Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Face time

I had my mid-year performance review meeting with my boss today. My performance as an employee is measured along several lines: "community building" among users of our service, customer service, development of new services, and quality of output.

I got high marks in all except the first: "community building", which happens to be the item that wields the biggest weight (20%) in an accounting of my overall performance. My boss said I need to be out there with the customers getting more "face time".


I'm thinking as I listened to the words coming out of my boss's mouth:

If I am tops at customer service, develop innovative new services on a regular basis, and deliver at a high quality consistently, what exactly is the added value of this additional "face time" I need to have with my customers on top of the regular day-to-day communication and interaction I have with them?

Do I arrange meetings with them just for the sake of earning some "face time" points?

The trouble with the organisation I work for is that there is this nebulous metric around which a big chunk of our "performance" is assessed called "customer satisfaction". This metric is based on a customer satisfaction survey conducted quarterly after which we get our "satisfaction" scores reported at a department level. So the more "customers" rate themselves as being "satisfied" with our department's services the higher our score is, and the happier the boss is. In effect the game around being a department that satisfies its customers is really a popularity contest. The more we schmooze with people, bend the rules for them to make things "easy", and delight them with our personable qualities over the phone, the more we gain face and name recall and overall brownie points with them.

As to the nature of the work involved? Well now, who needs to dwell on that when I've got it good with Sally from Accounting who was my top "customer" this Quarter because I helped her sort out some formatting issues with a spreadsheet report she struggled with last week. She'll be sure to remember me in the next survey. I also bought Harry from Systems Support a coffee last month just to "catch up" on stuff related to our services. Nothing specific. Just a catch up to see if there is anything more we can "do" for him to keep him happy.

If you haven't worked out what exactly is wrong with the picture I painted in the above paragraph, stop right here and move on. If you did (and most probably will have), read on please.

It's little wonder that there is so much politics and bullshit work going on in our organisation. Of course, what large organisation doesn't have its share of both? After all, the big ones have deeper pockets and can tolerate and afford far more inefficiency than the smaller ones. Indeed, as the last couple of years' challenging financial times have demonstrated, Big Corporate have played a key role in keeping unemployment rates in check. Inefficiency creates jobs after all.

But then this is all about me. I had excelled over the last six months at doing my work properly in such a way that I created less dramas for my customers and in the process made my job easier without compromising on the volume and value of my output. What do I get for my trouble? A directive to undertake an initiative that will (1) create unnecessary work for me, and (2) take up other peoples' time unnecessarily; all for the sake of getting a bit more "face time". Note the common denominator here: unnnecessary. It's a term that best describes politics and bullshit which is essentially what all this is.

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