Saturday, 8 September 2012

'Tis the reason for the season: Annual Appraisals.... plus a few updates

At work we are at that dreaded time of year in the National Health Service – annual appraisals have to be completed by the end of October, with positively no slippage allowed on the date.

What’s the problem? I hear you say; surely it’s just a question of sitting down with your boss and having a chat about the year so far, and the year ahead?  A quarter of an hour tops?  Nope. 

I go to my immediate boss to seek his approval for time off, permission for this and that, and I jump to it when he asks me to do something, which isn’t often.  My next boss is also a lady who is the head of clinical research at the other end of the hospital site and I’ve never spoken to her directly.  However the regulations stipulate that the person who shall conduct my appraisal is to be someone in research who is at least two grades senior.  The lady in question (a third boss) is very nice, but she will be appraising an awful lot of administrators like me. 

Two hours at least are required to be set aside for annual appraisals, and the NHS is keen to be seen as a reasonable employer which gives its employees every chance to say what they think. 

The hospital where I work is building a massive new hospital around us, a huge place which will be state of the art and have mostly single occupancy rooms.  It’s due to be finished in 2014, and the admin process of transferring staff, departments and patients is monumental. 
How they see it in 2014... 
(Note the idyllic Mediterranean roofs!)

How it is at the moment. 
We're all trying to do our work through the noise and the dust
in the buildings the other side of the new hospital,
at the top centre and right of this picture.
The open plan office where I work is just about under
the middle crane.

There is a ‘transformation programme’ called ‘Building our Future’ with short, medium and long term objectives, papers headed ‘The North Bristol Trust Story’ and ‘The Road to 2014’.  I am expected to understand all this and be able to comment on its impact; parallel to knowing my KSF (Knowledge and Skills Framework) within my ‘gateway’ (I think that’s my progression within the organisation in relation to learning and pay.  The latter is part of the government’s policy for the NHS known as ‘Agenda for Change’. 

My appraisal form has a section headed ‘Personal Readiness for Change’ – what will I be doing to prepare myself for these changes (i.e. moving into a bigger hospital at the other end of the site)?  What are my personal objectives in relation to the Trust’s ‘Big 5’ objectives?  What is my performance and development plan?  By which date do I expect to achieve them?

Having studied the 8-page form which I have to complete and submit in advance and read all the brochures, I feel bound, tethered and choked by acronyms, abstract concepts and platitudes.  Worse, it’s as if I’m bobbing about in a swimming pool full of soap bubbles, trying but unable to see over the top of the peaks of foam at the normal world beyond. 

The principles behind all this flim flam are admirable – to say what we think but within a strict framework.  This is the institutionalisation of fairness and kindness, where any form of sexism, racism and bullying are given zero tolerance.  As far as possible everybody is treated the same and all personal remarks are frowned upon. You do not need to justify why you have been out sick for two days as opposed to one, and you will not be asked what was wrong with you.  You don’t openly criticise anyone.  You are innocent until proven guilty.  I much admire this working ethic, and I’m proud to work here.

It is strictly my own opinion, with only the observations during my working life to go by, that the NHS is a matriarchy (I’d love to see the figures) and that the majority of commercial ventures are patriarchies.  This bias shows in a lack or excess of leadership respectively, though not always; there are plenty of exceptions where the reverse is the case.  I suppose it reflects the universal tendency of good leadership to be as rare as hen’s teeth.

If you forced me to choose I’d rather work for a female run organisation, having spent most of my employment being patronised by men and their dismissive attitudes towards women.  But I would far rather it were a combined effort of equals with one regulating the other.  Not in my lifetime I don’t suppose.

80% of staff working in this hospital is female, and it is one of them I have to satisfy at my two hour appraisal in a fortnight’s time.  I’ll stop there because I have an awful lot of appraisal-speak to learn before then...

There’s nothing to report about me personally, I plod on with no particular health plans (other than to control my diabetes) and no targets.  Feelings of quiet content are generated by knowing it’s Friday and I’ll be able to do some serious sleeping for a couple of days; having finished a story for my blog; and either taken some pictures I’m quite proud of or discovered them by scanning old slides.

Luz Milagros Verón: 

This is the tiny girl in Resistencia, Province of Chaco, Argentina, who was born to months prematurely in April this year, given for dead and taken to the morgue in a box, only to be discovered 12 hours later when her grieving parents insisted on seeing her, that she was frozen but still alive.  (See my original post here).  She has been in a hospital in Buenos Aires ever since, and though she has progressed through many physical complications and has put on a little weight, there is still neurological damage and she is showing only a 10% mental capacity.  The doctors are pessimistic on whether she will recover.  A few weeks ago she and her mother were flown back to Resistencia, as she continued to need close medical supervision in the local hospital.  Yesterday her parents finally took her home, where the local government has installed all the equipment she will need.  She is now five months’ old. 

Mechi and the Rail Crash at Once station, Buenos Aires :
(see my original post here)

Mechi has continued with her life after surviving the terrible crash which killed 51 and injured over 700 back in February this year, but has found it difficult at first and now impossible to continue to write her light-hearted blog, at least for now.  Her amusing stories were all about the vicissitudes of commuting, and it has left a bitter taste in her mouth.  She has some way to go yet before she feels able to pick up her pen again, though I’m sure she will.  It comes naturally to her.

The unpleasant sequels of the crash continue at political level, with revelations of the corruption within being commented upon in the press on a weekly basis.  TBA (Trenes de Buenos Aires) has closed certain services on that line (night time and weekends) to effect some remedial repairs, but there are less trains running than ever, so the crush is worse if anything.  A pressure group has formed to seek justice for the families of the dead, but from the government there has been nothing but a deafening silence.

Selina : 

The five siblings all together, Selina on the right.
Taken a few years ago.

My friend Michèle’s younger daughter Selina’s car accident happened in early October last year, 11 months ago (see my original post here).  She is still at the large rehabilitation centre on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and even the Director who runs it has got personally involved with her case because she is making such steady progress.  He thinks she may be able to leave the centre by the end of the year.

She is now fully awake and interested in the world around her.  She is learning to swallow again and the tracheostomy tube has been changed to a smaller version, the final stage before it is removed altogether.  She will then be able to speak.  Up until yesterday morning she was only moving her right side, but to Michèle's astonishment when the Director of the rehabilitation centre came to visit her he instructed the girl to move her left hand, and she did... 

Selina has a small blackboard on which she writes when she wants to know something, or is giving an answer.  Sometimes her impatience is so great that the writing comes out as a scrawl, and they have to try to slow her down.  She replies correctly to most questions asked, though she's not quite there in understanding the ages of people in her family.  She now knows fully what happened to her, and is sometimes overcome by it, but her determined and loving mother is forcing her to look ahead not back, and to focus on the next thing.  Michèle reminds her frequently of her amazing progress in the past 11 months, and how proud her therapists are of their favourite patient.

I told you last time about the problems caused by having to share a small room with another patient and their carer.  The first was a young girl who with her mother, the carer, watched TV all day and late into the night.  This mother had dirty habits and borrowed Selina's things when she wasn't looking.  The second had kind, supportive carers but was herself lost to dementia, and would shout nonsense words during her waking hours, particularly late into the night, and Michèle knows this had a retrograde effect on her daughter, who wasn’t getting enough sleep and was very distressed by the sounds.  These people have just left, and for the moment they have the room to themselves in glorious peace, although they don't know how long it will last.


Photo Finish
- from Lonicera's non-digital archive

My garden in an unusual snowy winter



Joyful said...

I empathize with you concerning your annual appraisal. I certainly don't miss those days. Like your office, we had wonderful principles and lofty goals and much of what many of us did, day to day,didn't have obvious relevance to those goals but were nonetheless very important to the operations. I am quite cynical about these appraisals since they always seem to ensure the top brass got their incentive pay. I wish you the best in preparing for it as I know it is important.

I'm happy to hear that Selina is doing better and that, for the moment, she has some peace. Sleep is so critical to health.

Reddirt Woman said...

Today we broke a temperature record... 105 F., 40.5 C. so I certainly appreciated the beautiful photos you chose to post with your blog post today. On the blog side I don't envy you having to prepare for your annual appraisal. Every person I have known over the years always got flinchy at the time of reviews no matter how competent they were in their abilities. There is just something about the feeling that someone else is in control of your life. I was fortunate in my life because I never worked in a corporate atmosphere where I had to deal with that feeling, but I also never worked anywhere to earn a pension so I live on my social security. Back in the day they called it old age pension.

Thanks for the catch up on Selina, Mechi and the premie baby.

Coral Wild said...

Good luck with the whole appraisal process:) In my last corporate position before changing my life, I was both subjected to appraisals and also had to give them - so difficult to step back from a very busy working year to try and be objective about what has been achieved or not!
Been away mostly so still need to catch up on your last few postings - looking forward to it:)

Lonicera said...

Penny - oh I do agree with you. I'm not one for goals and targets, just the 'inch by inch' principle. I think targets can set one up to fail.
Helen - 40 degrees? We're only just coming into spring!! About corporations being in control of your life - that's exactly how it feels, they control you but they ignore you at the same time.
Sue - much appreciate your 'catching up' when you have time! I'm posting another LLP one today.
Thank you all.

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