Why don’t we measure job performance as generally as we measure our children?

Post · Sep 19, 2019 ·

I’ve been thinking about the way our children are measured throughout the years, and how it would look if we did something similar for adults.

Picture Sophie, a social media specialist for a big company. Sophie’s job is to create content and build community, and she was hired because she’s got an eye for design, takes nice photos, writes great captions, and communicates well with people online. It’s her dream role, and a month in she’s making a big impact.

But one Monday an email hits her inbox:

“Sophie – this note is to let you know that next week you’ll sit through a series of tests specific to other roles in the company. Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday: Revenue modelling in spreadsheets
Thursday: Live phone support with difficult customers
Friday: Front end coding

Reading material to help you prepare is attached.”

Sophie doesn’t want to be a CFO, has no plans to join the customer support team, and has never had the slightest interest in coding. Why is she being tested against any of that?

She does her best, and two weeks later the results are in:

“Sophie – you did ok on the phone support test (though you were a little awkward, please work on your tone), but you’re well off the pace in spreadsheeting and coding. A reminder that tests in these areas will continue for the next 10 years, please spend more time preparing in future (extra workshops are available). C+, C-, D.”

If I put myself in Sophie’s shoes a few things would happen:

The positivity I’d been feeling about any successes would quickly erode.

Disinterest in those other areas would become resentment.

Despite that resentment, I’d spend less time on the things I’m passionate about and more on preventing poor results in areas I have no interest.

It would be a stressful, unproductive mess.

No one would accept this kind of benchmarking in the professional world, and the impact on focus, performance, satisfaction and mental health if we tried is obvious.

We need to dial back the testing our children are facing, and we need to do it now.

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