Tag Archive for performance

Saccharine and Surliness

receipt pictureI spent a few hours at the local mall this past weekend with my fellow shoppers. Among them was the bro who mistakenly believed his friend was behind him on the escalator as he proceeded to share a tale peppered with the extremely liberal use of a phrase that describes, um, mothers and a certain proclivity for sexual activities. He swiveled his head around (I imagine because he hadn’t heard a grunt or guffaw from his bud)  and SURPRISE – found me!

In between all the good times and frivolity I did manage to do some actual shopping and interacted with a variety of clerks and sales assistants.  The experiences ranged from welcoming and enjoyable to pain-filled.  One clerk was on her cell phone throughout the encounter (“hold on; I gotta help this lady”).  Another was unable to scan an item due to an incorrect price tag and asked me (let’s not imagine for a moment that SHE could do this..) if I could go get another one that so could ring the transaction.  Which, naturally, I did.

Saccharine and surliness.  Assistance and agony.

And on all ends of the spectrum, I was asked to provide feedback on the service.  This is nothing new – a lot of large department stores and chains have been doing this for several years – “Please visit the website listed on this receipt, enter your code and put in my name, Trixie, to tell us about today’s shopping experience.”

How many customers actually take the time to do this? I never have, primarily due to the fact that as soon as I get home the receipts are dug out of bags, purse and pocket and tossed in the trash.

But I actually contemplated taking the time this weekend.   I wondered how best to capture the boredom and disgust with which Sarita hastily scribbled her name on the receipt as she asked me to complete the survey?  How to fully articulate, via a web portal, the fact that shortly after Sarita rolled her eyes as she instructed me to enter my PIN she reminded me to “make sure I praised her?”


Now I’m willing to cut folks working in retail some slack.  They spend hours on their feet, put up with rude customers, and do it all for the glory of  (generally) low pay.  It’s a tough job.  Not always sunny.  I get it.

But Sarita better expect the ‘shopping experience surveys’ to be a little gloomy too.

Now where did I put that receipt?





It’s Time for Performance Management Talk! Please (don’t) Kill me Now.


If there’s one topic that gets managers, employees and HR folks riled up it’s the topic of performance reviews.  Some folks advocate killing them.  Others like to wrap themselves in the warm, comforting cocoon of the typical old-fashioned standard check-list performance review.  Cup of cocoa in hand, snug in a snuggie, as the train of obsolescence comes hurtling down the tracks.

There are countless people talking about the subject, a slew of of HR dinosaurs hanging on to their tried-and-true forms, and loads and LOADS of opinions.

Luckily for YOU (dear reader), my friend Ben Eubanks has put together a fantastic Employee Performance Management Guide to help you sort through the clutter.  Please note the difference – Performance Management – not Performance Review(thanks).

Ben reached out to a few HR bloggers and asked if we wanted to contribute to an eBook to help HR professionals, managers, and business leaders learn more about this topic. The results are this free eBook which provides information and ideas to help you, as Ben likes to put it, “align goals, leverage talent, and avoid an organizational train wreck.”

In addition to my contribution, you’ll find awesome content from my pals Jennifer V. MillerTrish McFarlane, Steve Boese, Sean Conrad, Tim Gardner, Tim Sackett, and Michael Haberman.

So let the porter punch your ticket, settle in to the Club Car with the libation of your choice and journey along with us on this (NEW) Performance Management journey.


My Love/Hate Relationship with Training Activities

Training activities.  Classroom participation events.  Facilitated group learning exercises. Whatever.

Often, something designed to provide an “a-ha” moment to workplace learners ends up creating discomfort, dismay and even distress.  In an attempt to make training FUN (with a capital F!!) group facilitators require attendees to play BINGO or pass oranges with their chins or do art projects.  I’ve been there and done that – on both sides of the equation (mea culpa).

While an employee who is a creative or conceptual thinker may very much enjoy participating in such a learning environment, Mr. Practical and Ms. Reflective will quite possibly resist and end up just being annoyed.  And while most of us know by now that there are a variety of ways that people learn (visual, kinesthetic, auditory) for some reason a LOT of trainers/facilitators seem to want to focus on the fun-and-games in an attempt to d-r-a-w everyone into some sort of activity.  Are training facilitators frustrated wanna-be kindergarten teachers?  Disgruntled ersatz brownie troop leaders?  Discouraged community theatre directors who had their dreams of Hollywood directing stardom dashed?

Why the fixation with arts and crafts and skits and the like?


But I can tell you I’m straight-up conflicted.

Here’s some of the love:

  • I totally get into it when we have slinkies and Play-Doh and goofy toys strewn about the room so that during some monotonous training session I can make a bet with my tablemates to see who can stretch Stretch Armstrong’s arms the furthest.
  • I enjoy nothing more than being a member of a lively group that has to problem-solve and demonstrate that we “get” a just-learned concept via a presentation or a role-play (and the ability to create sets and use costumes just makes me go just bat-dip happy-crazy!!).

But here’s some of the hate:

  • I find it incredibly uncomfortable when a facilitator asks attendees to ‘read aloud’ for the group from a document which we all have and are fully capable of reading ourselves.  Not everyone has the solemn basso-rumbling projection of James Earl Jones.
  • I dislike forced games that are designed to BUILD the TEAM but only increase the likelihood that Joe from Accounting will never ever EVER be able to look at Gail from Marketing the same way again.  Ever.

Training is a tough gig.  I have great respect for anyone who designs and facilitates training programs that appeal to a cross-section of people with different learning styles and varied thinking styles.

But sometimes it sure makes me wonder – does the transfer of knowledge or information depend upon someone’s ability to role-play? Or make paper-chains out of construction paper? (**)

(**) yes; I had to do that once.  And no, I’ve never replicated it during any training session I’ve led.    You’re welcome.

Performance Conversations: A Radical Concept?

Yesterday I attended our local SHRM chapter meeting (menu:  seafood stuffed chicken breast and a delicious chocalte-y cake thing with caramel sauce) and heard my pal Ed Chaffin speak about Radical HR.  He led the group through a discussion of the things we should stop doing…and what we should do instead.  Some good and basic stuff including removing any talk about a certain piece of furniture, and the need to stop ‘sheep dipping’ – including thinking that one size will fit all employees or that we can make an impact on organizational culture by sending everyone off for a 1/2 day retreat.

And then Ed suggested that we “Stop the Annual Performance Review” and the traditionalists in the room clutched their pearls and clucked in disagreement.  Collectively the group cited the need for the performance review – compliance; having records; making sure the work is getting done; using the data for compensation decisions.

“Understandable,” said Ed, (paraphrase) “but rather than focusing on only those things, have conversations.  Provide ongoing feedback.  Think about how you’re driving performance.  Managers should be having monthly performance conversations with their employees.”

To which there was a reply “managers don’t have the TIME for monthly performance conversations in the real world.”


No wonder employees are disengaged.


I’ve chatted about this before (as have many many others).  But the model of the traditional performance review has, apparently, wrapped around HR practitioners like a comfy quilt.  On a cold day.  And no one wants to leave the cozy confines to step out into the scary, dark world where we hold conversations with people…not rating sessions.