The dreaded Personnel Development Review (PDR)

July 9, 2010

In this day and age, all big companies
probably have a system in place for the staff to waste hours writing meaningless
ramblings in boxes, set out by complete nerds that have nothing better to do
than create jobs for themselves. The Trust is no exception to this rule. They
have the

This is not as it sounds – lots of boxes with incentives to improve yourself.
These reviews are designed to show up any weakness you may have. This could be
only being able to do the work of ten people when with a little planning and
discipline you could improve that figure to twenty. O perhaps your own failure
to reach customer targets through the property without the use of fire arms. As
for your attempted suicide – must improve attitude. Well this is the story of my
first ever PDR and my fight against bureaucracy gone mad.


My first encounter with masses of paperwork to fill in didn’t go too well as
I actually hate too much of it. I had this silly idea that I was there to work
and not to dream.
I was part of a small team retained by the Trust after Lord
Wraxall died, so I was used to getting on with what I was paid to do. I know
some of you out there will probably share my belief in real life and those with
the rose colour glasses will probably be shaking their heads in disbelief.


My first face to face meeting was such a memorable one that I have to share
it with you. It started well and then fell to pieces as the manager in question
showed signs of not just looking like a fool but complimenting the look with the
speech of a fool.


Towards the end of the meeting, a piece of paper had been put on the table
and a line drawn across the middle. In one half was several dots, but on the
other side there were only three. It was then explained to me that this was a
field with a hedge dissecting the middle.


On one side was several sheep, all part of a go a head team, pushing
forwards, being leaders.


On the other side was the sheep that chose to remain in the pasture they had
always been in.


Could these three dots have represented the two gardeners and myself who had
previously worked for Lord Wraxall I wondered.? Are we are being left behind?
And why did the sheep on the other side of the line all have clipboards? All
this was conveyed as though it was put to a child in infant school. Not only was
this condescending approach insulting but the perfect opportunity to have a
little fun back.


Evidently, I was in the side of the no go sheep, but I was apparently looking
over the hedge to see what was going on. I was told that I had the potential to
become a go ahead sheep, possibly leading my own flock. I just needed to come
over the hedge to join the in crowd. It was at this point I started a question
and answer time.


Q – How high is this hedge
A – Let’s say you have just laid it
Q – Then
I won’t get over it’s too high
A – Lets imagine you have left a gap in
Q – All my hedges are stock proof, would be a bit pointless don’t you


It was at this point that I could sense her first signs of despair, so to
keep things going I pointed at the hedge and said it could have a gate in there.
Her face broke into a smile and said “yes a gate”, her enthusiasm rising at my


Q – Is this gate on line with a public foot path
A – Is it relevant came
the reply with concern
Q – It could be, may even need a style to get
A – OK, it has style and the gate is open.
Q – Bit careless don’t you
think? Leaving a gate open with all those sheep


It was at this point the meeting was terminated. Bugger! Just as I started to
enjoy myself.


As the time went on I started to do things the Trust way – this was to sit on
my arse for hours behind a computer. It was while I was busy reading some of the
dribble that head office sent out, that I became aware of someone out there in
the National Trust who actually knew what they were actually talking about!
Could there be a little light of wisdom in a swivel chair at HQ? And just how
long before it was snuffed out?


The email was in relation to skill sharing within the Trust. The idea was a
person with a good skill could be sent to other properties to use their skills
where it was needed, and also pass on their knowledge. This would be beneficial
to all, especially the property that needed the work done but never had the
money to carry it out. There must be hundreds of staff confined to properties
without the opportunity to work to their full potential. What a good ideal eh?
After all, we are one team.


On a closing note it was pointed out that managers would always be reluctant
to let staff work at another property as the person was paid from their budget.
I bet that person in head office that sent that email has left now. Probably the
common sense was a bit too sensible and radical.


As a walling mason and a hedge layer, I had often worked at other properties
teaching. I heard of the opportunity to take professional exams for walling
along with an instructors course to follow. This would be at very little cost
and subsidised by EU money. Arranged on a National Trust property that needed
lots of walls rebuilt, it seemed an opportunity too good to miss.


I approached my Manager with the information – that the course is one day a
week for 15 weeks, followed by an instructor’s course by the Dry Stone Walling
Association after passing exams. As I had never asked for any development
training it should have been a foregone conclusion to a normal person. After
all, there was always money being spent left right and centre on staff to go
away to do obscure things.


After approaching my manager, I was asked, why should I release you to work
on other National Trust properties at Tyntesfield’s expense? I was then fed
copious amount of crap in the way of excuses.


After listening to a donkey serenade of managerial clap trap, I argued, we
are one Trust, the Trust will benefit, I will benefit and you will benefit
having a fully qualified instructor with recognised qualifications.


At this she replied I can’t see the Trust spending £275.00 on the training
and there is no need for a walling instructor at Tyntesfield. My parting shots
were short sighted, bloody minded and as for the Tyntesfield vision, lets hope
we don’t get the second coming of Christ here, he’d be back on a cross on day


I have a copy of the sarcastic letter I sent in the following day, telling
her to forget my request as I wouldn’t want to put the Trust out of pocket, also
stating I would pay my own way, at my expense.


It was a battle to get the time off even as holiday, but I managed and went
on to achieve all of it on my own.


As a now qualified Stone Walling instructor I find myself teaching at
National Trust properties on weekends through the Dry Stone Walling Association.
I’m also getting paid very well for it – something I made sure leaked back to my
manager at Tyntesfield, after all they could have had me at minimal cost.


Then came the day my manager asked me to teach walling at Tyntesfield. This
was what I had been waiting for. I refused. I was told very officiously that if
I was requested to teach I would have to do it. At this I smiled politely and
said, what there is a need for a walling instructor after all? I was informed by
a arrogant short sighted little person to the contrary, they must have been
talking rubbish, don’t you think?


I continued to teach at other Trust properties as part of my job. But as for
Tyntesfield there was no need, they didn’t need an instructor did they?