Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bells and Buzz

For years I worked in human resources, and one of my biggest challenges was getting managers to complete their employees’ performance reviews in a timely and effective manner. While emphasizing the positives, managers had to include “Here's what you could do better.” Hard message to deliver when almost everybody thinks they’re giving their all and wants the bigger raise tied to the performance rating.

Of course, performance ratings should be tied to objective, measurable goals. One time I joined a company that used a very subjective essay style of performance appraisals. In an appraisal for a dentist, I read one sentence summing up her skills and three sentences about the wonderful kuchen she baked for the department. Geez Louise. I had to laugh, but we changed the company’s rating methodology pretty darn quick.

Training for performance reviews always included the instructions that any employee who was meeting expectations should be rated a “3.” In fact, most ratings should be a “3.” Remember the bell curve in statistics? Any manager who rated their employees all fives or even all fours was not doing their job—and, yeah, I was the one who got to tell them that.

But now I’m an author, and I’m looking at all my ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s a little harder to be happy with a “3” even though I should be. Ratings affect sales. Sales might be higher if everyone rated my books “5” or even “4.” Now I prefer the fives, appreciate the fours, welcome the threes, and tolerate a couple twos.

I’m happy people are taking the time to rate my book. It creates buzz, or at least the beginnings of the “b” sound. Ratings mean I have readers. Readers are good. Readers who publish ratings are even better. Readers who publish reviews are the most interesting. Of course, they’re a little like the kuchen—very subjective. But then writing is subjective: to tastes, to trends, to popularity, etc.

So I’m going with the old adage: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Ratings and reviews are publicity. Therefore, I love them, regardless.

And I’m going to love my bell curve, too.


Jessica Lourey said...

You're a stronger woman than I, Lois. I say screw the bell curves.

I have to tune out the publicity, good and bad, or risk being driven to drink (involuntarily, and slightly more than I already do.) I (hope to eventually) subscribe to the late Paul Newman's very logical view of reviews.

Claiming he never reads them, he explained, "If they're good, you get a fat head, and if they're bad, you're depressed for three weeks."

Darrell James said...

Nice post, Lois. I think, in the corporate world, managers (and employees) are trained on what the norm should be, with detailed job descriptions, definitions for what contitutes "meeting expectations".

Books are a creative art form, with no one truly being able to define what's good or bad. With readers now reviewing books on Amazon, and the hundreds of self-described "professional reviewers" around, almost every review becomes more like kuchen. Just my self-described "professional opinion".)

Alan Orloff said...

Nice post, Lisa. Bell curves are for ding dongs. Heed the 4 and 5 star reviews, those reviewers know what they're talking about. Obviously, the two and three star reviewers are bitter. (And don't get me started on the one-star reviewers!!)

Darrell, I was a corporate manager who had to review employees. I ignored all those pesky guidelines; I just made stuff up, depending on how well I liked the person :)

Darrell James said...

Alan, you're my kinda boss!

LISA, sorry about missing that it was you posting. I was sure I would do that some day. I did.

Vicki Doudera said...

I do think Paul Newman was on to something... I like his take on it.

Lisa, I met your critique partner at Crime Bake... Kathy... what a neat woman. BTW, she gives you a five star rating, I know that!

Lisa Bork said...

Jess - Ah, Paul Newman. One of the greats.

Darrell - Reviewers sure do try to define the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Alan - See, you were destined to be a writer with your talent to make things up :)

Vicki - I heard you two sat together. She thinks you're neat, too!