Catchphrase, But Without Mr Chips.

In the world of work ones performance is monitored and measured constantly. Punctuality, workload, effort, length of breaks, aspiration, goals. From the second you arrive to the moment you leave, and probably for some time after you’ve got home, your effort is graded. It’s a necessary inconvenience for the most part, without some sort of scale against which your aptitude is measured, you could turn up and eat biscuits all day, googling flying squirrels while a pool of boredom induced drool collects on your desk. Those shadowy management sorts do need to make sure you’re doing something at least vaguely work related, it is after all what they pay you that handsome wage for. However, it does seem a tad over the top to insist on several employee assessments every single year. A quarterly assessment, a six month assessment, an annual assessment. Tests, personal statements, ability scores and hours of paperwork surely statistically pointless. Whatever happened to just knowing your staff.

I have had a few office jobs and in most of them the procedure has been the same. You start by filling in a fairly lengthy document, seemingly designed to back you in to a corner of exaggeration and bluster. You are asked to remind those who filled the position in the first place what the position entails, you are tasked with deciding how efficient you are in your role, and you are persuaded to reveal your hopes and dreams for advancement within the company. There is always a word count on these things, usually it shows the maximum, but occasionally they require a minimum amount of drivel. So you have to drivel, but you don’t want to get demoted, or even fired, so you have to drivel convincingly. Basically you are to embellish in order to survive. Surely the person in charge can have a minute long conversation with everyone and find all these things out, negating the need for typing and describing and inflating and wasting so many work hours.
After you’ve filled out your form, management have a little look and then you have a nice little meeting. You discuss things and explain your previously written explanations, certain criteria are ticked off, motions are gone through. You have to use certain buzzwords – a bit like Catchphrase but without Mr Chips – and over sell everything. For all the authenticity involved, you may as well inform the boss that within the year you will have both tripled the monthly profit and trained a team of ruthlessly efficient Koala bears in the art of cold calling. Nobody gains anything, neither side can possibly take anything away from the situation, because one of you has been sticking rigidly to a set format and the other has been telling the former exactly what they want to hear. Silly, silly, silly. Of course, them in charge do need to know things about their staff, but presumably they already do because, well, they’re in charge aren’t they? They manage their team, so surely they know all those things that they apparently need to already.
I try to be fairly honest about my feelings on this subject even in the work place, where traditionally you’d probably just keep your mouth shut, so my employer knows that I don’t hold employee assessments in high regard. In each office based job where I have been required to involve myself in this nonsense, it has gone thusly: Form filled in (to minimum), meeting opened with “Well, as you know I hate these things”, ten to fifteen minutes of broken conversation in which the only fact forthcoming is that I don’t really know what to say, the odd buzzword slips out begrudgingly, offer sentiments of desire toward advancement, keep job, keep face, maintain status quo. Not the band. Current affairs dictate that my present employment be maintained indefinitely, affairs including a small, dependant human child, a complete lack of funds and a place in my personal timeline where it seems sensible to earn more money. More money is usually exchanged for more work or increased responsibility. Or both. So more recently there has been added honesty in my ramblings about promotions and moving up the ladder. It’s just that the ladder I have in mind is quite small and just allows me to reach the Kit-Kats on the counter until something better pops up.
Jobs then, are important. But I really don’t think we need to go through some sort of grey, shirt and tie wearing, fictional character spinning Employee’s Got Talent, crossed with a low market ‘boardroom’ moment from The Apprentice, just so everything can stay the same. If you’re trying, you will continue to try. If you don’t, you won’t. Nothing has changed, except that you’ve had to either pretend you’re interested or state what you are doing to the person who watches you do it. My biggest concern though, is that the entire planet is controlled by people who have excelled almost entirely because they impressed in assessments. A world where smiling and bull shitting gets you to the top, where you do what has to be done because it has always been done, until something happens that isn’t in the manual and you go ‘oops. I dunno’ and shrug. And things go badly wrong and they assess your culpability, internally or legally, individually or through the media. And you pass, because you’re good at those things. And everything gets slowly worse.

But that would never happen.

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