Thursday, 27 March 2008

Who would be a leader….II.

It’s coming up to that time of year again at work that I detest with an absolute passion. It’s staff appraisal time. I always disliked being an appraisee in previous jobs and often got quite nervous about the whole thing. But to be honest not as nervous as I do now as an appraiser. You know that your every word is being picked over and your performance in these sessions is as much under scrutiny as that of the person being appraised.

I also find the balance between admonishment and encouragement a rather difficult one to judge sometimes. One slightly ill judged phrase and there will be little rebellions to put down for several weeks. And I often end up having a conversation that I didn’t want to have. I like to encourage the staff to express their views and take control of their own jobs and play a part in shaping policy. And sometimes this can lead to the whole meeting getting a little side tracked onto broader issues than merely managing performance. Maybe I’m just not terribly good at this stuff.

But of course the NHS has its own special way of making these events even more challenging by injecting a huge amount of unwieldy bureaucracy to boot. The system has been set up to formalise the identification of training needs and to create measurable goals and objectives as a result. Which is fine. But these are of course backed by pages and pages of forms to be checked, copied, training plans created, updated, distributed and regularly reviewed.

So what could be simple has been practically turned into a full time job. Actually a couple of full time jobs have been created in Personnel to maintain the system.

But the real pain is the elements of mandatory training that everyone has to undertake. Not just the clinical people but everyone.

For example this year everyone will have to complete, or more to the point I will be responsible for making sure that several people complete Fire and Emergency planning, Child Protection Training, Health and safety risk update, Back Care, Handling Complaints, Dealing with Violence and aggression, and everyone’s favourite Equality and Diversity.

I don’t have a problem with people working out how get out of a burning building. But ensuring that ‘ kids’ are treated OK and receiving instructions on how to pick up heavy things isn’t really going to help my staff buy anything in a more effective way. And of course being mandatory I have no discretion whatsoever on these.

And the diversity training drives you spare. It’s not the concept that everyone should be treated with respect that’s the problem. The vast majority get this and I suspect that for people who don’t no amount of ‘Diversity’ training will change their views anyway. No it’s that slight sense that everybody who attends is regarded as ever so slightly prejudiced and therefore needs to be shown lots of cases and examples and quizzes to bring them back to the path of righteousness. Even if they have received such enlightenment many times before. If ever it was acknowledged that most people don’t give a damn about anyone’s physical capabilities, sexual proclivities, skin pigmentation or the customs, beliefs or dietary principles upheld by followers of the different versions of sky pixiedom then the Diversity Industry would cease to exist.

Which would be shocking as money could then be diverted to patient care rather than being spent on employing individuals to remind us, on an annual basis, that asking for a ‘Black Coffee’ may be thought by some to be offensive and that perhaps ‘coffee without milk’ may be a better phrase to use.

But the hardest bit for me is instructing people to go on these courses in the first place. Doing it with a straight face is achievable, just. But you just feel a bit daft when having to earnestly explain to someone the importance of going on a course to remind them to bend their knees when picking something up. Especially if it’s the fifth time in five years that they have been obliged to attend.

And you know by the way that they look at you that they think you ARE as stupid as you feel.


TBRRob said...

I believe that is why we need to burn down the system.

Or you could just move to the private sector. At least there you can openly belittle HR...

CherryPie said...

I can really relate to this post!!! There was a big fuss today about we must show on the online system that we had done 6 days training in the last year. Well mandatory training is less than 6 days I have been working there so long I have done all the courses related to my job area even all the courses related to my department. Ok I might like to try a course to develop me. Oh no you can't do that it doesn't relate to your work area....

The answer I was given was.... just make something up!!!!

I thought I was paid to do a job not wrestle with silly statistics!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

I'll come and liven up your diversity training. I usually loudly refer to myself as a cripple in front of such PC preciousness. It's very effective! BG

Letters From A Tory said...

Your poor person. Anyone who sits through Equality and Diversity training deserves sympathy. You're absolutely right that it is driven by the assummption that we somehow need help with this.

Womble On Tour said...

In our coffee shop I ask for a black Americano everyday, so what does that make me ?

I work in the private sector so I'm lucky enough to escape the worst of the diversity nonsense. I don't envy you in the slightest.

I think you could subtitle your blog "The Reluctant Manager", because some of your posts suggest that's just what you are. You're not alone in that, and it's a trait I for one share with you. You're probably a very good manager, because in my experience at least the worst ones are those who think they're fantastic; those who are all too aware of the failings are the ones who also constantly strive to improve.

Appraisals can be a nightmare waiting to happen, no doubt about it, but actually decent management throughout the year should take much of the sting out of them. There shouldn't be any surprises in appraisals, because issues should be addressed as and when they arise. I did make a complete balls of one once by "saving" some problems up and bringing them out during the appraisal for the first time. It was the kind of thing you only do once. Where you do have to "deal with" events or behaviour that isn't good enough, giving some praise up front about something else often helps, as does acknoweldging improvement, even if performance still falls short of where it needs to be. But where there are issues, I've often found that if you've got an open and honest relationship, asking the appraisee for their own honest assessment of the way they handled a situation or an event, using questions like "Looking back, could you have handled that any differently ?" can bring about an acknowledgement from the appriasee that actually, yes, they could have done it better, or reacted differently.

Good luck !