Memories of 15 years of awkward and unsatisfying work performance appraisals came flooding back to me when I opened my 5 year old daughter’s school report recently. School reports or work evaluations, both are deeply flawed, and harmful.
Performance appraisals, always in the case of school reports and usually at the base of most work reviews, are a one-down evaluation by senior people determining another person’s worth and, often by extension, self-esteem. Judgment in its rawest form.
Judgments and other labels, whether right or wrong, are harmful due to their self-fulfilling nature, becoming law in the mind of the judge and very quickly in the mind of the judged.
Judgments roll off the tongue so easily. The composers would typically have had a pile of other detached evaluations to bang out at the last minute. The result is inevitably something rushed and concocted and prone to being totally misconceived (scream if you hear a sport analogy).
But we’re so conditioned to judging and being judged that we think nothing of it.
Tragically, true self-evaluation rarely comes into it (maybe in the form of vain appeal post-judgment). It seems to be accepted that a person’s worth can only be determined, annually and thoughtlessly, by “experts”, which is outrageous. This is the antithesis of self-determination and a huge threat to authentic behaviour…and it’s the very nature of the system.
I guess that’s because self-determination and authenticity are a threat to the system. Their presence tends to ruin the structure of command and control and evaporate the myths that glue a hierarchy.
It’s difficult to feel too sorry for a grown-up who has decided to just sit there and take it. But is my own daughter being actively TAUGHT to just sit there and take it? The thought makes my blood freeze; I have clearly seen in traditional work environments what happens when you play forward the effects of this kind of education.
Some options I am considering, in the face of my children being judged:
1. First of all, let my child be the first person to open the report, not me – I have never understood the sense behind that disempowering ritual.
2. Perhaps accompany them going back to their teacher to debate certain parts of the report. That sounds like a better bit of experiential learning in itself than most of the curriculum.
3. Even better, in advance of the school report, get them to write their own self-evaluation and submit it to the teacher to review (maybe along with a critique of the teacher, hee hee!).
At all costs, I want my children to know they do not have to meekly accept debilitating practices like Judgment Days at school. Then perhaps, when they’re adults, they will be better able to ignore the loose flurry of judgments they’ll inevitably be subjected to.
Rage against the machine Chris!! I find a good b*llocking, pointing out your weaknesses and flaws and few tears never hurt anyone 😉
The bigger problem is when you stop getting feedback (however inaccurate) – at that point you know you actually don’t count any more. You’ll probably tell me that you have to be strong enough to not care???
Thanks for reading the post. And thank you for the feedback…feedback is a good thing!
I think I would find it crushing to feel I don’t count. Perhaps it’s human nature to need a feeling of relatedness and involvement.
A culture of feedback strikes me as a very healthy thing, where people are communicating openly, and hopefully not too judgmentally. Real time feedback can really aid learning, and it promotes that relatedness and involvement.
I feel the problem arises when the the evaluation is externally initiated and delivered in a top-down, hierarchical way. I just don’t see this as the only way it can be done; there’s a wider choice than year-end evaluation or nothing.
As far as care goes, I think that not caring is probably the worst option (and I’m not sure that being able not to care implies strength). I care a lot about what other people think, and I want to meet their needs if I can (especially if they were employing me!).
But when it comes to me, no-one cares about me more than I do (because, understandably, no-one would bother thinking about me as much as I do). So why automatically put other people’s judgment ahead of mine? That doesn’t foster emotional stability and self-respect. Relying on other people’s opinion of me has me bouncing around like a pinball.
I prefer to see other people’s opinions as data, sometimes useful, but not the whole picture. Just as my blog post is likely to be to you!