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Wall Street Self-Evaluations

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 29, 2010 9:20 AM |

The Goldman Sachs Senate subcommittee hearing the other day included a focus on a Wall Street process I viewed with a significant degree of disdain, that is the self-evaluation and 360 review. Why such disdain? These reviews struck me as a colossal waste of time, not in theory but in practice. Why? A lack of real integrity and honesty encompassing what I define as one of corporate America’s greatest failings, superficial congeniality.

During my tenure on Wall Street, employees always utilized the self-evaluation to promote their case for maximum compensation. Can you blame any employee for doing so? We saw this the other day during the Goldman hearing in which the Goldman employees’ self-evaluations were used against them for their self-aggrandizing tone. I chuckled when the senators referenced these evaluations as I appreciated the fallacies of the process. The senators used the evaluations strictly to score political points. That approach was weak, as the Congressmen neither appreciate nor understand the context of the evaluations themselves.

Bloomberg addresses this topic in writing, Self-Evaluations Pose New Concern After Goldman Sachs Hearing.

The effectiveness of the self-evaluation process on Wall Street, or in any industry, is predicated on a quality manager’s ability to truly help an employee accentuate his strengths while addressing and improving his weaknesses. I view the evaluation process with such disdain for the very simple reason that I viewed Wall Street management, in general, as decidedly mediocre at best and more often weak if not pathetic. You may ask how these managers achieved their positions. While many promotions on Wall Street were merit-based, instances of career advances predicated on politics and backstabbing were more than random.

As much disdain as I had for the self-evaluation process, the 360 review (in which employees evaluated each other) was a TOTAL waste of time. Why? The process was completely gamed. Employees would only ask friends to review them. As with any process, garbage in, garbage out. I recall seeing firmwide evaluations at JP Morgan in the early part of this decade that graded the firm as an 8.5 on a scale of 10 across an array of categories. I thought to myself, what a joke. I would not have graded the firm as any better than a 6.

One final point. How much would America have liked to see the four Goldman Sachs executives read the self-evaluations of the senators on the subcommittee? How might those self-evaluations have matched up against America’s consistent Congressional approval ratings in the teens, if not lower?

America could use a little humor right about now, and seeing Dan Sparks read a self-evaluation for Senator Claire McCaskill certainly would have provided it.


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