Giving and receiving, to borrow an expression from another category altogether.
It's not that I have any objective to evaluating per se. I actually like invidious distinctions (this beautiful formulation stolen from Veblen ) in an old-fashioned way. And I've given a lot of grades in my time in my previously foreshortened career as a teacher. A fair amount of absurdity surrounds the grading experience as well in our time (another tangent: will grade inflation fall with the market? Teachers? ), but it doesn't compare in bureaucratic caginess by a long short to the ceremonial instantiation of power relations we call the "performance review. "
The trouble starts with the struggle to invent criterion of evaluation that are both broad enough to extend across the organization and soft enough not to sting too much. After all, you do want these people to work for you, not spit in your coffee. "Navigates for success" and "Exercises good judgment" are categories I've filled out in the past with some uneasiness. It's not that I can't guess what they might mean. It's that I'm guessing in the first place. Plus who qualifies? Do I navigate for success? Kind of. Do I exercise good judgment? Hmmm.
In some ways these mushy categories of success and failure emerge in all hierarchies that don't want to admit they are hierarchical. My most dramatic experience in this regard (the challenge of creating a gradient without offending those being graded) was at a tennis club I worked at where grown men and women threw tantrums when they were rated below a level they thought they deserved. Instead of A, B and C player, we ended up with color coding. Red, Green, Yellow, etc. But of course that only lasts so long before the colors become imbued with associations of superiority and inferiority which is no good, especially when you want to do a brisk business in the pro shop.
No, the bigger problem, like all intractable social problems, is rooted the structure of the relationship itself, which I guess I'll get to tomorrow. I have to go give someone an upbeat and constructive but challenging review in which I may say some things which are "hard for them to hear."