We seem to have another fledgling theme on our hands, kids. Less than three weeks after Ron Baker and I sounded the death knell for performance appraisals, Richard Moran offers a variation on the tune with this post: “Death to Performance Reviews!” Mr. Moran starts here:

For those receiving the review, it was viewed as a make-or-break annual assessment that may or may not be accurate and took an enormous amount of time.  For those giving the reviews, it was seen as an annual series of torture-like meetings and sessions with results that may or may not be accurate and took an enormous amount of time.

Don’t those two sentences constitute the very epitome of every bureaucracy? To paraphrase: We have no idea what we’re doing. We have no idea why we do it. It makes no sense and gives neither pleasure nor reward to anyone. But we do it without question because … uh … we’ve always done it. (Alternatively, we do it because that’s the way we’ve always done it.)

I can’t decide what’s worse about bureaucracies — that they compel us to toil in rote, anonymous invisibility or that effecting change is the rough equivalent of turning an aircraft carrier by sticking your hand in the water: You might be able to to do it, but it’ll take a hell of a long time.

Such quibbling notwithstanding, let’s return to the performance review as Mr. Moran puts the dagger through the beast’s heart:

There was plenty of agreement about the onerous nature of the process and not as much agreement on the actual assessments that were given.  So why continue to do it?

Since I’m inclined to take Mr. Moran’s concluding question as a rhetorical one, I believe it’s been answered by my assessment of bureaucracies. But it does prompt another question that’s more philosophical (or perhaps psychological) in nature: What is it about bureaucracies that saps our souls such that we become their willing (if unwitting) agents? How is it that they can make us demean ourselves in the act of demeaning others?

One of the things that damaged my chances of bureaucratic success earlier in my career was my refusal to go to strip clubs. My response to such suggestions was standard, and it’s apropos here: I spend all day watching people degrade themselves for salary plus bonus. Why would I pay to watch people degrade themselves for tips?

Pick up the theme: Performance reviews have to go. We’ll all live longer.

Image by OpenClipartVectors, courtesy of pixabay.com.