Hooray! Annual appraisals are history, or so it seems. What excellent news!
And it reminds me of the time when I had to conduct a set of annual appraisals in Santa’s Grotto.
I was working at the Birmingham Post and Mail when an annual appraisal system was introduced – by edict from “Personnel”. What a palaver! And what a phenomenal waste of time and money.
In the newsroom, it seemed to make no sense at all. We were producing a daily newspaper, delivering to tight deadlines every day: if we weren’t doing our jobs we’d soon hear about it.
The first year, I was just a “victim” of the process: I dutifully filled in the scary form with its bizarre and irrelevant questions, and sat, quiet and fearful, as an equally-nervous news editor read out loud what he’d written about me.
But in Year 2, I suddenly found myself in the role of appraiser. “Personnel” insisted that all appraisals must be carried out face-to-face and, as the most junior member of the news desk, I drew the short straw.
I had to head out to the wilds of the Black Country for a short individual meeting with every reporter on the team. And I’d hardly met any of them before.
In the news business, virtual working was nothing new. One of my early mentors remembered times when he’d filed copy by carrier pigeon. But by the time we’re talking about, the 1980s, we did everything by phone, and I talked to most members of the reporting team several times a day.
Occasionally I’d meet one or two of them, perhaps at a social event or a union meeting. But that was pretty rare.
But the biggest issue was purely practical. In those days each Black Country town had one, two or three reporters, typically based in the windowless former storeroom of a high-street shop. The shop area at the front was open to the public, who would pop in to place their classified ads. Somewhere out the back, there’d be a place for the distribution vans to load up.
In issuing their edict, “Personnel” hadn’t thought things through. How was I supposed to find a private space to do the appraisal meetings?
Enter Santa’s Grotto. It was December, and in the Sandwell office, they had a Santa on a Saturday. A corner of the front office had been rigged up with green and red fabric. It had to serve the purpose.
But there wasn’t any Christmas magic – the appraisals stayed a complete joke.
Ho, ho, ho!