It’s self-assessment time again. They tell us it’s for self-improvement. The memo reads: “It’s a way to get your boss on your side, so you can work together to be a better team-member.”
I’m an engineer at the observatory. I’m the guy that helps the astronomers point the telescopes at the coordinates they want to observe. I usually spend half the night working with the astronomers and the rest of the night performing preventative maintenance – greasing bearings, cleaning floors and doing circuit tests.
The self appraisal is pretty straightforward. It’s a paper form with your usual questions: “Where could you improve? What are your objectives? Are you doing your best?” I always answer candidly because I know I’m doing a good job. But, one question caught me out this year.
I’ve filled out my questions and I’m called into the admin office for the face-to-face component of the assessment. Usually I sit with my boss, we chat and I get the tick of approval. So far so good, until I reach the fateful question: “what part of your job are you most proud of?”
“After we’ve finished the scheduled observations for the night,” I begin, “sometimes a group of second year astronomy students comes in and we do some impromptu observations. They get a lot out of it, and it gives me a chance to put the scope through its range of motions and get some grease into the pinions. I guess I’m proud that I’m sort of helping the next generation… Yeah.”
I wait for the boss to deliver the next question.
“You know, I’ve been asked to look into some unscheduled activity recently.” Says my boss. “It sounds like you may be the culprit.” “I didn’t realise I was doing any harm. And like I said, it works into my maintenance routine.” I rebuke.
No matter. I’m fired on the spot.
I’m stacking shelves at the supermarket now. I spend some nights teaching primary school kids how to use Dobsonian telescopes, and I spend other nights photographing nebulae. Nowadays my responses to self-assessments are either “yes,” or “no.” For example:
“Did you know we have a self assessment today?”
“Are you going to do it?”