Who judges the judges?

An employee in a major oil company finds themselves bombarded on a daily basis with advice, most of it unsolicited, uninformed, patronising, self-serving, and muddle-headed.  This is especially true if you are under 30, after which it tends to die down a bit as men who are not afforded respect at home quit trying to be your dad.

That said, occasionally one stumbles across a gem.  One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given came from an unlikely source, and went as follows:

“If you want to know if somebody is any good, don’t bother asking their manager: a manager is never going to tell you their subordinate is crap.  Instead ask one of their colleagues, particularly someone who was relying on them to deliver something.  They’ll tell you the truth.”

It’s hard to fault that.  Unfortunately, the course of action for most people wanting to get the background on somebody is to call their previous manager.  But as the advice says, he won’t tell you if he’s crap.  Why?  Because half the time the manager won’t know if he’s crap: most managers think somebody is good if they are sufficiently compliant, don’t ask awkward questions, and otherwise get with the program.  Being able to deliver doesn’t even come into it.  And half the time the manager will know his subordinate is useless but lacks the balls to do anything about it, and so to save him having to explain why the hell a crap worker is still on the payroll he’d rather say the employee is good.  This is particularly true if said manager is wanting rid of said employee.

The above is probably the theory behind what are called “360 degree appraisals”, which my company is experimenting with.  The idea is a manager, colleague, and subordinate each appraises an individual and so you get a good all-round assessment of the person’s qualities (or lack of).  Only my employer has no intention of giving any old oik the opportunity to pan one of their Golden Boys and so has given each manager the opportunity to select which subordinate will carry out their appraisal.  Naturally, they have picked those which are most compliant and whom they feel will judge them the most kindly.

In a wholly unsurprising development, I haven’t been asked to participate.  Fancy that.

Sunset: more of a surprise than Jake being snubbed.



One Response to Who judges the judges?

  1. Young PETE says:

    Mr. Barnes,

    I stumbled upon your website and have been reading your posts for the past few hours, and agree with practically all of it. One of the common trends you discuss within majors is technical ineptitude and lack of integrity/character on a junior level, which evolves to middle management and then upper (assuming the stars are aligned, among other things).

    To what extent have you observed this behavior in independent O&G companies? Also, do you have any advice on young staff improving their technical skills? I’m not advocating SPE papers (although that wouldn’t hurt…), but rather insight based on your experience in the industry, and arguably the best/worst aspects of it.