(mis)Management through nostalgia!

It’s performance appraisal time and a bunch of middle management folks are sitting around talking while working on the normalisation – the tedious job of fitting individual performances to a bell curve.

“The chaps today just aren’t like we were at their age. We worked 15 hour days, we held ourselves fully accountable for everything, we turned up for all the meetings – man, these days folks need to be spoon-fed. And their attitude – lax is an understatement. I wonder how long it will take these guys to become managers like us” and so it goes. It’s a sad conversation over some insipid coffee. Hearing them talk almost gets you worried about the future.

And that’s when a colleague – an eternal optimist – pulls a chair across and beams at me. “These manager folks dragging down your spirits with their bell curve stories huh?’ She asks.

We decide we will take a fresh stock of the situ from a data standpoint (out of say 400 freshers a decade back, these 4 have graduated to become managers) – so what does this tell us – we see not one but four possible scenarios:

1. That the managers are right, they are super men/ women. The current batch needs to step up if they want to emulate their managers’ performance. But there may have been others who were just as smart and hardworking and yet didn’t make it – so there could be a survivor bias at work here that these guys should be cautious about!

2. The managers simply lucked out! Four out of four hundred (actually fewer considering people who would have quit etc) would have anyway made it to this role – it just happened to be these folks and they are now fitting a narrative to explain their success

3. Maybe they actually un-lucked out! The rest of their batch are probably doing things they believe in/ are relevant for the future (startup’s, social work, playing tech/ business/ client roles) and these four are a few of those left behind on old-age roles – it’s just that they don’t recognise it yet!

4. Effectiveness vs busyness – there’s a difference. In today’s world perhaps the new folks are tending to effectiveness as opposed to looking busy. Maybe the managers need some reverse mentoring – it’s they who need to adjust!

We both break into a smile. The more you think about it, it’s not the world that’s getting worse – it’s only our world-views that need updates. And once our frame of reference changes, the world appears in all its glory!

Would you agree?

One comment

  1. Our world is changing is an understatement! And our views certainly need updating.. appraisal is a time of reflection not just for those who are judged but also the judges.. great post to provoke some serious contemplation

    Unfortunately, these are too infrequent and annual. The process needs to change to a more frequent basis. Agile methodology does just that, break down into smaller chunks of manageable work loads and regular feedbacks.

    Besides good coaches are needed just like in agile to help these conversations top be focused, actionable and objective assist from being data oriented.

    Short of all of these, we’ll be at it again next year with similar concerns..

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