Welcome to Crazy and the King!!
July 28, 2022

Are Performance Reviews Ever Really Transparent?

Are Performance Reviews Ever Really Transparent?

Amazon employees leak performance review criteria claiming lack of transparency. Sounds about normal to us.

In our last show before our Summer Interview Series takes over in August, Torin and Julie catch up all things summer. Conferences as get aways - from our kids, our spouses, our bosses?? Yeah, sounds like the normal life of a conference goer. How do you feel about self-nominating? Do you deserve an award if you have to nominate yourself? Discuss. And finally, Amazon employees leak performance review criteria claiming lack of transparency. Sounds about normal to us. Because let's be honest, are performance reviews ever really all that transparent?

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Production and Music: DJ Cellz


0:00:01.1 Announcer: We've been about this work; diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, shared through the voices of a white woman and a black man. We bring lived experiences. We have pursued D&I progress for most of our professional lives. We use Crazy and The King to cover news, tips from colleagues and hosts, incredible guests, listeners count on Julie and I to transparently drive the conversation. We thank you for rocking with us. Check it. Julie, kick off the show.


0:00:38.5 Julie: Welcome, welcome, welcome to Crazy and The King.

0:00:41.9 Torin: Last live show of the summer of 2022. Well, let me just say, I might be a little bit premature when I say last live show, but I believe that this will be our last live show. It's certainly going to be a light, fun and eerie show, sorta. And only reason I say sorta, J... First of all, let me just say this. How do you feel? Let me slow down. How do you feel?


0:01:10.6 Julie: Well, in case it's not obvious in my voice...

0:01:11.0 Torin: You know, well, you could just say... Well, I'm saying, I mean, let me tell you, I'm smiling right now because I'm... Well, I'm in my mother's office. And again, good people. You don't see our video, so you can't see all of the things around me that my mom... I'm gonna do this, actually, because my mom is probably not gonna hear this episode, J. And the Black community is going to smother me. They are going to smoke me when I say what I'm about to say, because I don't even know if you can see it on the camera because I'm using the camera off of the laptop and not my high def. But over my left shoulder, my mom, and she's not a pack rat, but she keeps a lot of shit. My mom has a picture of White Jesus over my left shoulder on the wall.


0:02:10.1 Torin: Which is like, you know.

0:02:11.1 Julie: Okay.

0:02:12.3 Torin: That's what we have going on in the office. Mom has... And that picture, J, I remember that picture for when I was growing up. So [chuckle] I just want you to know this is what I'm working with and like on her desk over here, she's got something that says, "My boss is a Jewish carpenter." That's that the same Jesus.

0:02:34.0 Julie: I've seen that one before.

0:02:36.7 Torin: You have seen that before?

0:02:37.6 Julie: Yeah.

0:02:37.7 Torin: Okay. So if that's the same Jesus.

0:02:39.8 Julie: And at my house, when I was a kid, we just called him Jesus. Right? I didn't know that there was a... Jesus wasn't White until I was a grown up.


0:02:50.5 Torin: So I am told... So I'm gonna go back to the original question. How do you feel?

0:03:00.1 Julie: So I, full disclosure, no HIPAA requirements here. I have COVID. I'm on day five. I am glad to be triple vaccinated and able to sit here and talk with you, my pod partner. And hopefully by the time you and I connect next, I will be fully recovered.

0:03:21.0 Torin: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I know you're drinking lots of fluid and grabbing some rest. And that's part of the reason why we wanna have a fun show today. And, again, here we are trying to move through... This thing I saw a post on Twitter. It was semi funny. Delta airlines apparently put up a tweet that said, "Name a city that changed your life." And the screenshot that I saw, because I'm sure that there were hundreds, thousands of responses. But the screenshot that I saw was from a person who said, "Wuhan."

0:03:58.1 Julie: Oh, shit.


0:04:00.7 Torin: So Delta puts up a tweet that says, "Name a city that changed your life," and the person put up a response to the tweet and it said, "Wuhan." So I just want you to know that I'm glad that you also are vaccinated and just able to move through this with a bit of smile, a bit of... Some bit of sense and... Not sense. Well, sense, yeah. We do like that you are moving through this with sense. I meant to say strength, some degree of strength. So we got a lot to talk about, even in this fun, last live episode of the summer of 2022, we do have a lot to talk about. But remember last week I did mention that business insider was seeking nominations for their 100 people transforming business series. And one of the categories there is D&I. They said D&I, we here would say DEIB or some of the other acronyms that are out there, but the bottom line is they are looking for folks like you. And so if you're listening and you didn't see the link, we'll probably repost it. If not. Grab the episode from last week, I know we posted it on crazyandtheking.com. Here's the question that I have, J. How do you feel about nominating yourself for awards and lists?

0:05:32.9 Julie: Oh yeah. Okay. It's a fair question because I actually had this conversation with my team last week. I hate doing that. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. Because it feels icky. I'm not one to like, try to be the center of attention to try to be at the end all, be all. I recognize that sometimes I need to do those things because I have a brand that I represent and a brand that I need to do right by, and these recognitions are important. But yeah, I've never done it for myself, although that may change. How about you?

0:06:08.8 Torin: Yeah, I feel the same way. I've received over the last, I would say, couple of months. I've received a few of them to nominate myself in and on all of them, I actually had declined. Now, full transparency on one of them, the organization came back to me and they were like, "We really, really need you to complete the four or five questions." And in every instance when I was asked to nominate myself, I actually responded with a list of people that I felt were absolutely worthy of being nominated. And in a couple of those instances, the company said, "Well, we appreciate the list, but we've never worked with them or we don't know of them, so yadi yadi yada." I just thought that I would ask the question because, like you, it just feels a little... It feels a little self-loathing as they would say and so I tend to stay away from it. But speaking of the nominations, I raised the question because Canvas... I mentioned Business Insider, Canvas also has an open invitation out. And we love the folks over at Canvas, Tarik and Adam and Sarah Martinez. Shoutout to you Sarah, because Sarah dropped me an email and she was like, "The Walk the Work Award is back."

0:07:43.3 Torin: I got a great cool black and white hoodie with Walk the Walk on the front of it. And it's an award that Canvas puts out for top leaders in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. And it's again, now open for nominations. We will include the link in our show notes and I'm sure that there are some folks that I am actually going to go over and nominate and you will be one of them.

0:08:11.1 Julie: Well, thank you for that. I was just sitting here thinking about all of the incredible people that we are surrounded by just this week, talking to Jackie and Katie about a crossover with Inclusive AF and just the phenomenal people that we get to work with all of who are well worthy of our time and our nominations and Canvas' consideration for the amazing work that they do and that we're blessed enough to be able to do together.

0:08:42.6 Torin: Yeah. So part of the reason why we are going to make this is our last live show of the summer is, we just kinda wanna take a break. By the way, I don't know if you can really see me, J, but with the setup in mom's office... I'm sitting in a chair and I almost feel like a big boy doing the podcast now. Have you ever watched Mike Tyson do his podcast? Just when folks are sitting in their chairs and they're sitting in their living rooms and they're just kinda relaxed and they don't have any notes in front of them and then in Mike's case he's got a table with a whole bunch of cannabis products up in the front of it and yeah. So I don't have cannabis products in front of me, but I do feel different recording this way. I think I like the way that the mic is set up on this one. But part of the reason why I said we would have this being our last live show, is because even though August is coming up, we got a number of events that we have to still tend to, conferences, vacation. And I guess I wonder if I'm one of the only folks who tends to extend the event an extra day, just an extra day so I can just chill. One more day, so I don't have to run home to the rat race to all of the responsibilities of being TL. Do you extend your trips just so that you don't... Do you do that? Do you do that? Huh, you do?

0:10:19.1 Julie: Come on. I think anyone who's listened to this podcast for more than five minutes knows I extend every damn trip if I can. Yes, every trip.

0:10:30.2 Torin: I was watching a Netflix special with David Anderson and it's a comedy special and I'm not a person who typically laughs a lot at comedians. And this is not a shot at comedians, I'm not suggesting that they are not good at what they do. Because quite frankly, I think that comedians have one of the hardest white collar jobs on the planet. I really believe it's challenging to make people laugh for 30, 40 minutes an hour. But in this stand-up routine that David Anderson was doing, he said, when the pandemic first came across and they said, "Oh, we'll just be in the house for two weeks." He was like, "Man, I have got this. I can easily handle two weeks." And then he said, this joint became two months and then it became a little bit longer than that, he said, the next thing you know, he was running out to Whole Foods parking lot and all of the men were sitting in their cars in the Whole Food parking lot smoking cigarettes like, Lord, I just need to get out of the house. He says, a parking lot full of men smoking cigarettes just because they were frustrated with being in the house. And when I found this article over here talking about people.

0:11:48.0 Torin: It was on the Wall Street Journal and it really asked the question, is it a conference or is it a vacation? And of course, they tied it to parents saying, shit, these parents wanna get away from some of these children. I thought the story was mad on point, it's titled, Parents Pile Into Work Conferences to Escape Their Families.


0:12:18.6 Julie: Well, I mean, come on, I think there's a certain bit of, privilege is not the right word, but you need to be able to have that extra day, that little bit of time. If work is asking you to travel for them, a little time to yourself, a little extra day is the least that they can do for you being away from your family, even if it is in fact that you want to be away from your family. Either way, you're gonna be better at the end if you get that extra day.

0:12:51.2 Torin: Yeah. And in the article, it talks about people getting in extra visits to a restaurant, of course, site seeing, taking in one more evening of whatever city that they're in. And you raise a good point. Yeah, we're having fun, we're tongue and cheeking it around being apart or being away from the family, but I think the other side of the equation is we are working harder. I believe that all of us right now, and I'm not asking or saying that suggesting that anyone needs to play the violin, but I believe in this age that we are in with mobile devices, with laptop computers with... I just think that most of us are working harder as well as longer. That our days don't just turn off at 6:00 PM or 7:00 PM So I think that certainly when we are looking at taking these trips, doing conferences, doing seminars, doing various work-related events, that we really should highly, highly, highly consider tacking on a bit of extra time so that we can just decompress a little bit.

0:14:13.0 Julie: Yeah. And it's fair, it's necessary, and it's healthy. It's... I always tell my team, "Bring the spouse, bring the fam, stay an extra night, stay an extra day." It's one of the benefits that you get when you get to a certain place in your career and you get the opportunity to travel for work. And it is absolutely necessary to keep the sanity especially after two years of being locked in the house. I can tell you I have enjoyed being on the road more this year than I've probably enjoyed it in the past, because I know what it's like now to not have it.

0:14:58.9 Torin: So, let me ask you, you know, with that saying, where... I don't know if I wanna say what's your favorite trip that you've taken, because I believe that the answer might be the more obvious one of where you have made the investment outside of the country. But I'll ask anyway. Is there a favorite trip? When you say you've enjoyed it more, has there been a favorite trip of 2022 for you?

0:15:31.7 Julie: I really enjoyed my time out in Portland with Tristan this year. I think that was probably outside of obviously where we landed. Probably my favorite trip because I haven't got to see him as much through pandemic time as I would like to. And outside of that then, on the other side of the world to get to go to Budapest for the second time and spend time with my oldest is always just an incredible blessing. And they just happen to live in great cities. So that's an extra bonus.

0:16:09.0 Torin: Yeah. I'm gonna say my favorite trip this year had to...

0:16:12.7 Julie: What about you?

0:16:12.7 Torin: Yeah, I'm gonna say my favorite trip this year had to be to LA. And LA because if I am honest, I've never... I don't think I had ever really been to LA and to do it the way that I did it, even though it was just a brief three days, I worked hard every single day. I put in a lot of work, but the resort was incredible, the location was incredible. I love doing first time cities. Of course, there's a number of cities that I absolutely love and enjoy going to over and over and over again, but I always look forward to when I've never been to a city. And so doing LA for these three days, definitely puts it on the list of cities that I need to go back to. Yeah, so speaking of travel, hotels.com is actually offering a little something up their sleeves, but before we get to Hotels.com, you remember last year when I did the video for McCormick?

0:17:22.5 Julie: Yes.

0:17:23.4 Torin: For the first Director of Taco Relations, do you remember that? Do you remember that?

0:17:28.5 Julie: Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

0:17:30.8 Torin: I actually... That was a really, really fun video to do. And for those of you who may not have seen the video when I posted it on Twitter, so McCormick, the spice company, which is headquartered just about 15 minutes away from where I live, they're in Hunt Valley, Maryland, McCormick, last year in the summer, they put out a job posting for a Director of Taco Relations. And so you had to send in a video, and the position was actually paying $25,000 a month for four months. So, you know I put in the video. Well, in this instance, Hotels.com is actually giving away $15,000 to a person who is willing to travel and look at beaches. How cool is that?

0:18:28.0 Julie: Yeah, I wouldn't be mad about winning this prize, although it is not as lucrative as the taco video, which was amazing, and I still claim should have been the champion by far. Yeah, so Hotels.com is giving you $15,000 to go to the beach this summer, and we'll share the article on Crazy and The King, so if you want to apply, you can, but it's basically for a retro beach motelier, if that's how you say it. You get to visit the 10 best retro beach motels in the United States and get paid $15,000 to do so. So basically, it's 10 grand in travel stipend so. Lord Jesus, help the person who wins this get cheap flights 'cause that $10,000 is not gonna go as far as it used to, and then $5000 to spend on whatever you like while you're there checking out those super cool retro beach motels. As soon as I looked at this article, all I could think of is how I wanna go back to Palm Springs, and how I love everything about the retro style of Palm Springs and was surprised, I guess it's not a beach, but there is no Palm Springs Hotel, and they have some of the best retro hotels in the world, I think.

0:19:51.8 Torin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought that this was really, really fun. You know, the only thing I wondered is, why did it come out so late in the summer? I wonder if a person was... If Hotels.com was trying to cut through the bureaucracy of red tape and legalese and it got kinda hung up in the planning of the calendar year because I imagine that people wanna go to the beach during the summer and not go to beaches in like September, October. Although, I suppose going to a beach in September, October, November is not the worst thing in the world. And yeah. So anyway, 15 grand, we are going to absolutely post the link so that you could take advantage of it, and what we would say is if you are the person who wins, take some pictures and tag those pictures with Crazy and The King or with #CATK so we know that you are out there.

0:21:00.1 Torin: Now, I can tell you we have a story that we do wanna talk about, and we'll do this one after the break, and we do our In a Flash segment, because although Julie and I are having fun, smiling, and she's pushing through her recovery from COVID, there are some serious things that need to just be discussed, so let's just take a quick break, hear from some of our show sponsors and supporters, and we'll be right back.


0:21:36.7 Torin: Alright, In a Flash, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill settled with Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who was offered a position at the school without tenure after a university donor objected to her approach to "objectivity". And it's a good time for us to share that a UK agency, Digitas, has come up with a tech-based solution that anonymises elements on resumes that can trigger biases. It's called Anon CV. I wonder if they'll allow externals to use the solution. And Google announces a hiring pause. There's a new pseudo-chicken nugget product from plant-based meat brand Simulate called Nuggs. And social media companies saw more than a $130 billion wiped off their stock market values amid concerns about the outlook for online advertising.

0:22:34.2 Torin: Mind you, those three mentions of pseudo-chicken nuggets, hiring pauses at Google, and social media advertising, those three mentions have nothing to do with diversity and inclusion. In fact, they are so random, just like me saying, "Run, Josh, run." You'll get that in about an hour. About a half a dozen architectural firm are drafting proposals to design Ken Griffin's new office tower on the South Florida waterfront. And did you know that Don Peebles is vying to build the tallest building in New York City? He has named it Affirmation Tower and declares it will be the most inclusive skyscraper in US history. That's In a Flash. Now, let's talk a little business.

0:23:36.8 Torin: Hey, J, so on that last note, Don Peebles, skyscraper, New York City, I was watching an interview with him last week, and he said, "If you look at... " And I'm gonna butcher this, but just bear with me, any major building in New York City, like I'm not talking about stuff that's on the ground, but anything that's significant with a little bit of stature, with height to width, any major building in the New York City skyline, not one of them was built by a Black architect or a Black construction firm. Did you know that?

0:24:22.8 Julie: Wow, I had no idea.

0:24:25.7 Torin: Not one.

0:24:28.8 Julie: And that's a great, great call out. So yeah, this will be a great story to follow, just interesting to see how he makes it the most inclusive tower in history, and you're starting to point at some of the elements of that foundation.

0:24:42.0 Torin: Yeah, absolutely. So the serious story that J and I wanna talk about just for a few moments, not a lot, but just for a few moments, it was over on Business Insider and this story comes on the heels of... It comes on the heels of a number of individuals leaving Amazon in the last several months. And some of them, significant and high-profile individuals, and over on Business Insider the story is titled, This leaked document shows exactly how Amazon managers evaluate employee performance and decide pay. Now, in the document, I am going to assume that employee evaluations are different at the employee level versus the management, leadership, senior leadership, executive level. I'm going to imagine that that evaluation schism is a little bit different. But the fact that in this story on Business Insider, they talked about a common complaint among Amazon corporate employees is the lack of transparency in the annual review process. That promotions and raises are tied to a set of criteria that insiders have said is secretive and keeps employees guessing on where they stand. The reason I wanna talk about this J is, should your evaluation process in any way be secretive?

0:26:32.8 Torin: Let alone should it be secretive if you are an organization, any organization, that says you care about inclusion, equity, equality, representation, belonging? Should any aspect of your employee evaluation process be like a FICO credit score, like when you don't know how the fuck they come up with it?

0:26:58.1 Julie: [chuckle] I think it's an interesting question, and the first thing that sort of came to my mind is, what is the difference between... Or is it secretive, or is it subjective? And so the reason that I ask that is that I think a lot of performance evaluations, especially for, I'll say white collar workers, knowledge workers, office workers are subjective, and so they are in themselves, not that transparent. If I have a set of criteria and that criteria is so subjective that I can sort of just, based on my experience as the manager, put in my thoughts, and that is what determines the ranking or the rating, that's not transparent in and of itself. Now, it's probably different than what we mean by the Amazon thing, but I think in and of themselves, unless there are hard and fast numbers like for sales people or customer service reps or scientists, certain other kind of professions, it's very hard to have a fully transparent performance evaluation, because it really is based on what I think of as a leader, based on the criteria that's laid out, and that is very subjective. I don't know if that makes sense, but in my COVID brain, it makes a lot of sense.

0:28:26.6 Torin: Yeah. Yeah, it says inside of... In the story it goes on to talk about Amazon evaluates employees annually through a process called Forte, F-O-R-T-E, which determines future pay. The document instructs managers to evaluate employees based on the company's leadership principles, performance compared to peers, and future potential. The document instructs managers to consider what an employee delivered through the year compared to expectations for their particular role and level, to gather feedback from peers and self-evaluations and data from informal sources like notes from check-ins with employees and a list of accomplishments provided by the employee. That all seems fair to me.

0:29:22.5 Julie: Yeah, other than the future performance piece, which that kind of is bullshit, it sounds like pretty much every performance review I've ever been through.

0:29:36.6 Torin: And just for accuracy, it's future potential not future performance. You got it.

0:29:41.5 Julie: Yes.

0:29:42.0 Torin: So I wonder... So I'm just running through the article and then I'm saying to myself, but under the rubric, it says, under the rubric provided in this document, the what factor is evaluated based on criteria including the simplicity of the solutions they generate, the quality of their judgment when faced with balance, speed, and risk, whether they seek improvement and how they approach problems. An employee who needs improvement is deemed to generate overly complicated or simplistic... I don't... Just a whole bunch of garble garble garble garble garble in this joint. Amazon tells managers to evaluate an employee's potential at the company by how they navigate unfamiliar situations, approach new challenges, respond to urgent issues, and deliver on goals with limited resources. Again, I see when I'm reading this, I'm like, "Okay, I can get with that." Evaluate a person's potential at how they navigate unfamiliar situations. Let me say that one more time, 'cause I'm saying it for myself. Evaluate an employee's potential at the company by how they navigate unfamiliar situations, approach new challenges, respond to urgent issues, and deliver on goals with limited resources. I don't know, J.

0:31:07.2 Julie: Yeah. Deliver on goals with limited resources, how can we make sure that we are getting the people who will do the most, who will burn themselves out, who will be the company man and not have that work-life balance or request the resources that they need, and that's how we're gonna identify and grow future leaders within the organization. I mean, that right there, among all the other things that we know about Amazon, tells us that work-life balance is never going to be a priority, and they're always gonna be asking you to do more with less, which we're used to, but they put it right out there. That's pretty transparent.

0:31:52.0 Torin: Yeah. So here's the reason why I put it up, and we don't have to answer the question today, but the reason why I brought the story to light for our listeners is, how important is transparency when you are considering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging? I say it all the time. Empathy, intentionality, proximity, and transparency. I say it all the time, and I'll keep saying it empathy, intentionality, proximity, and transparency. And there was something just before we recorded, Stubbsy actually dropped this on us on Twitter, and it said for organizations to actually consider not making reference to the business case for diversity, that doing so turns off individuals who are underestimated and underrepresented from finding your organization to be attractive. That transparency is something that is extremely, extremely, extremely vital to how an organization does DNI. So it's a premium article over on Business Insider again, it's titled, "This leaked document shows exactly how Amazon managers evaluate employee performance and decide pay."

0:33:17.0 Torin: If you cannot read the article, ping me with a DM or shoot me an email and I will share the article with you because I am a subscriber, I can share the link with you and then you will be able to read the story. We'll try to post it on our show notes. I just don't know if that will work or if every time I hit that Share button, it generates a unique and special link. But the reason I share it is because I wanna reinforce the need for us to be transparent in the work that we are doing. Let's take a quick break, J, and then let's come back with Her Voice and let's end this episode. Alright?

0:33:57.8 Julie: Sounds great.

0:34:02.6 Torin: Her Voice is where we amplify women that are making moves, and this week Full Circle Strategies, CEO Jotaka Eaddy convened the network Win With Black Women, who have been extremely vocal on social issues concerning, of course, black women. Shout out to you, Jotaka.

0:34:20.7 Julie: And then we have Droupadi Murmu, who was chosen this week to become the next president, the 15th of India. The former governor of the Jharkhand state will be the first president of India to come from an indigenous tribal community.

0:34:36.7 Torin: And last but not least, Ellen DaSilva, founder of Summer Health. It's a telehealth messaging platform, which aims to answer patients medical questions over text message in 15 minutes or less. The company is starting with pediatrics because many parents have experiences that occur outside of doctor's office hours and could require immediate medical attention. So shout out to you, Ellen DaSilva, and the other women that we highlighted this week in our Her Voice segment.


0:35:13.5 Torin: Again, as a quick reminder, Business Insider is seeking nominations for their 100 People Transforming Business series. We'll drop the link in the show notes. And as we said last week, and it deserves mentioning or re-mentioning, Suicide Prevention has a new number, and that number is 988. That is 988 here in North America. And just share the number for real, because I have too many... Not I personally, but we are reading about far too many individuals that are committing suicide. And before we get out of here, let's do #disability Twitter, J.

0:35:55.9 Julie: Yep. And we have @themummy, T-H-E-M-U-M-M-Y-O-T, an incredible photo of a Paralympic swimmer, Antonios Tsapatakis, standing in front of his chair, both submerged under water. And it's a beautiful illustration of how the environment we're in affects what we can do. Amazing picture. Go check out and follow @themummyot on Twitter. And next we have Molly Bee @adopta, T-R-I-B-B-L-E. If a company charges you more to accommodate your disability, that's not an accommodation, it's a disability surcharge. We never thought of that this way, we talk about women's surcharges all the time, if they charge you for your accommodation, it's not an accommodation, it's a disability surcharge. And before you take us home this week, Torin, you've talked a lot about that this is our last live show of the summer, but that does not mean it is our last show of the summer. We have incredible interviews coming up. We have Judy Julius, Jennifer Fraser, Stacy Burnell, Krista Santos, and we are working on getting Mr. Tim Sackett to wrap up the summer session for us. So four, five weeks of incredible interviews to come that are ready and are gonna be some of our best so far.

0:37:24.4 Torin: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I'm close reminding each and every one of you to share the pod with your digital tribe and to find your voice. Yes, indeed. Be a better human, let's create better culture, teams, and workplaces. For now, J, I and the dogs are ghost.


0:37:48.1 Julie: See ya. [chuckle