Saturday, May 18, 2013

'Tis the Season

I'd love to tell you that EER season is like hunting season or baseball season or flu season or really any other season than what it is most analogous to -- which is fashion season.  And not even professional fashion season; more like a season of Project Runway.  Writing an EER means cobbling together some 'fabulous' creation and then parading out your efforts in front of your peers, everyone waiting to see what the trends and buzzwords will be for this year (hint:  if you weren't recommended for promotion "immediately" this cycle, consider asking your rater what you did to incur his wrath -- and I hope you didn't fall into the pit of 'telling a breathless and exciting story' for your personal narrative!  Oh, sweetie, that's so 2011...).

Capable, intelligent, sensible people accustomed to making hard-hitting policy decisions like whether to press forward with a trade agreement or what socks to wear to that ribbon cutting ceremony -- people who write regularly and well in the routine course of their jobs -- will suddenly be paralyzed by the belief that an improperly formed sentence has more power to derail their careers than the actual accomplishments the sentence describes.*  Late at night on the day before my EER was due, I admit to having spent twenty sweaty minutes agonizing over whether to use the phrase "U.S. interests" or "U.S. concerns" in the last line of my carefully crafted Leadership Example paragraph.  TWENTY MINUTES.  When they fail to promote me this year, I'll know I made the wrong choice.  It will not be any less tragic and heartbreaking than Kimberly burning a hole in her bird-inspired dress in Season 9.

Theoretically our promotions depend upon demonstration of certain Core Precepts.  Every year, you must pick one of the Core Precepts to focus on as an area to improve.  At some point in murky FS history past, it was decreed that the precept "Interpersonal Skills" would be off limits as an area of improvement -- its appearance in your EER a definitive sign that you were unfit for service.  This is because (clearly) only mouth-breathing social invalids would ever need to work on that precept's sub-categories of "Professional Standards," "Persuasion and Negotiation," or "Adaptability."  When one particularly stellar EER I was reading for a review panel nevertheless indicated "Interpersonal Skills" as the employee's area of focus -- with the perfectly rational explanation that the person could do more in the "Representational Skills" sub-category in reaching out to local groups -- I am ashamed to say that I gasped.  But then reconsidered.  I can see bucking the "Interpersonal Skills" taboo becoming the exciting new EER trend for next season.  That and a pop of color.

*in fairness, it probably does.


Joy said...

Katie!!! I love your post about EERs. I have found a new way to deal with the anxiety - don't work on it until I have only two hours left to turn it in to my Rater. After an agonizing month of having nothing except an opening paragraph (having cannabalized everything else I had previously written to give my Rater the requisite bullet points), I started writing at 1122 for a 1300 deadline. The colleague who reviewed it for me said it was pretty fabulous given my hair-raising completion strategy and procrastination. :-) That said, I am also resigned to not being promoted this year. Off soon to a new boss I hope will be as wonderful a leader as yours clearly is! Best to you; miss you much.

Katie said...

Thanks, Joy -- I hope you are well, despite your EER drama! Sometimes there is something to be said for procrastination, though I don't think even I could turn around an EER statement in less than two hours. (Logically, you should list that as an accomplishment in your EER for next time...)