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CompLab
Don’t take the ‘super laid back work environment’ too far.
It might come back to haunt you.
Happy business man chart

In my last post, I shared the story of my friend, Guy, and how a laid back review process crippled his morale. You can read it here. But the long and short of it is that he didn’t have a job description or performance plan, didn’t know what tasks were most important, and ended up being judged only on what came to his supervisor’s mind.

As an outsider, I can understand both sides of the issue. I understand the desire to be “the cool place to work.” We’re a smaller company that takes pride in having a chill culture; I’m writing this from a standing desk with no shoes on. SUUUPER cool, right?

However, in Guy’s case, this passive process left him feeling mentally defeated. If there’s no performance review system outlining the employee’s goals before hand, then there’s no way for them to know what’s most important. If there aren’t opportunities to document progress throughout the year, how can employees demonstrate value, and eventually move up in the company? I’m not saying the supervisors shouldn’t make comments as well, but the takeaway should be that the employee NEEDS to; their supervisor can’t possibly see or remember everything they do. This leaves the employee feeling like their ratings aren’t fair, since they don’t encompass everything. It SUCKS. It leaves employees in a boat with 1 oar. On a 100º day. Right across from a sewage plant.

Guy thought he nailed his first year. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Who knows? All I can say for sure, is that this example is no way to “attract, motivate, and retain” talent, the go-to motto when it comes to human resources. You might attain talent. But without a clear course of action, they won’t be motivated to do any one thing in particular, won’t probably receive accolades, and will eventually lose any and all motivation. Even if they DO please their supervisor and receive a fantastic review and a raise, what message would be sent with that?

“Keep on truckin buddy. You did something this year that I liked. I’m not gonna tell you specifically what it was, but keep it up!”

Overachievers (which is the kind of talent you should want) particularly hate this. Personally, I want to know what you want, and then I’m going to do the crap out it. I’ll probably even add in some other extra cool stuff that you didn’t even think about. “Oh you want me to send out a quick email to all our clients? Cool. Well I’m gonna do that, but I’m gonna design the hell out of it, and it’s awesomeness is going to blow your mind. The email is going to smell like lavender when our clients open it. Don’t ask questions.”

However, if I go above and beyond for tasks my supervisor doesn’t value or it goes unnoticed, I feel physical pain from the disappointment. Whether they are currently receiving positive or negative feedback, your top talent cannot and will not thrive in lackadaisical performance management environments like this. Employees with a lot of experience will look elsewhere. If they don’t have experience, they’ll put their time in and eventually put their feelers out.

The bottom line is: It doesn’t matter how much free pop you keep in the office or how many national holidays you let them take off - if every day doesn’t feel intentional, with an eventual reward based on their comprehensive efforts, employees feel defeated.

Or maybe the pop will do the trick. I do love me some Diet Dr. Pepper.

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