Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's Tenure Season!

Congratulations to my friends and colleagues who just got the magical stamp of approval from DC.  You're good enough, you're smart enough, and gosh darn it, the tenure board likes you!  You can't be fired now!  (Unless you do something really bad, like trade visas for gold bricks or sexual favors.)  Sorry about that no-more-overtime thing, though.  Hope your housing down payment has already been taken care of.

I missed the cutoff window for this season's tenure review by about 6 weeks, which is fine by me.  When the next one rolls around in the spring, I'll have 2 annual reviews (known as EERs) under my belt, which hopefully will be enough fodder for the Gods of Tenure.  Due to the nature of my assignments and training schedules, by the time I hit my three-year mark next month, I'll have spent 20 months in training at FSI, 14 months at post, and 2 months and change on home leave and R&R - not really enough time as an apprentice for DC to decide if I'm likely to cause a major cock-up in international relations.

So, since we are far away from EER season and my own tenure review, it seems appropriate to mention an article my mother sent me from NPR a few weeks ago: "Annual Job Review Is 'Total Baloney,' Expert Says."  While it's mainly geared for the private sector (the comments about bosses determining pay raises, for example, don't really apply to those on the GS or FS scale), the article says all the things we kvetch about during EER season.
  • Annual reviews "do not promote candid discussions about problems in the workplace."
  • Instead, workers under review (the rated employees, if you will) are only "going to talk about all their successes."
  • Most importantly... "Once you set up the metrics, that's the only focus for the employee... The problem with performance reviews is that the metric that counts most for the employee is the boss's opinion. So the employee starts doing what he or she thinks is going to score in the boss's mind, and not even talk about what he or she believes is necessary for the company to get the results that really matter."

Radical, revolutionary talk!  I have only been through one EER process, and let me tell you, it was god-awful.  I got happy-to-gladded to exhaustion, we nearly lost multiple versions of the draft in the archaic computer system we use for submitting the review, and then the final, hard copy got lost in the gaping maw of HR for a few months and didn't get to DC until long after I was into language training.  I can only imagine what the process will be like once I have a unique identity in the office, not just "one of nine entry-level officers* adjudicating visas."

The article helpfully provides a quiz to determine just how much you hate performance reviews.  (There may, perhaps, be a few slight biases in the question phraseology.)  I found the photos included in the test to be an accurate representation of what whelping an EER looks like...  and yet, my score shows that on the issue of annual reviews I am not decisive enough (which probably violates one of the 13 precepts, or the 6 core values, or the 11 tenets of holiness, or the 15 inalienable rights, or something): "You are torn. You want to be a team player, you really do. But the rules just seem so stupid."

Don't get me wrong.  I know the ratings and promotions bureaucracy would be just as frustrating in any other large organization.  And, when my review comes around in May, I'll be just as eager to sip the Flavor Aid and use the same style and key phrases that everyone else does.  Still, there's no reason not to take a humorous look at the entire ordeal when we have the chance.  And, to close on a positive note, here are words of wisdom from someone who just served on a promotion panel.  As my boss would say, read and obey!

*Which brings me to another point: will someone kindly pick an acronym for us novices and stick with it?  When I first came in, we were Junior Officers (JOs), but that was found to be demeaning by a pointy-haired type somewhere, so we then became Entry-Level Officers (ELOs).  I feared being confused with "the English guys with the big fiddles," so I was relieved when we were re-reborn as First- and Second-Tour officers (FAST officers).  


  1. I'm assuming the ELO reference was put in there for Baker, right?

  2. Or you, I knew you'd get it, too.

  3. Ouch! Yes, your mother is old.

  4. Check this out:

  5. Sooo that ELO thing totally made me giggle. A lot. I would have danced around a lot with that title. If anyone sassed me, I would have said "Hello, I am ELO. I AM! Pshaw."

  6. I've had a few friends go through that process and it's a bear. Good luck!
    And for the record, I don't think you are in too much danger of causing a "major cock-up", but only, perhaps, of making my face hurt with laughter.

  7. Proof that being an ELO is dangerous: you could be killed by a freak bale of hay!

    (No, seriously, this terrifies me. I grew up on a hay farm, and those massive bales of hay are no joke.)