Monday, November 22, 2004

The Appraisal

I haven't faced such a big interview panel even at the time of my recruitement so it was a bit of surprise for me but neverthless I expected something of this sort coz some of my colleagues have already been interviewed and they told me that there were 3 of them 2 of them were constants which have already been declared at the top of the page, they include my Project Manager and the HR Manager, the remaining variable was initialized at the run time it was either of the HR Executive.
After a long wait this was becoming a more of a dwindling task then anything else. I was told atleast 4 times that the interview would be in half an hour and then something or the other has come in due to which the interview was postponed. Sometimes they couldn't find me on my desk and sometimes something else happened that they interviewed the candidate after me.
I already didn't had the interest in such a useless exercise and postponing the interview on myriad occassions has got my interest to the rock bottom. I always had the believed that these exercises are just to pacify the top management that the HR and Admin department is working. In a small organisation like ours (strength 60 odd) every person knows the other and atleast the TL's and PM does know about who is working and who is not. It's the same story in all the organisation i guess every one know how much a person has worked, what all good has come out of his work and what wrong he did while working.
So I did not have much interest in that appraisal interview as I was sure that the top shots must have decided by now who all should get how much. It was like I was watching a yesteryears drama on doordarshan where before going in the interview room lalaan singh used to knew that he has been selected as his uncle knew the member of the interview panel or coz he is the son of such a such person.
So it was more or less similar to that situation, the only change could be today this was an appraisal interview of a software professional. This was only the second time in my career that I was going to have an appraisal interview, the first time it happened it went a bit sour and the result I left the job. It's like the candidate always feel that he is delivering more to the company then he/she is paid and on the other side of the road the company thinks that he is paying the employees more than the other companies and providing its employees world class eminities and that its employees are always demanding.
The only thing I had interest in was the interview, I have always liked to present my views and when its like the PM sitting there and listening its sort of good. Not that I can't go and put forth my view other times but its like presenting the views at the right time and when asked for and I loved to have cross questions and answering them shrewdly. It was like I also knew that the question asked is tricky and now I have to dodge somehow. You can't always (or I wud say anytime) call a spade a spade in a working environment. Your views should not hurt anyone and also you should present your views, thats the trick because the people sitting out there have big egos and there ears are programmed to listen to some pattern of words.
Whenever you want to present your idea against your superior, "This is a fantastic idea you have put, if I may only add this point to your idea...". For a completely useless solution use, "The solution is good in short run but it may fail in the wrong run.."
So with all those ideas in my mind and with a feel to have some fun I moved on to the conference room after 5 minutes of intimation by the HR himself. It was a chilly day of november, we were going to have our company's party latter in the evening and I was preparing for it too and after that I like many others was looking forward for the diwali vacations. I moved inside...
We have this round glass table in our conference room that I have always liked and have at times thought that when I will have my house in pune then I am gonna put that table up. So the two constants were sitting on the other side of the table and there was a vacant chair on a bit distance from my PM, I soo realised that chair was for the variable and I moved on to the only other vacant chair in the room exactly opposite to the two constants, ready for a half an hour joy ride.
I must admit as they were prepared with some of the questions I was also prepared with some of the answers at that time and I knew where they can catch me and I was also thinking of the points where I can get them grounded, believe or not it was going to be a bull fight, who was the bull remains to be seen.
I still remember my first appraisal procedure it was also my first company. As I completed my one complete year (there was a flat appraisal across the board in first six months and thats why I was in that company) a formal appraisal was due and on my colleagues and my consicousness insistance I went on to the boss to thank him for all the support he has shown me and all the opportunities he has given me to work in the organization. I asked him to provide me the feedback of my one year's work and most of all to remind him of the appraisal through all these talks.
Boss was also shrewd as all the bosses on this earth are, I guess it is one of their attributes, "I will talk to you in sometime about your performance". 2 days passed , 5 days passed, 1 week passed. After 15 days the boss calls me and apologises for the delay, "sorry I got stuck in some work so your appraisal is a bit delayed. I am sending you this document, fill it up and get back to me as soon as possible.
I went on to the desk and opened my mail, I hated all these things as to tell others what all have you worked on and what all have you achieved for the oragnisation. That form was not much different. The questions those followed were very much similar to appraisal questions of any other company.
1) Give a breif description of the projects you worked on and the leads and project managers you have worked under.(Though for me only PM has been my boss and the question presumed that I have worked under more than 1 PM's and I had worked on 2 projects which my Boss was well aware of. So the question seemed to be like I am one of the thousand employees of the organisation that my PM don't have a clue about).
2) Deliverables to the company and the quality of the deliverables.( Do we ever write deliverable quality bad and full of bugs and what can come in case of a programmer in the deliverables section except the code I could never understand why there were so many rows in that section)
3) In which other ways have you beneiftted the company apart from what you are supposed to deliver.( Other ways that I have benefitted company now that was a real tough one, I started thinking for a moment leave aside the company in which ways have I benefitted myself by being in this company, the answer didn't came till long and when it came it wasn't convincing enough so I stopped thinking about my part and meditated on the other ways I have benefitted the company. After a long thought process the answer was 'none', yes 'none' I didn't benefitted company in any other way. It was only I stayed and worked here for 16-18 hrs a day for the company and
4) How do you see your progress in this organisation?(I guess no idiot is going to answer it in negative even if he/she feels it strongly but yea I try to answer this question with utmost sincerity without letting the person sitting on the other side get any bad feel about me.)
5) What are the 3 bad and 3 good things you like about the organisation? (Good things are x,y,z and I still have to find some bad things coz what is bad in my view mite be good after all and it could be my inexperience that I find it bad so I am still not sure about the bad things. Isn't it at good one?? I believed it was when I first answered it and as soon as I completed that answer I said bravo!!. One thing that is to be kept in mind always is that when boss or a person sitting above you asks about the bad things or the weaknesses of the organization or himself/herself, he/she doesn't really mean to listen to your well thought views. Boss has some preconceived idea about that answer and would always love to listen to any answer on those lines, you try to differ by telling them the real weakness and they will rip you apart by asking myriad questions on that one simple answer as to why do you think so? what could be the reason for that weakness? what steps can we take to remove that ? and most important of all you think that is a weakness but is it really a wekaness? After half an hour or may be if your bad luck is really bad then after an hour the boss will make you feel that the weakness you have mentioned is really not a weakness but a mirage created by you and offcourse you will bow down to it and if you will bow down that time then why to waste time bow down initially at least that will save your time.
Once my boss was sharing a smoke with me (offcourse that is a dangerous proposition never take initiative in that unless and until you are compelled to do so) and he said Man!! we are growing at a fast pace much faster than the biggies like Infosys and Indus and I knew at the outset that he is talking about his growth when he said "we" but I didn't mind much as he is also a human after all and he can also get emotional at times without not knowing what he is saying....
6) How has been your relationship with the clients and how did they like your work?(Has any employee remained in a company without having a good relationship with the client....???? hahaha...literally i am laughing guys .....just think for a while about the extent of stupidity of this question. If an employee is not able to keep good relationship with the company's client then can he/she be retained for even one day? You can spoil relationship with anyone in the company and can still afford to be retained in the company but when it comes to the client no one can help you out. You win for yourself and you also loose for yourself in this case. So this question as to how I have been keeping my relationship with my client is complete farce.
Getting back to my current appraisal when the bull was yet to be decided I had taken the seat and was ready for the onslaught and believe me it was all the same as has been the case several times in several lives. Some excerpts:
What are the three things that have helped you grow in the company and three things that have hampered your path of progress?
I must say I didn't give an idea to this question and just went away with what all was their in my mind.
What are your expectations from this appraisal? God I had been dying for this expectations, my expectations as similar to those of any other employee working here would have.
Cross question: what amount you think is suitable ?? I must admit I wasn't ready for this one coz I thought that company would be decent enough not to ask this and moreover ask this to a person like me but now that the googly was thrown so I had to play somehow keeping my wicket intact.
"This is for the organisation to decide as to how good I have been to the company as a resource, I can't quote a figure, it's for you people to decide. "But why can't you quote a figure?" coz if I did and I didn't get that amount then i wud be disappointed, as these words went out of my mouth I knew I am grounded and this has paved the way for further questions and yes they did come and man I played them well enough according to me. "What if you don't get that time?" Now the question was about does money matter to you or not and offcourse it did but to a certain extent and that extent was extreme at this time. If I don't get that amount then i wud have to compromise on some aspects and the organisation has to compromise on some fronts. And I was in no mood to comment on the latter part of my statement but I knew now this is going to be discussed in great deal and it did. I felt like I am walking a tight rope and I have to keep a balance, it was not as though if I will fall everything will end for you but at times you just want to mantain balance for living upto your reputation.
A few other stupid questions came my way which I can promise you had no relation whatsoever with this appraisal, it is like if you have come up to this room let us have some or the other chat. It's like : "Huzoor aapka bhi aehtaram karta chaloon, idhar se gujra tha socha salaam karta chaloon".
Then the last words went up, you have any other question for him? "no I don't", "neither I have something to ask, except that if he wants to ask something himself".
"No, none at all"
Thank you and I walked out....