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The company I work for initiated (without consulting its employees, just after a few two info meetings) a so-called "Dialogue" process. The process consists of 1on1 sessions with direct managers, where the employee has to answer questions related to her

  • achievements
  • estimated difficulty of tasks assigned
  • estimated strengths and future potential
  • possible areas of improvement
  • how her achievements are related to company values

The company claims that this is not a real appraisal process, salary discussion or a personality assessment.

I have asked clarifications to my direct line manager as to what this process is, what are its goals and how it will impact me. Unfortunately, he became opaque about it, and referred me to his manager, stating that he will answer my questions.

I did some more digging on my own, and after consulting some more resources on the process internal wiki page, I noticed that the results of this process are consistent with a regular appraisal: at the end of it, employees would get binned into Juniors/Seniors/Experts and so on, promotions might occur, salary negotiations might follow depending on evaluated expertise.

It is my conclusion that my employer is disguising an appraisal process as a so-called "dialogue". It is also my conclusion that my manager either doesn't understand the goal of the process he is pushing me to complete or is unwilling to share it with me.

My question for the Workspace community is, given the statements above,

  1. Do you agree with my analysis of my direct manager?
  2. Am I correct in evaluating my employer as disingenuous in regards to its intentions?
  3. Has anyone encountered similar scenarios? If so, how to proceed?

Disclosure: Company I work for is located in the EU and builds software.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Philip Kendall, user34587, Victor S, gnat, Mister Positive Feb 17 at 18:07

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Go there and expect "dialogue". They ask you one question, you ask them different and you expect to hear an answer. If you are right it looks more like self-evaluation without any feedback and goals set be company. – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 15 at 11:32
  • @SZCZERZOKŁY Thank you for your input. I guess staying positive about it is a lot better than trying to peel through possible deception. – BoboDarph Feb 15 at 11:37
  • Wikipedia seems to think so. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-person_pronoun#Generic_she – BoboDarph Feb 15 at 11:44
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    What did the line manager's manger say when you posed the questions to them? – motosubatsu Feb 15 at 12:04
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere Followed your advice, talked to the manager of the manager, got a clear picture of what it is and what they expect from me, he was also clear on the expected output of the process, which was a bit vague on the Wiki page. General consensus in the answers seems to be that I'm overreacting to think they tried to pull a sneaky on me. I did think of quitting immediately as I received the opaque answers from my direct manager, but understood that his lack of experience prevented him from giving me a clear answer. – BoboDarph Feb 15 at 13:49
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I actually think you should welcome it. Hear me out.

Ideally, the formal appraisal process is, well, a formality. A date on the calendar, if you will, to help various bureaucratic mechanisms (bean counting being one of them) chug happily along. In truth, you're being appraised every time you make an impression on someone, good or bad.

Do you really want the results of a year's hard work to be appraised in the space of a few hours? No. You want your manager, and their manager, to have an accurate and current picture of what's going on. They're trying to engage with you to do their job better, and to have a standardized process in place for all managers to do the same.

Five months into my new job I asked my team lead for a quick meeting, to see how things were going. He didn't have time to prepare anything, but I was assured everything was fine. Next month it was time for my semi-formal 6-month review, where I was informed of issues I could do better. I was somewhat peeved at this, not because of the issues (they were correct, there were some things I hadn't realized were a problem) but because this was the first I was hearing of them. I would've appreciated a quicker feedback cycle so that those things get resolved quickly. On both sides.

You mentioned lack of consultation - this seems to have bothered you. The truth is, decisions like this are within executive fiat, and while they could've definitely sold this better to you, they didn't really have to consult anyone other than top management on this.

  • 1
    thank you for your answer. It did bring some clarity and presented the situation in a different perspective, one which I didnt consider. I also was shunted via informal appraisals that turned from excellent to sufficient due to reasons which could have been avoided via an in-depth talk with my manager at the time and I see the value of your advice. In regards to not consulting me, I get it, above my paygrade, still think it's a dick move. – BoboDarph Feb 15 at 13:59
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This seems like a normal coaching process, those are in my experience not necessarily (just) for appraisal but also or primarily for supporting employees and making sure they get the help they need to function well (which in turn helps the company to retain personal and make sure they work efficiently). This might include suggesting transfers etc. If you define "appraisal" very widely, this you can consider this an appraisal process, but if it's done well, it indeed is also a dialogue. You say what your problems and perceptions are, the manager might do so as well and importantly he should see what he can do to remove any obstacles / help you get problems out of the way and find the right career path for you.

Appraisal/promotions etc. are obviously intertwined with such a process. Given your wiki findings, it seems your company wants to formalize their career paths, which isn't by itself a bad thing. If there are proper processes in place that can also help you to know what you need to achieve if you want to get raises or move into different roles.

You and your manager might simply have different perspectives, he looks and the process with you, which for him is simply a dialogue. You look at the big thing the company wants to do which fits your understanding of an appraisal process. It might actually involve that but be more than that - and your management might try to avoid the term as it seems to come with negative connotations for you.

For 1), see above.

For 2), he might be, but unless there are clear indications that he is deliberately misguiding you, no, I would not assume that.

For 3), there is not much you can do other than trying out what the process as a whole should achieve and how it works. You can ask for more transparency (nice feedback to bring up in that dialogue) and see where it is going.

As a personal note: Without further information (e.g. indications that management is behaving "badly" in general) my impression is that you seem to have a certain fear that management is out to get you and/or a negative association with anything related to an appraisal process. I'd suggest to not let that guide your actions. Some form of career path management, employee evaluation and feedback process is the norm, typically indeed a two-way dialogue (with asymmetric ways to influence things) and in principle generally a good thing. It can obviously - as many tools/processes - be done wrong or misused, but I see no indication for this. Aside perhaps that a bit better process transparency would be possible.

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The cynic in me wonders if this is tied to prepping for a merger or layoffs. Much of that cynicism comes from the US business climate. On the other hand, it is entirely possible the company is just trying to find another way to best understand and utilize their people.

This sounds like an attempt to make HR feel needed or that someone high up read a book on the latest way to know your strengths. That by documenting clearly bulleted out points, you somehow achieve efficiency. Relationships are messy and nuanced. A job is at its core still a form of relationship between person and employer, worker and manager and amongst coworkers. Such artificial attempts to formalize human interaction rarely inspire and comfort. Selling you on it by marketing a softer name “dialogue” often backfires as evidenced by you asking the question.

From what you lay out, you sound like you are correct about your manager. A perspective to consider, though, would be that your manager might just not buy in. He may well see that appraisals, er, “dialogues” are going to make people uncomfortable and now he’s required to perform them. Your direct manager has probably been in your shoes and knows how you might feel about it.

But don’t be afraid to polish up your CV. If this is a precursor to darker changes, you should always be ready.

  • Layoff was my first thought also. The division I work for hasn't been performing for the last few years. Also the comprising branch has been have some rather poor financial figures for the last year. I've seen people come and go, mostly go, from my division. My team was growing, but the division was shrinking. My CV is always ready, but I hate jumping ships on just a hunch. I guess I will jump through their hoops and see what becomes of my effort. – BoboDarph Feb 18 at 7:42

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