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I work in the information security realm as an engineer.

At our weekly company meeting, our boss said that part of performance reviews (a good weight I might add) depends on your ability to network with other people in the industry in order to build and promote the company name. Social events are obviously sent to us that are optional but ultimately don’t seem so if it eventually affects us in our performance reviews. These social events are after work, mostly all on Saturday evenings and such.

I actually don’t mind meeting new people in the industry I am in because it will only help me later on, but this seems a bit weird. Most of the time after a very long week, I want to hang out with friends and to be honest I sometimes don’t even want to think about work until Monday.

From this, I have two questions:

Is it a common thing that employees are evaluated based on their ability and effectiveness to network outside of hours?

Second, I am not going to any of these events, how do I tell my boss and not be penalised?

  • Are you in sales engineering? For pure engineering it sounds very unusual. – Juha Untinen Aug 15 '18 at 17:23
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    Also work in infosec as an IT auditor. I will add a full answer later when home, but just want to say industry connections I gained from networking and professional conferences have been very helpful to me – Anthony Aug 15 '18 at 22:32
  • Can't you just create a work Facebook account then every Saturday morning just make a post on some similar InfoSec group page and say, "Hey, we love that here at [insert company's name]!" Then your boss can't complain. – Dan Aug 16 '18 at 14:48
  • FWIW: I was browsing SO's salary calculator and one of the metrics they use is called Public Artifacts:Creates publicly-viewable artifacts intended for the benefit of others, and immediately thought of this question. If your boss doesn't budge or refuses to cooperate with you, you can maybe convince him to drop the networking requirement for something like this, if it works for you – rath Aug 16 '18 at 15:32
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Ask him how he intends to measure the effectiveness of your network. A great network means you can easily find a new job within a month or less, would that be a good metric for him?

If your performance at an event is to be part of your evaluation, then that event is work, which means paid hours. You can point this out to your boss and ask what compensation you can expect for your efforts. Treat this as a promotion / raise negotiation; if your boss doesn't do the same, then he's expecting free work out of you. You can adjust your future expectations accordingly.

Finally, ask for communications / media training to help you at these events. This will help you and, of course the company, to make a great impression.

In all three paragraphs above I point out there is a cost to your boss' decision, a cost he doesn't seem aware of. Take him at his word and point this out as a matter of fact.


Clarification: I don't suggest being blunt with your boss. As I said he hasn't thought this through and you seem wary of him how do I tell my boss and not be penalised. Maybe this is an unfair assessment, and it probably is, given that I know the guy through 2-3 sentences. But this is neither here nor there.

Point out the costs, not the fact that there are costs he hasn't accounted for with you. The key here is to be polite but firm - it might be the case it just didn't occur to him.

  • Cause and effect is well laid out, and applicable to the OP's question. With the bonus of Take him at his word and point this out as a matter of fact. – Mister Positive Aug 15 '18 at 14:06
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    @JoeStrazzere That's up to the OP, but I probably wouldn't point that out :) – rath Aug 15 '18 at 15:08
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    @JoeStrazzere Indeed, I've added a paragraph on tone at the bottom. I will retain the original because I think pointing it out highlights the slightly absurd nature of the request, and therefore suggests the OP the right mindset. – rath Aug 15 '18 at 15:14
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At our weekly company meeting, our boss said that part of performance reviews (a good weight I might add) depends on your ability to network with other people in the industry in order to build and promote the company name. Social events are obviously sent to us that are optional but ultimately don’t seem so if it eventually affects us in our performance reviews. These social events are after work, mostly all on Saturday evenings and such.

Is it a common thing that employees are evaluated based on their ability and effectiveness to network outside of hours?

I've never heard of this sort of factor as part of a performance review.

In your locale it might be common. In mine it is not.

Second, I am not going to any of these events, how do I tell my boss and not be penalised?

Sounds like you cannot.

You could discuss this with your boss. You could explain that you understand the performance review factor he has mentioned. You could explain your reasons for not wanting to go to these events. (You might want to skip the "I want to hang out with friends and to be honest I sometimes don’t even want to think about work until Monday" part. Although honest, it's unlikely to help your case.) And perhaps you could find a way to talk about how you will network with others and build and promote the company name without attending these events.

However, if the boss has these events in mind as a primary method of networking and you will not attend any, it's likely to count against you at least to some extent.

2

As a fellow information security professional working as an IT Auditor, I understand some of what you are saying. Sometimes after long days at work doing security assessments, controls testing, pen testing etc. I also do not want to attend events, but just to relax.

Is it a common thing that employees are evaluated based on their ability and effectiveness to network outside of hours?

I agree thats its not normal and an inappropriate metric for your boss to be using. However, I would not protest to your boss, as its unlikely anything will change as @Joe mentioned. Therefore, I would change your perception and ask yourself how you can benefit the most professionally from these events.

Information security is one of the most dynamic subfields of IT and change is fast and almost constant. What may be considered secure today may no longer be so tomorrow as vulnerabilities are discovered and exploited. The job can be seen as a struggle between whitehats such as yourself and crackers / blackhats looking to do damage.

I have been at both informal networking events tailored for InfoSec professionals outside of normal work events as well as attended conferences / formal networking events sponsored by professional organizations such as ISC^2 and ISACA. Talking with fellow professionals and exchanging news / best practices / industry trends have benefitted me and these connections have even led to few job opportunities that I may not have heard of otherwise.

1

No it is not common, at least not in the states, rather the performance review is a very poor place for it. Most folks in IT get some sort of bonus, it would make a lot more sense to have it tied to a bonus. I'd mention that to your boss and your career concerns and go from there.

By tying it to the performance review your boss is basically saying work off hours or I'll penalize you, whether they realize that or not should help determine your reaction.

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I’ve had performance reviews that look at networking during working hours and whilst on mandatory events, but never heard of external networking being used as a performance measure.

From what I know of information security colleagues of mine, their roles don’t deal with a lot of liaison with external clients or companies other than when assessing new systems etc.

Maybe just be direct with your manager and voice any concerns you have, particularly around the relevance of your own role in regards to networking externally.

My point of view would be if your employment contract says that you are working 9-5 as an example, only activities that fall within your working hours should have a large weighting in your performance reviews and anything outside of your normal hours should be additional.

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Companies have advertising (or marketing) budgets so that they can engage in events to promote the company name. Ask HR if you, going to these events to promote the company, would allow you to be paid out of this advertising budget. If not, then advise HR that your boss is asking you to perform unpaid overtime, and is threatening your career development if you do not comply. In most countries, this is very very illegal (I wouldn't threaten legal action, but simply stating that your boss is threatening you to make you perform unpaid overtime should trigger that this might be a legal issue in their heads).

One question though: How does your boss expect to know if you have attended the event or not? Is your boss personally attending all these events to "take attendance", as it were? If he is, then there is already a company representative there to promote the company, and two's a crowd, and I would tell him as much.

That said, attending some of these events and trying to network might not be such a bad idea; you might find a new job at a company that doesn't engage in this sort of ridiculousness.

  • I think he is going to judge performance based on your presence in social media such as linkedIn and similar – pm1391 Aug 15 '18 at 21:20
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Is it a common thing

This is something that does happen occasionally in companies that are smaller. These should not affect your performance reviews as you're not being paid for this so as far as you're concerned this is not part of work therefore affecting your review is ridiculous. However if your boss really wants you to do these and you don't mind doing it for some form of commission or benefit you should discuss rewards.

How can I talk to my boss and not be penalized

For this you're going to have to just say to your boss that

A) You don't have time and you have personal things to deal with on weekends.

B) You simply don't want to be going as it's your time and you are entitled to it.

  • I was maybe thinking of something a bit more strategic and not so blunt. – pm1391 Aug 15 '18 at 21:21

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