Rating your mate/date

Tuesday - 4/24/2012, 2:00am EDT

How would you like it if your spouse or significant other rated your performance, then made his/her findings known to friends and neighbors? (That was supposed to be witty. Apologies if this question actually hits home.)

In this fantasy (we hope) world, you would naturally expect and hope that your performance would be rated as superior. As in able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, right? But what if you were rated less-than-satisfactory, as in inadequate, loser, what-was-I-thinking? Would you vow to get better, or would you really rather not even know.

For one thing, what traits, abilities, talents and potential liabilities would go into the most personal of personal ratings? How many points off for snoring.

For the past hundred years or so, Uncle Sam has been wrestling with how best to reward top performers, and to motivate people who need motivation.

The most recent effort — the Bush administration's defense-oriented National Security Personnel System — was hailed as the solution. Millions were spent on training (using lots of outside contractors), changes, education and moving people from General Schedule grades into pay bands. Federal unions hated it from day one and convinced Congress to unravel it.

Millions are now being spent into squeezing people (many of whom got higher performance-based salaries) back into the old, appropriate GS mold. There are grievances and lawsuits galore.

A new, better, this-time-for-sure system is in the works. The question is: Will it work? Can any system in which humans rate other humans be made completely fair, to the point where those who don't get straight As buy into it? Answer, probably not. Here's some comments from been-there-done-that feds in response to Friday's column on the subject:

  • " I agree with all that was said in today's column on Performance Ratings ("What do performance ratings really measure?"). While many will agree that the Performance Rating System is flawed and performed for the wrong reasons, we need to look at what is supposed to be measured, the methodology as to how to do it and, how can performance and evaluations be improved — no easy task.

    "Federal job activity and results are difficult (but not impossible) to measure. I perform policy analysis work and my outcomes are difficult to quantify (How many papers did I write?, Were they 1 page or 50 pages?, Were they used?, What level of management read them?, etc.). I work for a federal agency that contracted with a 'performance-based' contractor to help with a reorganization and performance-measurement system. This company employed a number of MBA's that specialized in quantitative analysis of business metrics (now there's a mouthful for you!); they developed metrics that in the end, meant nothing as they were attempting to quantify qualitative activity.

    "A car dealer can quantify the performance of its employees (How many cars did you sell? What was the profit margin?, etc.). The same is true for many jobs, many of which are not federal. How does the National Cancer Institute measure the effectiveness of a cancer researcher who has researched many cancer regimens that do not work? Did he fail or did some of his work lead to a breakthrough years later? Did his 'failures' eliminate some dead-end research path that no longer needs to be explored and thus save money in the long run? Such are the variables that make such performance measurement difficult." D.S.

  • "I worked for the federal government for nearly 35 years before I retired. It seemed that the only way to move up was to move out, unless you were one of the supervisor's 'buddies'. The performance-rating system was and always has been 'rigged' in favor of management. Did I ever receive a performance award? Yes, but only if it was given by my supervisor's supervisor or if there was no way for them to avoid it. I was even given an award once (non-monetary) by an outside agency when my direct supervisor was trying to put his 'buddy' into my job. The performance-rating system has been flawed ever since the Carter administration put it into effect. Is there a way to fix it? Probably not as long as the present mind set in government management stays as it is.

    "Glad to be out of it." Rick T.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

The full name of Cap'n Crunch, the avuncular sea-captain mascot of cereal fame, is Cap'n Horatio Magellan Crunch, according to MentalFloss.