There’s this post going around that is supposedly written by a teacher. In the post, this person complained about how he only got two months of performance bonus even though he worked his ass off. He apparently put in hours to counsel students, organise CCA activities, and even covered the duties for his head of department during his absence (don’t know for how long and what duties exactly).
This super dedicated teacher apparently fell ill twice. But because he was so dedicated, he didn’t take MC, except for the time he had severe diarrhoea. Furthermore, because he was working so hard, this person had to sacrifice spending time with his children and wife.
And what did he get for all his hard work and sacrifice? He got a “C” for his performance grade. This entitled him to two months of performance bonus. Which apparently isn’t even enough to cover some of his regular medical bills.
Gosh. Is this for real? I mean… a teacher’s salary would easily be what… at least $3,000 a month? And given that this guy was arrowed to cover for a HOD, it means he’s probably quite senior so his salary is probably closer to $5,000 a month. And two months, which is $10,000 can’t cover some of his regular medical bills? What sort of medical conditions does this guy have?!
Oh. Then he goes on to complain that his performance bonus is barely enough to afford a short holiday to the Maldives. Wah. Well now… what sort of super luxurious holiday does this guy expect to have? Stay five-star hotel? Eat best food every day? This is called live in good fortune don’t know good fortune.
So this guy then ends off advising people to stay away from teaching as a career. Better be in banking and finance, where the hours worked would translate to much higher salary. Never mind that banks are cutting jobs all over the world (see here and here).
What this guy doesn’t realise, is that there’s a difference between working hard and working smart. This guy just wasn’t smart. From what he described, he was only doing things that affected his students. He didn’t do anything that could help justify his boss’s promotion! He didn’t do anything “strategic” at all. Nothing that affected “improvements” at the school, cluster, zone, national level! Nothing worthy to put into fanciful reports that go to the powers that be in MOE HQ. No wayang dong dong chiang projects that can be featured in the news. How to get good performance bonus like that?
You see… A performance grade D means you are just doing what’s expected of you. For teachers, that means turning up for work, going into classrooms to teach the class, being in charge of a CCA, and probably some nonsense committee work. If you are just doing what is expected of you, then of course you only get your salary. No additional bonus. That’s civil service thinking for you.
Performance grade C means you are doing slightly more than what is expected of you. It probably means you put in more hours for all the things you are supposed to do. And you do them a little bit better. Which is what this guy did. And because you do a bit more than is expected of you, then you get some bonus. Cos… you know… people in civil service are like donkeys. They need carrots (i.e. performance bonus) dangled in front of them before they will do more.
If you wanted to get a better performance grade, then you had better be doing something “OMG! This guy is amazeballs! WOW!” more than what is expected of you. Can’t just be doing more of the same. Must be doing different things, while still doing what you were expected to do.
Actually, I lie. You don’t actually need to do anything different or better or more. What’s most important, is to appear to be doing “OMG! This guy is amazeballs! WOW!” sort of things. In other words, if you are a teacher (and this probably applies to other civil servants too) and want a great performance grade, then you need to do the following.
Scheme your way into things that your boss has strong vested interest in. These are probably the things that would help your boss get promoted. Then you also need to be involved in things that have the following words in it “cluster wide”, “zone level”, “national initiative”.
You also want to worm your way into meetings with people at least three levels above your boss. For teachers, that means, cluster superintendent, zone director, or better yet, Director-General Education, or even Permanent Secretary and Ministers. Then in those meetings, grab whatever opportunity you can to speak up. BUT! Say something intelligent. Best if you can say something that makes your direct boss look good.
To tie all these things together, you definitely need this one skill – report writing. You need to know how to smoke your way in your performance review report. Look out for the metrics that you are measured against. Used those words in the metrics. Use words like “strategic”, “resourceful”, “wide and deep impact”, “visionary”, “persuasive”, “team player”.
Actually, you would want to start your year by thinking about what sort of performance review report you want to be writing to justify your performance grade (and bonus). What sort of words you want to be able to use. Then scheme your way into the relevant projects and add the relevant tasks into your portfolio. Then show off in front of the right people so that the people who matter (e.g. your boss and his boss) will believe you when you use those words in your performance review report.
But that’s not what the teacher who wrote that post to complain about his “dismal” performance bonus did. He was not strategic. Only know how to work hard. Not smart.
Of course, you may disagree with the system. You may think, “BUT THIS IS ALL WAYANG! WHAT REAL BENEFIT TO STUDENTS DO ALL THESE WAYANG BULLSHIT BRING?!!!” And you are justified in asking that question. But too bad. That’s the system we operate in now. Unless and until MOE (or the civil service as a whole) recognises that the way that they are grading teachers is flawed and leads to perverse outcomes, you’d better play by the rules if you want to get a good performance bonus.