My main employee objectives this year? Avoid slitting my wrists before the end of the meeting and, hopefully, become less of a cynic.
Before I put too much effort into that second one, can I begin by exposing what I believe is the only reason behind the annual charade otherwise known as "employee performance objective-setting": someone very slightly higher up the food chain than you needs to cover their rear end.
On the face of it, it sounds sensible. In order to evaluate how well you have performed over the course of a year, we begin that year by setting a few targets which you commit to achieving.
Except, this is how my so-called objectives have been going today:
Boss: "Hey Nina, as you know HR want us to fill in these objectives by the end of the week. Please can you write up a list of your objectives and we'll sit down and discuss them later today."
Me (feigning surprise): "You want me to draw up my own objectives?"
Boss: "Yes. You know better than me what you're working on."
I gave up on the illusion many moons ago that management know what they want, let alone how to articulate it and how to achieve it.
I should first of all give credit, I guess, for the fact we're going through this pointless process in January, rather than in March or April.
But more to the point -- isn't it management's job to define what it is they expect from their employees?
Of course it is. But I gave up on the illusion many moons ago that management know what they want, let alone how to articulate it and how to achieve it.
So this year I'm going with a different strategy.
Screw the insincere promises to "further drive xyz processes going forward" and to "seamlessly liaise with team whoever in order to optimise whatever in the best interests of the company".
This year, rather than fill the form with platitudes and management claptrap, it's going to be a wishlist of all the things I want from this company. Time to look after number one.
Us millennials are always asking for more meaningful work, apparently. How unreasonable.
But if meaningful work is out of the question, I at least want to see an improvement in my salary.
Objective #1: "20% base pay rise ASAP". That one went straight on the list.
Second, I'm irritated by the fact my job title still includes the word "specialist". Since the company is now hiring entry-level "marketing managers" and "customer success managers", each of whom manage exactly zero subordinates, I feel I'm entitled to the same title.
Objective #2: "Upgrade my job title from 'specialist' to 'manager' with immediate effect". So at least I'm not left behind by job title inflation.
And third, if I'm not learning much on the job anymore, then acquiring new skills will certainly help me with my next role somewhere else. Sorry, I mean with my current employer.
Objective #3: "At least 10 days of external training at company expense, including travel budget and to take place during normal working hours". It's important they don't try to make me pay for any travel expenses or expect me to do it in my own time.
Very optimistic, you might be thinking. But screw it. I want these things and if you don't ask, you don't get.
So I presented my wishlist to my boss in our meeting this afternoon. He wasn't particularly fazed about any of them, but he expressed that it might be tricky for his boss or for HR to approve all three requests.
Put differently, he felt it would involve less effort on his behalf to lower my expectations than to push for these things on my behalf.
Helping his subordinates to grow and develop professionally was one of the things he was supposed to be doing already
However I soon made him realise that there was only one alternative to signing off on these three objectives of mine: He would need to come up with new objectives -- additional work he definitely did not want.
But I sweetened the deal for him.
I pointed out that his agreeing to my objectives would not only make him and his team look better ("in the eyes of senior management", *eye-roll*), he could even make use of my objectives to define his own performance objectives, which he had yet to define, obivously.
I explained to him how helping his subordinates to grow and develop professionally was one of the things he was supposed to be doing already. Therefore, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to embellish this task as one of his main objectives for the year -- something along the lines of "foster employee seniority within the team".
He loved the idea, especially the word "foster". He sensed that not only could he get me off his back for a few months, he could also appear "leader-like" at last in the eyes of HR, who, he confessed, had been giving him a hard time in recent months. (I can't think why.)
"Let's do it Nina, great thinking" he announced, like a mentor proud of his apprentice.
Just as I was about to punch the air in victory, his phone rang. "I need to take this," he said. "Why don't you start drafting out my objectives, and I'll be back in five minutes. Thanks."
So here I am, still waiting, 40 minutes later. I've written out not just my own performance objectives, but my boss's too.
Will any of these bullet points and successions of cringeworthy buzzwords ever be taken seriously, let alone implemented during the course of the year? Who knows.
Will my boss even come back to our meeting, so we can get this bullshit exercise signed off once and for all?
Somebody please put me out of my misery.