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"Last week was the final week for this half’s performance review at Facebook, where we write summaries of work and impact we and our peers had over the last half year. Naturally, that can only mean one thing: the entire company trends towards peak levels of procrastination, doing literally anything and everything to avoid the unspeakable horror of having to write a few paragraphs of text."

Ugh, I can relate so strongly. Right now I'm supposed to be filling out my mid-year performance sheet, including team success goals, team player actions, effective communicator actions, achieving business results actions, business goals, personal goals, individual development plan, etc. I've been working on it for 2 days and have hardly anything done. This kind of work is so incredibly difficult for me. It is supposed to be written with maximum business jargon. I'd rather put in a week of all nighters writing some code than working on this.

Totally agree. These exercises suck because they are obvious wastes of time that are often ignored, but cannot be done frivolously as they have impact on real things sometimes.

As a manager in one particularly toxic org, you had to strike a balance where you showed constant forward motion, but not too much. Too little and you'd be tortured with meetings with a PMO, too much progress, you'd be declared a genius and the PMO would either appoint you as a "champion" to get shit done or take your people away.

It’s no more a waste to write these than it’s a waste for servers to use disk space writing out logs.

Server logs are not manually written by humans. Obviously no one is worried about the disk space. I’m ok with wasting cpu cycles writing something that might never be read but wasting humans time is just rude. [I don’t thrive in bureaucratic environments so my perspective may be skewed]

> These exercises suck because they are obvious wastes of time that are often ignored, but cannot be done frivolously as they have impact on real things sometimes.

Not really. They're ammo for whatever the manager wants to do with the target of your review. Management can spin this feedback to fit the agenda. They can also serve as a paper trail for managing someone out.

So happy I'm in a small team right now... I used to really hate doing this as an engineering manager. I had to do it for seven engineers plus submit one for my manager and one for a peer. And then I had to coach my team members on their peer reviews. And for each review you had to fill out a paragraph on seven topics some of which sounds similar. And then I have to clarify any major discrepancies between my review and two peer reviews for each engineer. And HR seems to reinvent the forms every year.

That's because they want the goals of the business to align with the goals of your team. Non-technical managers can't read software nor can they talk the talk, so this is the primary way of making sure every employee rows the same direction.

But most engineers treat it as a bullshit exercise and its hard to see how that helps anyone. Maybe we need more technical managers?

Well the result is already pre-determined, typically -- the manager knows how he's going to review the team. So yeah, it is bullshit.

I had a manager who made a standard practice of mentioning things in email in phrasing that seemed obviously intended for me to put into my performance review. It came off as pretty helpful and considerate.

Of course, the same guy fired me with no notice and no severance on the last day of the month (Wednesday), but as the termination documents helpfully pointed out, my health insurance stayed good until the end of the month.

One thing that helps me is to dictate it into some kind of speech to text system. Or just record it and transcribe later. You’ll still hate it but the content will be there at least.

That's a great idea, I'll have to try it. As a student, what helps me with similar is calling something a "zeroth draft" and just writing whatever crap comes to my mind along with my opinions on the whole process (plenty of them contain lines like "this prompt is so dumb..."). I've found once I have a few pages of crap I'm not paralyzed by where to start anymore. Plus I've never been good at outlining, so I have to write to see how to structure what I'm writing. The zeroth draft is ideally completely thrown out, but in the worst case it can be tweaked and improved and handed in if there's no time left.

I know of no studies to back this up, but based on anecdotal interactions I strongly believe that some people have an easier time writing off the cuff and others have an easier time speaking. I've known people who could speak in complex sentences but lacked the ability to write without significantly more time, and others who could write on the spot but would trip over their words when speaking. I think you and GP are describing approximately the same method of drafting, and which one works better will be highly dependant upon the individual. I don't think I'm contradicting anything you said, just adding my own thoughts.

That makes a lot of sense. I weakly believe I'm better at speaking off the cuff, but can "cheat" this by writing a stream of consciousness like how I'd talk.

A similar-ish technique for when I'm stuck trying to figure out how to phrase something: rubber duck saying it without the constraint of needing it to sound fancy/formal/academic/smart, and then remove all the "likes" and make it concise.

The headspace i get into when dictating is that I’m on the phone with someone explaining it. I can pretty easily get lost in the stream of consciousness and the resulting text definitely needs tightening up before shipping.

I think my biggest problem with writing is that i can’t get into the conversational flow and build sentences block by block. It’s exhausting.

I'm glad you've found a solution, then. For me I can get to the same headspace by deliberately writing chattily and typing out stuff like "so, like, then maybe we wanna..."

Do you type fast? I wonder if it could be as simple as i type too slow to ride the word wave.

I'm in the middle, I think.

When I still had to do these, I hated the actual experience of writing them at first, as at FB you were pretty strongly pushed to quantify _everything_. While this made some amount of sense to me, I wasn't naturally thinking of my work throughout the half in terms of how I'd quantify it. I also quickly realized the value (to my ultimate rating) of quantification in that I often my collected metrics directly referenced in my review (saving your manager time is helpful!)

I never got to the point of not strongly disliking the experience of writing reviews, but I was able to make things a lot easier for myself by regularly sharing anything quantifiable related to my work, since I could just look back at what I had shared. It also worked decently well as a forcing function, as I used the heuristic "feels like I have shared anything quantifiable in a while" for "am I sure I'm working on something valuable?"

Note that the above is purely about how I managed the actual experience of writing reviews as an IC at FB, not whether or not it's optimal. My personal opinion is probably that it's a wildly suboptimal system that's still orders of magnitude more effective than not having one at all (for me).

Do it little by little throughout the year. I keep a work log. At the end of every week I take 60 seconds or less to write down what I accomplished that week. By the time review season rolls around, I have all the content I need. No need to dread/sweat it.

This isn't for what I did in the past. It's goals/vision/etc. for the future.

Sometimes it pays to experiment a little. We had a similar annual performance reviews in an old BigCo. Everyone had to write a paragraph of text for 8-10 goals, plus an overall self-review. Then a manager had to review and provide comment for each section. I put something like "I think I did alright this year" in overall comment, and ignored other goals. Later during performance convo I saw that my manager put "Agree" as his comment, and told me that my review was easiest to do. No one really cared about that shit (with the exception of PIP).

“Maximum business jargon”? Is that autocorrect run amok? If not, what’s the rationale for it?

Business doesn't care that you upgraded to Python3. They care that you "integrated legacy software into a more performant and secure runtime environment" (or whatever; I suck at jargon).

My manager is 100% a business person. He doesn't know/understand tech jargon at all. If it isn't full of phrases like "breakthrough strategies", "proactively engage", "future possibilities", "cultivates innovation", "compelling picture of the vision", etc. (these are real examples from his template of what he wants our versions to look like) then we will be sent back to rework it until it is sufficiently obtuse.

From an actual time / money standpoint isn’t generating BS actually useless? I don’t understand the fetish so-called business people have for it. Can anyone make the business case? Why isn’t market competition culling this behavior?

I interpret it as a type of superstition - or more clinically speaking, pulling the brakes off the (mental) neural network, draping a big fat uncoordinated fog of "you're doing the right thing" over the whole thing, and letting the result iterate for a bit.

Humans seem to have a tendency to leverage complexity (adding layers until we can't see the bottom anymore) to keep ourselves engaged, so maybe superstition is a side effect of that.

And the problem is, because our brains find patterns in everything, and most readily in our own behaviors, it doesn't take too much iteration for us to go "wait, there's a pattern right there! that makes sense!!1" even when the result is comprised entirely of logical fallacies and chicken soup.

This is the best attempt at an explanation I’ve gotten in a couple decades of asking this question. Thank you

Take notes along the way.

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