The end of the year was a time I always dreaded. Throughout the year, I had the best of relations with my team members. However, at the end of the year, I would see anxious faces. This phase would sometimes turn to some minor hostilities after the appraisal results were announced and/or result in some resignations at the beginning of the next year. However, always after this phase, the year would settle down and we would get back to serious work and enjoy ourselves. So, I had got used to this cycle. I used to eat more curd during this period irrespective of the appraisal calendar of the company I worked in and irrespective of the climate during the appraisal period. This always helped me keep myself cool.
When I went got a job in Saudi Arabia, many people tried persuading me to forego the offer. They insisted that it would be better to try to set systems right in Kazakhstan instead. But I succumbed to the lure of the dollars. As it later turned out that I actually earned about 2 times what I had projected to earn in Saudi Arabia. Now, there was a very serious advice given to me at this point of time. My cousin told me a story of the appraisal of a Philippine in Saudi Arabia. The story is as follows.
One Philippine worked under an Indian Manager in Saudi Arabian Airlines and was posted in Jeddah. Most staff in Saudi Arabian Airlines roles are allocated company quarters at the Saudi Arabian Airlines township in Jeddah. For some reason, this Philippine was found inefficient by the Indian Manager (I say so as I have no means of validating this fact. I have normally found Philippines serious about their jobs and I have always found them very happy in their work). After receiving several reprimands from the Indian Manager, the Philippine went to the Indian Manager’s house and murdered him.
After some investigation, the Saudi Arabian Police zeroed on the Philippine as the murderer. As per law, he was tried and later sentenced to death penalty. As the wife of the Indian Manager did not agree for pardoning him, his head was chopped off.
What did I learn? The first thing I investigated on joining my new jobs was the demographic makeup of my team in Saudi Arabia. The team consisted of a few local Saudi Arabian and a few Arabs from other parts of the Middle East Asia and the rest were Indians and Pakistanis and Egyptians. The best part was that the staff directly under me were very few as most of the team members were sub-contractors. This meant that I needed appraising a very few number of people. This was very comfortable for me. But I was greedy. One of the first targets I set for the team was to reduce the number of direct staff in the team. This was in line with the management thought process as we wanted a lean organisation. Two team members wanted joining other teams and I welcomed their decision. Though I helped them authentically understand the new role they were to undertake, I was internally happy as we were moving to the goal. Later, in the second year, the team was transferred to IBM and I was left with just one team member. My happiness was unbounded. The second reason why I was very happy was that the management had chosen one team member to stay with me and this person was a very enthusiastic Arab who was keen to learn. After about 1 month, the management felt that I have so little work that this team member was also not required and shifted him to another department. I was the happiest person on Earth as I did not need appraising anyone any more.
So, at the end of the first year, I had no appraisal anxieties. However, I did appraise my team in the first year. I used a mathematical model for doing so. I do not want boring you with mathematical models for such trivial stuff. Instead, I will give you an extremely good formula devised through years of management experience.
We need understanding what is the most difficult part during an appraisal. Anybody will tell that it is dealing with the aggressive team members. I was also provided training for how to keep these aggressive team members under control during this appraisal meetings. However, as always, I did not remember what I was taught. Instead, I just went through the motion. I validated my mathematical model with my boss. After refinement, when he approved it, I knew that my job in this regard was done. But then, I did not know that our department would be outsourced at this point of time. So, I devised a formula, based on the interactions during that year’s appraisal meetings, to be used in the next year.
I noticed that even if the team does very well, it needs ranking the team members within the team. I cannot understand this till date. In my observation, due to this ranking within the teams, members of low performing teams get better grades than good performers of high performing teams. But then, we are all stuck with the bell curve. So, the problem for a manager is that how does he/she prepare his/her team for the ranks. I noticed that if this preparation could be done from the beginning of the year, it would be helpful. This is because if these ranks were announced at the end of the year, it would lead to surprise and this causes bad blood within the team. But then the next problem is how does the manager prepare his/her team from the beginning of the year.
One evening, while having Grilled Salmon, I came up with a brilliant idea. I told myself that I am human. Being human, I had to have preferences. I had to have preferences as I would have to select my heir. So, now the problem was converted to how do I make sure that my preference gets the desired rank unopposed. The solution was glaringly simple. All I had to do was as follows.
- Within the peers, I had to allocate the same or similar tasks.
- Next, I had to call regular status meetings for checking the updated status of each task. This meeting needed all the peers to be present in the meeting for the next part to succeed.
- During these meetings, when my preference would present his/her case, I would appreciate it with all my might. I would justify with all my creativity every action of this subordinate.
- During these meetings, when the others would present their case, I would find faults using all my creativity. The intensity of the fault-finding would be based on the ranking I had in my mind – more faults for the person to be ranked lower, less faults for the person to be ranked higher.
This is very powerful formula. It guarantees that during the appraisal meeting at the end of the year, the team members will himself/herself recall all the faults pointed out to him/her during the entire year.