KPI’s and your CNY Bonus

China, the land of tests. The end of the lunar year is approaching and everyone in China is busy readying themselves for their annual performance reviews. Since being in China 3+ years I have gradually become accustomed to the peculiarities which come about at this time of year.

For one thing, grading an individual’s performance in a corporation is very difficult. That would mean the person doing the grading actually knows what you are doing. Possible, yes, but in these large cubicle farms where most of us spend the majority of our lives it does prove to be quite a difficult task.

This means that for a manager to actually give you a fair grade they would need to understand your job, perhaps not as in depth as you, but thorough nonetheless. In this way they would have a standard in their mind for which they could grade you against. However, as we know, managers are often placed in their positions bilaterally rather than “working their way up”.

Moreover the sheer number of people in one’s department can contaminate the grader’s valuable brain bandwidth. Groups of 10, 20, 50 people per group must all be graded. How are the leaders of these groups supposed to execute a task using the same methodology in the same time.

Well, from my experience in China the answer to this question is to simply cut all the formalities out of it and go on your gut. More pessimistic people might say, political or social capital. Whatever the case, Chinese managers spend more time thinking about how much the individual has done for them the past year, than for their job in relation to the KPI.

So, it’s smoggy out and everyone is nervous, biting their fingernails about how much money they will have to bring home to their in laws, stash away at the bank, or blow on nights at the local KTV over the holiday.

The ones who are not nervous are the ones that have been waiting in the shadows all this time. Side stepping useful decisions in favor of ones that make them look good. Going out to lunch with the boss. Working overtime for free. They are happy because they know that all those hours and repressed rages they have put in over the year, it will finally pay off.

And why shouldn’t it? They played the game, now they should be rewarded. All of the others made a decision that their free will was more important than the shackles of a grade.

It seems a bit ironic that even out of school we are cowering at the site of a grade. Chinese in particular were brought up this way and it almost seems as if the corporation is just a continuation of the original system in which they were indoctrinated.

You want to go to college? Make sure you do well on the tests. You want to get a good New Year’s bonus? Make sure you have a good relationship with your boss.

I don’t necessarily think either of these two things are wrong in themselves. Both standardized tests and relationship management is a valuable skill in a persons life. However, it would seem to me, that these two things are very easy to distract a person from life’s real goal, whatever that may be.

I guess I am biased. I was even tempted to use the word holistic in that last sentence. But I didn’t. I stuck it out.

Whatever the case is, I still live here and participate in their system. As foreigners, I believe that it’s important to remind ourselves that it’s neither our country nor our rules. We need to keep that in mined if we are to have any semblance of sanity in 2017. 

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