Steve Lunetta: Premature performance reviews


I dread the month of April. No, I don’t dislike the great colors that splash our hillsides when the wildflowers come out, or the fact that baseball is back. I also don’t mind the warm evenings with sunlight later in the day.

Our company’s fiscal year ends on April 30, which means staff salary increases depending on performance. Performance that is measured by performance reviews. That we write. Under extreme duress.

Our company tries to make it easier, of course. They give us training videos with lots of examples. “If Billy makes more than Suzy but is comparatively low in range as opposed to Bob and his performance rating is a 2 but rapidly improving, at what time will the trains meet in Oakland?”


It would be easier to give everyone an average 3 percent raise and be done with it. But that does not recognize and reward excellence. Some of the top performers must be given 4 percent or 5 percent to make sure that our dirty competitor does not steal them from us.

Then that also means that if we give out a good raise at 5 percent, someone (or several someones) will take it in the shorts and get 1 percent raises since we have a budget to stay within.

Let’s also not forget that some folks will get no increases because they fall below some imaginary line. That is always a fun discussion: “Gee, Fred, your performance was not good enough to give you a raise this year but you certainly are a snappy dresser! And the donuts you brought in last week were greatly appreciated!”

Typically, I have a year’s worth of data to draw upon to write the review. I have this odd habit of writing brief notes and slipping them in our staff’s personnel file. Notes like “Chuck delivered a great report” or “Invented new cure for cancer” or “I really hate this guy – fire him ASAP.”

After a year, you can see attendance records and see accomplishments. If I have a staff member for less time, it’s only guessing. I have no idea what impact a new employee will have.

I think the same applies to our new president and administration. I hear folks all the time on the news “rating” President Trump after only three months. Three months! How would you like to be reviewed after only three months?

Geez, I’d just be getting my desk in order and figuring out where the restroom is located.

If I had to write a review of Trump so far, I’d have to say “Incomplete.” Sure, he’s tried some things and failed at some things. But, he has also had some success.

Trump has figured out that Washington is a byzantine place where normal logic and common sense do not necessarily rule the day. He has discovered politics and personalities, artificial walls (that don’t always sit on borders), and the media minefield.

He is also discovering that deal-making is a bit different in a city where political ideology can often override a well-crafted offer to an opponent. But he will learn.

His rhetoric, of late, has been more subdued and measured. The early gaffes of the campaign and first month appear to be ebbing as he learns a more graceful and statesman-like approach.

Even his meteoric press secretary, Sean Spicer, appears to be finding a niche with the White House press corps. He has made it clear that bullying and excess will not be tolerated. However, he has also learned that similar tactics do not cause his job to be easier.

Trump was able to secure his first appointee to the Supreme Court, starting the process of making his mark for years to come.

He has also learned that bluster does not succeed. The first failed attempt at health care reform taught him many lessons on coalition building and working behind the scenes to move legislation forward successfully.

The youth that shout in the streets with claims of “resisting fascism” appear to be protesting prematurely. They are a movement in search of a cause since Trump has been on the scene so short a time that he has done relatively little.

If Trump really does do something horrible then go ahead and protest. But, frankly, there isn’t that much to judge. My performance appraisal cannot be filled out for The Donald. Let’s look at this again in another nine months.


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