As Guild battles Reuters PIPs, a reason to be wary of appraisals
After a damaging season of PIPs – and too many departures from our Guild unit – Thomson Reuters top managers are continuing the process that has led to so much pain: the deeply flawed performance management program. Expect your manager to call you in for a mid-year job appraisal if he or she hasn’t already done so.
In the earliest days of the current contract with TR, the Guild advised members to participate in this process. We departed from our longstanding recommendation that members remain passive in the process because the new collective bargaining agreement says, almost in words of one syllable, that the performance management program cannot be used in discipline. This had been a goal of ours for more than 20 years.
But that was before Editorial management unleashed Performance Improvement Plans on 30 members. Rather than spurring improved job performance, in practice these PIPs spurred “attrition” among senior Reuters journalists. PIPs targeted veterans (recipients have a median length of service of 18 years, compared with 11 years for everyone else). And so far, they have succeeded in getting rid of a handful of them, some voluntarily and others not.
PIPS, AS MANAGEMENT DESCRIBES THEM
We are fighting against the company’s toxic misuse of the performance management program in individual sessions with management and through grievances and arbitration. The first arbitration involving the company’s misuse of the performance management program began yesterday. The Guild has yet to put on its case and the testimony is sequestered, which means it can’t be communicated here. However, the company’s opening statement offered
some through-the-looking-glass ideas of what PIPs are.
“The PIP is a benefit to employees,” said Ana Salper, a company lawyer with Epstein, Becker & Green. “PIPs are a coaching tool … PIPs are not punitive in nature.” Anyone who’s participated in a PIP in any way can make their own judgment about the accuracy of any of those statements. Needless to say, we disagree with all of them. A second hearing in this case is tentatively set for August 20.
DEALING WITH MID-YEAR APPRAISALS
The Guild’s advice on mid-year appraisals remains the same as last year, with an added note of caution because of the way managers have used the appraisal system to attack some members. Participating in appraisals may help you improve your score and thereby increase your chances of getting a higher discretionary raise next spring – which is in addition to the Guild-negotiated 1.5 percent across-the-board raises we got earlier this month and that we’ll get
However, as we battle managers’ skewed interpretation of what PIPs are supposed to do, remember that the appraisal process is flawed and highly subjective, with danger zones you should be wary of.
If your manager asks you for a self-assessment, the Guild recommends that you respectfully decline. Your manager should be familiar enough with your work to assess your performance. But if your boss absolutely insists, we suggest you give yourself a rave review. Don’t give your supervisor ammunition to rate you poorly.
If your manager requests a colleague assessment, part of what’s known as a 360 review in management-speak, the Guild recommends you respectfully and forcefully decline, and let your steward know if the manager insists.
Rating your colleagues is an especially risky task for Guild members and not a great management ploy if what they’re looking for is effective teamwork. That’s because job appraisals are one of the things bosses use to determine annual
discretionary raises, which are drawn from a limited pool of money. That gives an incentive to every employee to praise themselves to the skies and trash everybody else in their work group. Not exactly the way to get an honest
picture of what’s going on and who’s doing what.
Since many of us work with colleagues outside the United States, you may get requests from colleagues in other regions to do a colleague assessment, and you may be tempted to write a glowing review for them. The Guild suggests that
you do not do this, for consistency’s sake. If you wouldn’t rate the colleague next to you, why rate the colleague on the other side of the ocean?