Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The measure of your worth

Each year I am asked to write several reviews for my peers and supervisors. Each year, I try to do my best to write a fair, balanced and when appropriate positive review for each person. If I have some constructive criticism to add I do so with an example of how to apply the suggested improvement. I spend at least a two hours on each person's review, the harder reviews are usually those where constructive feedback is necessary. When the economy dropped we were all required to rely increasingly on stats and numbers to pad these reviews for evidence of our fiscal worth to the company. You must explain how much money the person saved in terms of man hours saved or how many dollars were saved because the person applied some frugal solution to work. Now, I have nothing against this approach to running a business, but to be frank when you use a pencil to the nubbins there's really no other use for it except as maybe a projectile object. Adding up the value of my co-workers in a purely quantitative fashion made it seem as if they were and and I was completely expendable.

When asked to do the reviews this year, I almost responded with the enthusiasm of a nihilist... what's the point? Or this is so 'gay,' you're actually encouraging us to be less productive or produce less solutions of quality by requiring us to measure our worth by how cheaply we can get by. Perhaps if I set up my review this year with the bent... I proved my worth and thus averted the possibility of having my job outsourced to one of our third world branches. Maybe this might be a better way of proving my worth.

I sat in a organizational meeting today... in which we were assured that the ranking system would no longer be held to the firm quota system (ie. 5% must go, 5% must be held on probation) that was used in the past. Of course, they could not do this consistently every year during a down turn, because at some point, they would start cutting their productive workforce. They're moving and a churning right now, and taking a new direction for the development of their products, so it would be in their best interests to keep the experienced and skilled folks around.

As for my own review... I got a lot of positive feedback; which felt good, but I was shocked to hear from my manager that I was most admired for the fact that I did not fold under the pressure of having to assimiliate such an immense amount of material and then build applications accordingly after having so little time to acclimatize to the environment. Little did she know that I was so close to loosing my head and running out the door in a panic. I also have this ability to take things like a donkey... work, I mean. I don't start freaking out until I know for sure that I cannot do something, then I usually figure out a way to break that down or restructure deadlines as necessary. I do think that I'm suffering from not being able to have enough time to produce solutions of quality.

For some people, it's enough to do what they have to do without questioning the value of your work. I know that the idea of being a post it note with a name which may or may not get posted above a line makes me feel devalued. On the otherhand the staunch supporter of meritocracy in me thinks that this is all part of the game, the survival of the fittest. If I don't want to swim with sharks I should build myself a boat and pull myself out of the water. I'm trying, I'm trying.

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