Last July I did an experiment outside of our usual performance review process and sent my own survey out.  I wanted a way to get anonymous feedback because I find people in general struggle with giving direct and honest feedback.  I thought using Net Promotor Score and an anonymous comment box would get me honest feedback.

Personally, I have never worked anywhere that has had an effective performance review process.  It’s usually a once a year activity, filled with bureaucracy and based on annual goal setting which I find quite ridiculous.  Most of the time the goals have been long forgotten or your manager ends up making up something.

One time before my annual review many years back my manager flat out said I wouldn’t get a salary increase because I was “near the top of the range” and I couldn’t “exceed expectations” because there would be nothing for me to improve on.  That was before the review started.  How motivating.

Here were my results from July:

NPS: +68 (22 responses, 15 promotors, no detractors)

Main comments:

– I could do a better job of being more sensitive to the organization’s culture.
– all other comments were positive albeit brief

Here were my results from December:

NPS: +68.75 (16 responses, 13 promotors, 2 detractors)

Main comments:

– mostly positive, comments were much longer than one or two sentences this time around ranging from they appreciate the disruption I cause, enjoy my creativity and thoroughly enjoy working with me.

Now the interesting part.  In both surveys I asked for the kind and/or brutal truth.  In July I didn’t receive either.  This time around I did.  There was one outlier that responded with the brutal truth.  This person told me and many of my team members were not good fits for this company.  They told me I’m arrogant, abrasive and there is absolutely no way they would ever want to work with me again.   They also said they were very interested in what others had to say about me.

In both cases I sent my feedback to all the people I requested feedback from, BCC’ing everyone to keep it safe.

I addressed this critic with parts of their comments I felt were fair and mentioned that this person was the outlier as far as ‘ripping me a new one’ goes.  I asked if they’d be willing to have a conversation because I think that would be a great opportunity for personal growth for both of us.    I also mentioned their comment about wanting to know what others thought of me.

Here are the questions I asked:

1) Explanation of my role and what my team does with the question being “Is this your understanding of what I do here?”. (yes/no)
2) Do you work in my department?  (yes/no)
3) How often do you work with me? (a lot, a little, occasionally, never)
4) How likely would you want to work with me again? (1 – 10) *this is the NPS question
5) Open comments

These two experiments have been much more valuable than any performance review process I’ve been through.  My primary intent was feedback.  My secondary intent was culture hacking.  Doing a survey like this in the context of the culture of my current organization is a ‘blue zone’ hack meaning it’s risky.  It’s so far off from the way things are around here that I’m sure some people think I’m arrogant for sending it.  Some people will be uncomfortable hearing that a co-worker ripped me a new one.

Some co-workers read my blog so maybe they’re nervous about me posting things like this. It’s all in the spirit of progress.

I’m not sure I have a point to get to, all I know is traditional performance review systems, in my opinion, are based on lack of trust and I don’t find them effective.  The awareness I now have because of anonymous feedback (some people did sign their name in the comment) is much more valuable and I believe every employee should be responsible for their own improvement by managing this themselves.

If my peers want to work with me again, that’s a sign I’m doing something right.