An independent journal about the Gannett Co. and the news industry's digital transition
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I'm wondering if anyone else is seeing a pattern at their sites. Gannett just trotted out its new-look yearly employee appraisals. Suddenly, senior newsroom staffers who have received good evaluations for years, if not decades, are getting substandard ratings. Is Gannett laying the groundwork for performance dismissals down the road? Or are they just upping the "misery factor" for longtime employees so that they will walk away on their own?
Gannett's use of annual employee evals is mystifying to me. On one hand, they have allowed the company to be increasingly critical and fault-finding in performance reviews. On top of that, managers have always been instructed not to be overly generous with praise and to always find something to ding. Yet, to this day, Gannett retains a large number of employees with scant talent: editors who specialize in sounding good in meetings but who are terrible in spotting news or improving copy; reporters who routinely miss stories, are flummoxed by thorny stories and numbers, and who are not polished writers; and website content managers who have failed to develop sharp news instincts (beyond the cheesecake slide shows). Often, such employees are placed on performance-improvement plans, only to survive and remain on the payroll in much the same capacity. What is the use of doing employee evaluation if you're not using them to weed out poor performers?
Performance appraisals and PIPs are extremely hard to do well. That's true in every industry and every organization. Get over it.
Employee evaluations were a joke at my site. Certain ratings were NEVER given, not once, to anyone -- not if HR had anything to say about it (often with no direct knowledge of the employee's work performance). These would be the "outstanding" 4's and 5's, taboo. I'm not perfect, I'm human, but my initial reviews were always rated highly. And each time they'd be kicked back to my manager to rewrite them just as long as they could throw some denigration one's way no matter how trivial or in some cases even entirely bogus. At first, I would request that a rebuttal of sorts be inserted into my file, but it didn't change anything. I finally got so fed up, I just signed the damned thing and went back to work. Ridiculous.
In other words, your performance is flawless and there is zero room for improvement. Wow, you're simply amazing. But you're also in the wrong job, since you're obviously not being challenged at all.
9:01 needs to review his/her reading composition skills. I read 2:46's post twice and it clearly states 2:46's acknowledgement of not being "simply amazing" as 9:01 ladles on the judgmental mockery. 2:46's note states in English, "I'm not perfect, I'm human."That doesn't sound like the guy or gal suffers from self-congratulatory delusion as 9:01 would have it. It was too important to miss the point of the post!I have no way of knowing 2:46's circumstances but from reading this blog from time to time it's evident than there are plenty of "challenges" (love those buzzwords) that an employee endures daily, needed or not.
Wow! Company Guy automatically renamed the original posters claims of dings to be some type of manly challenges.Yes I can guess its quite the 'challenge' to stomach rewritten reviews consistently downgraded if true. Since I have no way of knowing, I am not vouching for the claim in that post.But neither am I about to gussy up what was claimed here as some inability to simply be challenged. Since Company Guy does so without also any way of knowing, What arrogance!It begs the question, and if I get a chance to come back today I will check it out, that the thread answer this: If it does occur is it widespread at Gannett or is this an huge breach of Gannett policy? Company Guy? Sounds like whats probably far worse a challenge than recognition always being reduced is to keep working for a management system that aims to keep its folks demoralized with such a tactic, and if true I can imagine that such things would be motivated by turf instead of capability, even if it is just 246s experience rather than institutional. Theres still no excuse for it no matter how you dress it up.Challenges, my ass!With a workspace like that I hope the original poster as 901 ironically says is indeed in the wrong job.And quits on self respect grounds alone!
They'd say that signing the document didn't mean you agreed to the accuracy of the review -- only that you had read it. Then they'd use that signature in a subsequent review to cite the "dings" you had read (and not agreed to) as being fact, "we've discussed this before." My favorite allegation was my not being a "team player." Yet I always accepted requests to work overtime, come in early, stay late, work weekends - and I was far too often the only one who would, everyone else saying "Hell, no," a major workload dumped on my shoulders exacerbating the OT when you're only one person! So who's not the team player here? According one rewritten review, me.
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I'm wondering if Gannett really thinks it can circumvent age discrimination lawsuits down the road by using this tactic? Why don't they just offer buyouts to those senior staffers who might be more than willing to take them. Are they afraid how many might run for the exits?
It's worked for years...why change a proven tactic?
Sadly, there is nothing new about this tactic. I left Gannett a few years ago in large part because I was ordered by my publisher to give unsatisfactory job reviews to two senior staff members in order to lay the groundwork for their eventual dismissal. In fact, the two were among the most productive and loyal members of the staff. I stalled, weaved and dodged for several months, then announced I was departing for academia. I know of at least one mid-level editor who a year later left after he, too, was told to give one of those two staffers undeserved bad marks on her review.
I call BS on your post. Another poser wannabe.
Sounds at least plausible, however.
Says the guy who pledged to post his performance reviews and still hasn't done it.
"I stalled, weaved and dodged for several months, then announced I was departing for academia."Well, there's a mature and highly professional attitude for you.I'm sure you're well-suited for academia.
It has happened in Shreveport plenty of times.
Gannett plays dirty. This Company doesn't deserve to still be in business.
4:33's post is not BS. I am retired now (buyout), and can tell you such tactics and pressure from above were quite prevalent at my site. I was a manager for 20 years and can attest that it's very true. I gave honest reviews and saw them revised routinely. Always downward. It was so painful to be forced to tell top performers they were "average."
I've received 5-ratings across the board two years in a row, and before that 4's and 4+'s for many years. I've written reviews where the employees get 2, 3, 4, and 5 ratings in individual categories. I've offered the opportunity to the reviewed to comment on their reviews and while most have not, some have. There was a disputed rating on one, I followed up and the rating was changed.The only time I recall a review ever getting kicked back from H.R. was when a new supervisor would put in a rating that didn't jive with the details in the review, i.e. a five for attendance when the reviewee had received warnings on tardiness.I don't doubt reviews across corporate America are written to bolster the backstory to dump problematic staff - but the standard set at my locations has been 'no surprises in the review'. I believe overall that Gannett's review process, implemented correctly, is one of the better I've used. The raise process is another story. Telling a high performer that they are the bee's knees and then two weeks later giving them a .75% raise is a slap in the face and guts motivation to do anything better than the bare minimum.
I can only speak of what went on at USAT, and I can say with confidence that managers were not allowed to give the highest ratings even if they thought the employee could indeed "walk on water."
Was that a Freudian slip, writing "jive" instead of "jibe"?
11:09 just a fat finger slip, but very good catch. Funny! Sometimes a cigar is just a cihar....
"Raise process?" I'm not sure what that term means. I've had one tiny increase since my salary was cut 10% several years ago. That's what makes the whole Gannett evaluation system a joke. It's not tied to any $$$, I don't know about anybody else, but that's the reason I go to work each day. You can only keep toiling on professional pride for so long. None of my bills have gotten lower. I'm fortunate that I'm old enough to walk away when I'm finally fed up. I genuinely feel sorry for the younger folks in this company who believe they have any kind of future here. Wake up and smell the java. Get out before you've jeopardized your long-term career.
As a Gannett newsroom supervisor for eight years, I wrote dozens of employee evaluations. The only time I remember HR kicking a review back to me was when I used the word "attitude" to describe an employee's performance. (I don't recall whether I said they had a good or a bad attitude.)HR correctly pointed out that "attitude" was vague. Instead, I was told, be more specific. Rather than saying Mary has a good attitude, note that she always arrives at work on time, rarely turns in a story with spelling errors, always keeps an up-to-date list of story ideas, etc.However, I do recall being told that a review with a top rating of "5" would be difficult to get past HR, unless it included a recommendation that an employee be promoted to a higher-level position. That's because a 5, in the years I was writing reviews, indicated someone was ready for a new challenge.
WHOOPS!Here's what happens when you eliminate photo editors and photographers. From Gannett's Del(un)aware rag:http://gannettblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/july-1-7-your-news-comments-part-1.html#comment-formCheck the sign in the middle/back of the lead photo.Not exactly family-friendly (then again, a separate argument could be made for the entire article and photos).Hat tip: RomeneskoSlowly but surely, Gannett's chickens are coming home to roost!
Correction: Link above should be to:http://webmedia.newseum.org/newseum-multimedia/dfp/pdf2/DE_NJ.pdf
Things like that are easy to miss by a whole staff--always have been. Over three decades ago, I had a photo run on the cover of the weekly magazine with a guy in a group flashing the finger. I missed it, the photo editor missed it, the magazine editor missed it, everyone missed it until it was printed. I even remember the same thing being on the cover of an anthropology text from my school days.
"Easy to miss by a whole staff," yes. But when a similar snafu occurred here, lots of people missing a bad gaffe, management singled out one person, this individual no more culpable than any other in the work flow (all having missed it!) and suspended that person for a week without pay, and it went onto the person's record. At that time we had proof readers, and the proof reader who signed off on the gaffe, last in the work flow (obviously a proof reader in name only) was not even an issue. The supervisor, who missed it as well, was one of the hypocritical creeps berating her at her suspension meeting. She told me she protested the accusations but was continually cut off mid-sentence. And, yes, she eventually quit. But it served as a nauseous lesson to the rest of us: watch out, you can't trust CYA management, and you can't trust your coworkers to come forward and back you up. End story, a cowed department.
Why have newspapers always had a corrections column? Just asking. You all seem to think mistakes have only started since big bad Gannett started staff reductions. And before you say mistakes have doubled and tripled, you have no evidence so stop before you humiliate yourself. Mistakes have happened throughout the history of the business. It's nothing new.
It is my understanding that raises for each employee are largely predetermined and tied to the budgetary process. I saw paperwork on one of my employees that was supposed to only be seen by department heads or higher. It listed his annual salary and the raise he would be receiving that year, before I had even written his evaluation. I suppose if someone had an extraordinary year or a particularly shitty year that the predetermined raise could be shifted.
I don't know how the process works in the company today, but I can tell you that it used to work that way. The annual budget preparation involved producing a spreadsheet for the coming business year, showing expected pay for every newsroom staff member for every pay period. We were given a bottom-line target, and we had to jigger the spreadsheet to meet it. All this was months before any performance evaluations were completed. We could reward stellar performers with a bit of extra pay as the year progressed, provided we could steal the money from some other person or category, which was almost impossible. The bottom line couldn't change unless some extraordinary events required unforeseeable overtime or other expenses.
Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."
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