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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 4/13/17

April 13, 2017 Dr. Jayne No Comments

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I unfortunately had to spend some non-quality time this week at the Microsoft Store. The pen for my Surface Pro tablet has been acting up over the last month and all troubleshooting maneuvers have failed. Since I’ve been on the road a lot, I’ve spent more time than I care to admit perusing various support articles, blogs, and commentaries on how to get it back up and running. Although the button was working, the business-end was not, and then the tip started to actually disintegrate. I had to wait until I was in a city that actually has a Microsoft store, and until I had free time during normal store hours to address it.

The staff at the store was eager to greet me, but then when they found out I was (gasp!) an individual consumer and not a corporate or enterprise customer, it started going downhill. The fact that I bought my device at Costco rather than directly from Microsoft was clearly an issue for them, and they made a big deal about not being able to locate the purchase in their system and having to use another system to find me (which they did, in about 20 seconds, so I’m not sure why we needed the drama). They then informed me that I was out of warranty on the pen. Apparently it’s not hard to be out of warranty when the warranty is only 90 days, which is pretty short in my opinion.

The rep did all the troubleshooting I had already done, then replaced the tip, which didn’t make a difference. He then proceeded to tell me he’d have to make me a tech appointment, but didn’t explain what that meant or what the timeframe might be. I was treated like a child when I asked, as if I should know intrinsically what a “Microsoft store tech appointment” expectation might be. As a consultant, I’m sensitive to my hourly rate and how much time and money I’m burning with exercises like this. Knowing the pen was about $50 and that I had been down for weeks and getting to the store when it was open was an ordeal, I asked if I could just buy a new pen and be done with it. He acted like that was the strangest thing he ever heard, then disappeared “to see if there is anything else we can do.”

I appreciate the fact that he was trying to save me money and resolve my issue, but it felt like an odd piece of “service recovery” after the initial stumbles over being an individual consumer and having purchased from a reseller. Ultimately they agreed to warranty the pen and swap it out, which took an additional 15 minutes of paperwork and back and forth. Counting the drive, the trek through the mall, and the troubleshooting, then getting home and back to work, I spent an hour and a half getting a new pen. Adding in the hours of troubleshooting that I did before even going to the store, you can bet that if this one malfunctions in the least I’m going straight to an online order for a new one.

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I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was working with a clinical informaticist that was learning the ropes of actually managing a team – dealing with expense reports, vacation approvals, and the other managerial functions that we don’t learn much about in medical school. This week we waded into the minefield that is the annual performance evaluation. I’m a firm believer in the concept that the annual performance review should never be a surprise. It’s important for managers to incorporate the concepts they’ve been discussing with the employee for the last year, and to make overall comments on progress (or lack thereof) but nothing should be a revelation. When there is a transition in managers or a change in job role, this is particularly tricky because one needs to incorporate any available feedback from the previous manager or role.

The good thing is that the time frame for the review process is usually clear, and shouldn’t be a last-minute exercise. Of course there are exceptions to that, such as when my previous employer decided to move everyone from “review on your anniversary date” to “review the entire company all at the same time, STAT,” which was a horrendous exercise I never want to repeat. But in this case, my managerial trainee had well over a month to track down information from previous managers, peruse previous reviews, assess completion of employee goals, etc. We had been talking about the process for a couple of weeks, and he seemed like he was with the program, so I was surprised when I met with him in person and he looked like a cornered animal. He said he had no idea what to do with some of the feedback he received from employees.

The company asks employees to write a one-page summary of their growth and accomplishments over the last year, highlighting successes and what they have learned from challenges. It’s the employee’s opportunity to offer specific details that can bolster a high-scoring review or give a new manager more flavor for what the employee has been working on and how they see themselves. However, it has the potential to be a mine field, because “one page free text” can apparently mean different things to different people. He has more than 20 people on his team, and let’s just say the variability of the personal narratives was striking. The most effective employees provided bulleted lists or well-organized statements, often with supporting quotes from other employees or customers. Those were easy to get through. The ones he wasn’t sure on handling were frankly ones that I wasn’t sure on handling either.

I’ve done a lot of performance reviews, going back to my time as Chief Resident. I can definitely say I’ve never encountered an employee or supervisee who decided to use the annual review as an opportunity to roast the company or provide openly hostile comments about management in writing. Until now, that is. The employees were clearly informed that their statements would be part of their records as part of the annual review process and would be seen by second-level approvers, yet still elected go down this path. Needless to say, after seeing their statements, their objective rankings on “insight” and “professionalism” just went down the tubes. Additionally, if there was a score for Tasseography, they’d score low on that as well. When you openly throw your manager under the bus, and fail to appreciate that your manager has a significant amount of executive support, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

These are the things that as a consultant make you say “hmmmm,” and also ensure the ability to propose ongoing engagements and assistance for your clients. We definitely need some coaching/education for these two employees, as well as creation of performance improvement plans. It’s also the opportunity to assist with the hiring process should they not be able to right themselves. In the short term, I’m going to continue supporting my new manager, and help him build the skills to get through this, manage these folks objectively, and not give in to his emotions. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on giving direction for future reviews. The idea that a review should not be a surprise goes both ways when employee comments are involved.

What’s your wildest performance review story? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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