in reply to Re^2: Nobody Expects the Agile Imposition (Part III): People
in thread Nobody Expects the Agile Imposition (Part III): People

Stories of incompetent managers (and/or accountants) who take out their frustrations on their work-force are, of course, the stuff of legend.   (Which has little to do with the process of “performance appraisals.”)   If a company believes that it has hired 10% too many people to do the job, it is probably wiser to fire the one damned fool person who is saying that.   However, if that person appears to be attracting a sincere audience, it simply means that the company has cash-flow problems ... which are almost always endemic.   The bloodstream of a business is cash, and “congestive heart failure” is always fatal to it.

“Substantial layoffs” are, pure and simple, a sign that there are icebergs in these waters, and that the company has recently hit one of them.   (It is very easy to <!>-up a company, even when management didn’t mean to.)   The company doesn’t have enough cash to pay its bills, and probably has tapped-out its lines of credit or is well on its way to doing so.   It is deciding whether to cut off its arm or which one of its legs.   If a major company makes substantial hits to its data processing operation, in particular, then that is a company that is “going down,” no matter how long it actually takes to hit the ground.   (If cash is the bloodstream, then the digital computer is the heart and hands and feet.)

You might not have the privy data with which to make a decision, but you can always see the signs.   Don’t sit there in your comfy seat, waiting until you actually smell smoke.   If you are reasonably alert and attentive and educate yourself as to what to look for, you can usually spot the warning signs months or years ahead of time, while management is still (publicly, at least) in denial.  If the words on that wall aren’t graffiti, don’t let the door hit you in the butt.   Don’t spread secrets or spill (or buy stock or puts/calls based on) what you may know; just carry your own box of personal belongings out to your car.

All that you can do – all that you have to do (unless you are an officer of the place, you unlucky SOB...) – is to get out of the way.   There will always be very strong demand for people who can make a digital computer sing and dance:   if not “here,” then “there.”     This is the way that business actually works.   Don’t take it personally, and try not to get caught by it more often than you inevitably will.   You are a very well-paid employee; therefore, you are very costly.   It is merely a contract; no one owes any allegiance to anyone.   It’s par for this course.   Plan wisely.

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Re^4: Nobody Expects the Agile Imposition (Part III): People
by mr_mischief (Monsignor) on Nov 10, 2010 at 02:17 UTC

    I think you're living in one of those legends yourself. The overall IT sector is, along with every other sector of the economy, down over the last few years. There are companies that will cut 10% of every department just to cut costs for the stock price. Incompetent managers are just as likely as incompetent workers in any other line of work, and jerks are just as likely to be managers as any other line of work.

    Performance evaluations aren't done for their own sake. They are done to validate actions the company or its staff take. A good evaluation validates a raise or promotion. A bad one validates no raise or letting someone go. If the evaluations are abused and data misconstrued, then people's jobs and pay rates are absolutely being abused as well.

    Businesses don't always give the department lead a budget to be spent on whatever, and many businesses do not allow the department manager direct say in the exact pay rates of his or her staff. There is sometimes nothing but paperwork linking many workers to people making decisions that directly effect the employee's job and pay. They may not have ever met the people making the decisions. That paperwork needs to be accurate unless you really want someone to keep the wrong part of your staff around.

      Your point is well-stated and I think that my position is balanced enough ... meant, of course, to be taken in context (that is, “with a grain of salt”).   Scott Adams has never run out of source-material for Dilbert, and he never will.

      I was, myself, one of the people who was cut from a company for the sake of a stock-price.   (The company in question was an early dot-bomb bubble that is now, of course, nowhere to be seen.)

      “ ... but I am liv-ing still ...”
      -- Jimmy Webb; The Highhwaymen.
      There was a time when I admit that I took such things personally.   But, that was long ago now.   I know how to defend myself, and how to sell myself; and I do both.

      As you say, I have never known (nor been) a manager who had any control whatever on what the employee salary ranges could be.   Nor has any contracting agency ever had control over “the rate-card.”   There are many things that one has no control over, and “employee performance” unfortunately has much less true impact than one might think.   “Being in business,” at whatever size of level you might be, is considerably more of a crap-shoot than anyone who has always been an employee might suppose.   I have been in a room where the landlord’s agent calmly walked through, telling everyone to gather their things because he had a court-judgment, a padlock and chain in his hand and he was about to shutter the place for non-payment of rent.   (I knew that I could kiss my last invoice good-bye, too; and I was right, but it was worse.   Having a bankrupt company as your client is no picnic, ’cuz it can cost you a lot of money that you legitimately received and have already spent.)

        Yes, a grain of salt and perhaps a spoonful of sugar. It can be bitter medicine to sell a third or more of every week to someone who may not be able to show you any loyalty and may not even if they could. Then again, it's no picnic running your own business, either. Oh, well, if it was all fun and games they wouldn't call it "work", right?

        Still, when things go a little bit wrong and there's less an ax and more a hedge trimmer, it helps to be one of the ones not sticking out from the hedge. Proper documentation can help those in charge of the dirty deed end up with a nicely shaped bush rather than cutting the strong branches and leaving the browning twigs.