A seemingly small thing, the performance review can feel like a menial, bureaucratic effort.
Most people experience a performance review – from librarian to doctor – if you are fortunate to stay in a job for long enough. You might be promised a pay review, you might be tasked with goals to achieve, you might be delegated more responsibilities. You might be encouraged to fill in vast swathes of questions or documents, constantly assessing your ability to adequately do your job. Perhaps you haven’t been good enough, and your manager raises this by telling you to try harder, achieve some more goals, be more productive. Or maybe you’re told off for slacking.
You could be lucky enough to be in a job you enjoy – all you want is to remain content in the job you do and the support you provide. But your manager tells you no, this can’t be right, because you must be striving towards development.
Sometimes we question just how capitalism has managed to last this long, how it has reached so very far across the globe. We are shocked at how many people continue to benefit from, and therefore perpetuate, violent patriarchy. We shake our heads wondering just how steadfast, seemingly unwavering, both really are.
But of course. How could they not be all these things? In the same way techniques of assimilation, indoctrination and subjectification make their way into state schools, so too are they present in the performance review. We feel the effects of these unimaginably vast institutions on a deeply personal level when we are told to try harder, learn more, be better.
So of course we might feel a profound urge towards personal growth, as something we must achieve through every relationship and experience, learning a new lesson with each step towards achieving some Enlightened self. Of course we burden ourselves with this responsibility, measuring our own self-worth to achieve the unachievable regardless of our circumstances. Of course we are driven to consume all of our experiences; our relationships with our friends, family, lovers, colleagues; our emotions; ultimately our selves, so we can stick it on our CV or claim it as a win in the performance review.
And we are all victims of the performance review. To showcase our commitment to capitalist principles, we must always be on an upward trajectory to become an ‘emancipated’ neoliberal, capitalist subject, conditioning us into consumptive, efficient, empty, growth-oriented individuals by putting our boot to another colleague’s head. But in our efforts to keep ourselves afloat, we are devouring our selves.
Capitalism and patriarchal power are at times devastating. They have crept to every edge of the globe and their seemingly sturdy grip demonstrates billions of mental, emotional, physical, micro-interactions of violence. But they don’t win every fight – far from it. Overcoming all forms of capitalism and patriarchy means overcoming all that maintains them.
Unfortunately, working is a current part of life. Since many of us are the working classes, we have little other choice. We might try to find jobs to, in some way, provide positive, productive influences: artists, teachers, activists, book shop workers, hospital staff, bike repairers. But it is difficult to escape the performance review, this non-consensual part of all our working lives. Yet no matter where we work, it is possible to resist.
Resistance comes in acknowledging the micro-interaction, and this is the site of our power. Rather than suffocating under the seemingly ceaseless reign of capitalism and the patriarchy, we can reclaim power on our own turf, away from the manager and back to ourselves as workers.
What any manager says in the performance review can be used against them. We can spread their words, discuss what was discussed, tell of the “goals” set, explain every way we’ve been told to climb above our colleagues. These processes thrive on the division they sow. They ask our confidentiality to maintain their superiority. So instead why not be as open as possible? Disrupt, remove their power, deny their legitimacy, castrate their dicks. Encourage others to do the same. Build trust, support, solidarity, and fight unwaveringly.
In these small (and important) ways, we create anarchy. We reject the broad individualisation, consumption, and pushing of burdens onto us that is inherent in capitalism, and we reject the domination of patriarchal superiority. Instead, we work towards the advancement of collective autonomy. We cultivate a seed that begins challenging those broader, seemingly unbreakable institutions of power. We build what sociologist Stevphen Shukaitis refers to as affective resistance …
“ … creating communities of resistance that provide support and strength, a density of relations and affections, through all aspects of our lives, so that we can carry on and support each other in our work rather than withdraw from that which we love”
(Anarchism and Sexuality, p47).
Perhaps through this, micro-interactions with capitalism and the patriarchy like the performance review might not seem so devastating or destructive. With hope, they instead become sites of opportunity and emancipation.