Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Performance Development Review

Today I received the following communication from someone in the organisation with the rather grand title of ‘Deputy Chief Executive’.

‘I would like to remind all staff that their six-monthly PDR review is nowdue. Some of you will already have appointments with your manager todiscuss this; if not, you should be hearing from them soon. If you do notreceive any communication from your manager in the next few days thenplease remind them. It is in your interests to understand your level ofperformance and to know that the objectives you have agreed are helping theCouncil to achieve its aims and vision.

P.D.R (Performance Development Review), for those of you who are not familiar with ‘bullshit speak’, is the process whereby members of staff are interviewed individually by their line manager. Having answered a series of questions, the manager will produce a patronising two-page document telling them what areas they can improve on. Usually this consists of fatuous comments such as ‘Antony needs to be better organised in preparing his workload’. It never ceases to amaze me how the powers that be insist on treating fully grown adults like children at every opportunity. Since this is my last week at Nottingham City Council, I have produced my own Performance Review and saved it in the relevant folder, thus saving my manager the trouble of producing one.

Name: Humphrey Clarke Position: Badly Paid Temp

1) How well did you meet your individual and team objectives? (Refer back to the original
Objectives Setting sheet). Give examples of particular successes.

This is the first (and hopefully the last) PDR for Humphrey

Humphrey started working at the city council in July and has grown progressively more lazy and cynical as his employment has gone on.

His single success at Nottingham Works has been to create an unnecessarily large and picture heavy B.M.E guide, which crashes Word every time it is loaded. Since then he has mostly sat around looking at the BBC News website, delivering sarcastic comments and printing out pictures of Lord Kitchener to hang above his desk. It is questionable whether this activity is compatible with the aims of this organisation.

2) Which aspects of past performance were less successful than expected? Why?

Humphrey is both the most highly qualified, and the worst Admin Assistant in the organisation. He suffers from a crippling lack of motivation because a third of his wages are stolen each week by the evil -and improbably happy- temping agency he works for. When asked to do work for members of staff he commonly responds with an existentialist comment such as ‘what does it matter anyway’ or ‘its all futile’. Furthermore, as an over-privileged aristocratic bastard who hates the lower classes, his suitability for administering pre-employment training courses has to be strongly questioned.

3) Which parts of your work have given you the most satisfaction/enjoyment? Why? What are you most skilled at?

Humphrey’s only skill is the ability to turn up to work when he has a full-blown hangover. He is largely useless when he finally gets there, so this really isn’t much of a boast. Since his job mainly consists of tiresome mail merges and dealing with Neanderthal morons on the telephone his job satisfaction could be said to be terminal. The only other ability he possesses is to ‘tell it like it is’, but this could be alternately interpreted as rudeness.

What have you enjoyed the least? What aspects do you feel least skilled in?

In his own words, Humphrey feels that ‘his soul has died a slow and painful death’ over the course of his employment. The prospect of another battle with the photocopier compels him to obtain a shotgun, blast the errant machine with both barrels and then turn the weapon on himself. This is troubling because, although the member of staff is expendable, such an action would breach health and safety regulations.

Manager’s comments on performance (team and individual)

Sack immediately and refer to mental health clinic.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005


Over the past six months I have come to the conclusion that there are certain things a man needs if he is to achieve a modicum of contentedness. These are, in no particular order, a good woman, a well-stocked liquor cabinet and a job title that makes it sounds as if he has enormous genitalia. From January my official job title will be ‘Business Development and Sales Officer’ a label that makes it sound like I have the kind of reproductive organs which the Roman god Priapus once used to scare small children in orchards.

Things at the council have gone from bad to downright lame. Currently my office is suffering from an infestation of fruit flies, this serves only to add to the atmosphere of misery and decay. Right now, the working day consists of a battle of wits between me and the net nanny as I desperately seek to access sites it –rather arbitrarily- brands as ‘tasteless’ and ‘pornographic’. And yet, I can sit at my desk with a degree of smugness because my future is looking a great deal rosier than it was a month ago.

I don’t know how people managed to afford a cocaine habit; right now I can barely afford a tic-tac habit. The measly wages the council pays me are further degraded by the greedy –and improbably cheerful- recruitment agency that employs me. Not content with subjecting me to patronising rules and regulations, the recruitment consultants at Kelly Services siphon off the pitiful sums I accrue at the end of the working week, presumably to fund their crack addictions. Sadly my attempts at job hunting proved strategically flawed. As Katie pointed out, I need to actually follow up newspaper ads rather than simply circling them in biro. About two months ago, a glorious piece of good fortune came my way, a friend of the family steered me towards a company in North London who were looking for a young graduate. I was slightly put off because the advertisement stressed a ‘need for excellence’. ‘Excellence’, as my father will be quick to point out, is not a word normally associated with me. My single role in the Clarke household to date was when my dad appointed me ‘Toilet roll monitor’, not so much because I had shown any sort of merit in that direction, but more because he needed someone to shout at when we ran out of bog-roll. Needless to say, I was utterly hopeless.

In the past year or so, all my adolescent misconceptions have suddenly evaporated. The ‘world of work’, which I used to view with a mixture of dread and awe, I now find to consist of varying degrees of bullshit, stupidity, meaningless jargon and clock watching. The trick seems to be to learn some meaningless piece of management jargon such as ‘strategic task initiative’ and then to drop it into every conversation in order to seem as if you know what you are talking about. Another council scam is to constantly go on ‘personal development’ courses. No only does this cut out a large chunk of the working day but it also allows you to put large numbers of letters after your name. Some of these courses are outright useless. Many a council employee has done a course in using Microsoft Project, only to realise subsequently that it would cost something in the region of £200 to obtain the licence to actually use it.

The New Year will see me starting at Epoq Group in Edgware and saying goodbye to the unwashed hordes of Rottingham-on-Trent. My unsuccessful flirtation with socialism is at an end and I’m now ready to get stuck in to cold-blooded capitalism. I’m now on a pretty hefty salary and the prospect of working hard and actually having something to show for it is an enticing one. Having accidentally left the oven on for twenty-four hours on two occasions this month, it’s going to take a graduate salary just to pay the gas bill.

In the meantime I’m still enjoying my current stint in the dilapidated offices of local government. The latest bit of waste I’ve heard about is that one of our illustrious senior managers went on a trip to Las Vegas at the taxpayer’s expense. No doubt there was a perfectly good reason for this and my cynicism is completely unjustified. Back in the Sixties, councillors went on trips like this the whole time as part of the infamous ‘twinning’ initiatives. For those of you who are not familiar with this particular scam, twinning was the policy whereby the local government of various towns and cities would ‘twin’ themselves with a foreign municipality and then go on numerous expensive ‘goodwill trips’. In the most infamous of these, a councillor of some small English town visited its ‘twin’ in France and, having mixed up his verbs, told the inhabitants in his opening speech that he was intent on having sex with all their women. To me twinning doesn’t seem a wholly pointless initiative. In my opinion Nottingham should twin with Baghdad, a city with which we share many characteristics such as chronic unemployment, endemic corruption and gun crime. The fledgling government of Baghdad has a lot to learn from us. For instance if they followed our current traffic policy - the now infamous ‘turning point scheme’- suicide bombers would not longer be able to drive their vehicles into crowded areas and would simply be diverted into catastrophic traffic jams on the ring road. Baghdad could also take a similar approach to city regeneration to that adopted in Britain. Simply build an expensive new shopping centre, put in an overly trendy and unnecessary ‘waterfront’ development and move in the yuppies. Having priced the proletariat out of the housing market and moved them to run down estates on the city periphery the process is complete. All that’s left is to name the conurbation, ‘European City of Culture’ or some other meaningless phrase.
The only other item on the agenda is that I am ill at the moment. Last night started with me cooking a couple of salmon fillets and ended like a scene from the Exorcist. Despite the feelings of nausia and downright discomfort, this has provided an ideal opportunity to catch up on some property porn and bargain hunting shows. Ah ‘Homes under the hammer’, how I have missed thee.