not micro management, more water torture. They called it Career Milestones; soon we called it Career Millstones, weighing everyone down.

I’m sure it’s improved.

But I retired and my new employer took a different view on how to carry out appraisals…

Me: you know you wanted the door fixed…

The Textiliste: oh for heaven’s sake, not again. Just leave it to me, would you?

I think, in future, I’ll find someone like minded so we can appraise each other

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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22 Responses to Appraising the future

  1. All sounds very familiar

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So…like-minded with that tortoise ???

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mary Smith says:

    Brings back miserable memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. HA! At least you know where you stand with the Textilist! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. stevetanham says:

    Shades of BBC’s ‘W1A’, there, Geoff. A shared ‘corporate’ past, by the sound of it…


  6. gordon759 says:

    Very familiar,

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Victo Dolore says:

    That gave me chills! My poor staff…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Allie P. says:

    Ugh, yeah we’ve tried all the hits here too: annual reviews, quarterly reviews, 360 reviews, standardized forms, free form. Good times.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ritu says:

    Lol! We have Performance Management thrice yearly!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. JT Twissel says:

    Torture is right… My company had quarterly performance reviews – I don’t know whether it was better to give one or get one…. My roomie is fond of giving his opinion about my performance of the household chores and I’m fond of ignoring him!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      that sounds like an ideal structure to appraisals – you take from them only what you want to yet you allow them their appraising moment too..


  11. I used to conduct the annual teacher appraisals in my school and a smaller one nearby. I retired early from education. I agree with the tortoise!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Appraising The Big Beasts #workplace #memories #management | TanGental

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