With the start of a new year, we swing toward performance appraisal time in many organizations. Performance appraisals are rife with difficulties. Organizations have difficulty designing good systems and individuals have difficulty completing and delivering them to direct reports. Yet it is a highly important system. I like to say that the only thing worse than having a performance appraisal system is not having one.
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The goal of the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer is to promote entrepreneurial activity intended to create and develop new technologies. In U.S. society, an idealized version romanticizes entrepreneurs. It seems to jump right past the hard work most have to take long before they achieve success. Several elements have to come together to launch a new technology-based business. Let’s focus on physical products that you can hold in your hand. The requirements go something like this:
With the ubiquity of mobile communication technologies, the distinction between work and non-work hours has blurred. As business use of these technologies to contact employees during non-work time has increased, academics have taken great interest in its effects.
At the Lally School’s annual celebration to recognize the William F. Glaser ’53 Entrepreneur of the Year, the event included a talk by the honoree. Paul Bleicher ’76, CEO of OptumLabs, was this year’s recipient. He heads an innovative company looking to promote collaboration across the health care industry in data, analytics, and research to encourage the emergence of solutions that are not possible when these entities remain separate.
This title may seem melodramatic. Deals with the devil generally mean selling your soul. Well, in the realm of work, I’m asking if you’re selling at least a part of it. If you thoroughly accept the loving embrace of a company that caters to so many of your daily needs, can you maintain a perspective that allows you to see life from outside the courtship?
Companies that are considered “cool” employers provide all manner of sidebar benefits that the typical mainstream, old-line companies do not. Free lunches, coffee machines that spit out lattes and cappuccinos all day, first-class exercise facilities, dry cleaning services, concierges to run errands, and a host of others. You wonder whether someone is employed to come up with ideas for new benefits that others don’t have.
Has Marissa Mayer taken back the office? Flying in the face of a significant shift of work out of the office and into the home, in 2013 she told her employees at Yahoo that remote working would not be permitted. Her dictate garnered widespread attention and, in some quarters, derision. In one version, she was betraying working mothers who wanted the flexibility to be home to take small breaks to attend to family matters.
Why is harshness in the workplace getting so much media attention? Is it just that the media tend to fixate on an issue until it fizzles out? My guess is there is more to it. For one thing, the authors of the New York Times article of August 16, 2015 on how Amazon treats its employees later reported that the piece generated more comments from readers than anything the newspaper has ever published.
In response to the brouhaha about the driven, unforgiving nature of Amazon’s corporate culture portrayed by the recent article in the New York Times, Jeff Bezos, the CEO, is quoted as saying, “The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know…” I am sure he is telling the truth. The Amazon he sees around him consists of executives who are not rewarded for noticing discontent.