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0120 Employee Performance Review

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 120: Employee Performance Review.

You’re listening to English as a Second Language Podcast episode 120. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Today’s podcast is called “Employee Performance Review.” Let’s get started!

[start of dialogue]

Don: So how did your end-of-the-year review go?

Becky: Oh, it was okay. I had my meeting with Mitch this morning and his bottom line is that he thinks I need to show more initiative. He thinks that I need to start being more creative.

Don: Did he actually say that?

Becky: Well, not in so many words. But I know that productivity is a big issue for him. Oh, he said the usual things like "Keep up the good work" and "Thanks for your hard work," but he also said that he's thinking about bringing some employees into my department. That, to me, means he's not satisfied with what I've been doing.

Don: Are you sure you're not reading too much into what he said?

Becky: No, I don’t. Either I shape up or my job is on the line.

Don: Well, I think you may be overreacting. Mitch likes to give everybody constructive criticism and I think that's what he was doing.

Becky: Do you really think so?

Don: Yes, I do. If you ask around, other people will tell you the same thing.

Becky: Maybe you're right. Thanks, Don. I feel better.

Don: I'm glad to hear it.

[end of dialogue]

The title of today’s podcast is called “Employee Performance Review.” An “employee,” of course, is someone who works for a company. “Performance” (performance) is how well or how hard you work. And a “review” is when the boss sits down with you and talks about how you have done over the past three months or six months. Here, it is the end of the year – after one year. And in many companies, there is an “Employee Performance Review” every year where each person has to talk to the boss, their boss, and say how much they’ve done and how well they have done it.

The dialogue begins with Don asking Becky, “So how did your end of the year review go?” “End of the year” – which is usually or often hyphenated – it could be just “end of the year.” But “end of the year review” means, of course, in December or in January, or after one year of working for the company – and “review,” we know already, is when you sit down and you talk about something. You “go over” something, we would say. “To go over” means to talk about. Becky says it was okay – her end of the year review. She met with her boss, Mitch, and his “bottom line” was that he thinks she needs to show more “initiative.” The “bottom line” – two words – “bottom (bottom) line (line)” – the “bottom line” is his final message. The expression or the term “bottom line” refers, usually, to the profit that a company makes. They sell so much and it costs them. They spend so much and the bottom line is how much they made or how much they lost. But here, the expression is used to mean after all sorts of discussion, after everything else is said, what’s the real message – what’s the most important idea. So the bottom line for her boss is that Becky needs to show more “initiative.” “Initiative” (initiative) means that you are willing to try new things. And you are willing to do things without anyone telling you to. You start things on your own. The verb “to initiate” means to begin or to start something new. So, when her boss tells her she needs to “show” (show) more initiative – and that’s the verb we usually use – “to show initiative” means she has to demonstrate. She has to actually do things that are new and start things on her own.

The boss also thinks that Becky needs to more “creative.” “Creative” (creative) here means she needs to think of new original different ideas. “To be creative” means that you come up with some intelligent and original solutions to problems or ideas. Don says, “Well, did he actually say that?” meaning is that what her boss said to her. And she says, “Well, not in so many words.” The expression “not in so many words” means not exactly. Those weren’t his exact words, but that was the message. That was the idea that he was telling me or he was communicating to me. So, someone says, “Well, I asked my wife if we could go to a movie tonight. And she said, “Absolutely not.” And you ask me, “Well, did she actually say that?” and I say, “Well, not in so many words, but she turned on the television set and started watching TV.” In other words, she gave me the message without actually telling me that. I think she wants me to wash the dishes and not go to the movies. So, that is telling me, but not in so many words.

Becky says that she knows that “productivity is a big issue” for her boss. “Productivity” (productivity) – “to be productive” or “productivity” means that you get a lot done. You accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. In companies, businesses are always wanting to “increase productivity,” meaning their employees, their workers, do more and more for the same amount of time, so they get more done.

Well, her boss says what she calls “the usual things,” meaning the normal things, to her in her end of the year review. “Keep up the good work.” When you say to someone “keep up the good work,” “to keep up” means to continue. So, it’s a very common expression, both formally and informal situations. When someone is doing a good job, you want them to continue. You say, “Keep up the good work.” Her boss says, also, “Thanks for your hard work.” Once again, “thanks for” is expressing their appreciation – their thanks.

But Becky says her boss also wants to bring in some new employees – in other words, to get or “hire” (hire) means someone gets a new job, you hire someone into their department. She says, “That, to me, means he’s not satisfied.” “That, to me,” meaning in my opinion, means he’s not satisfied. Well, Don says, “Are you sure you’re not reading too much into what he said?” “To read into something” means that you are trying to interpret. You are trying to figure out what someone is talking about even if they don’t say that exact thing. “To read too much into something” is to think of something as more serious than it really is or to interpret or understand something in the wrong way because you are thinking about it perhaps too much. So, when my wife sits down to watch television and points over at the dishes that I’m supposed to wash, to clean – if I thought, “Hmm, I think she wants to divorce me.” “I think she wants to leave me because she wants me to do the dishes” – well, maybe, but that would be “reading too much into her actions or her words.”

Well, Becky says she doesn’t think she’s reading too much into what her boss said. She said, “Either I shape up or my job is on the line.” “To shape up” – two words – (shape) “up” – means to improve. You say to somebody “shape up” – means you should do better. There’s a common expression “Shape up or ship out.” “To shape up” means to improve. “To ship (ship) out” means to leave; so, either you improve or you leave. She says that if she doesn’t shape up, her job is on the line – three words – “on the line” – means that she could be fired. When you say your job is “on the line” it means you may lose your job. It’s possible that you will get fired. You will lose your job at the company.

Don thinks that Becky is “overreacting.” “To overreact” – all one word – means to – “to react” – means somebody does something and you do something because of what they did. So, if I try to punch you, if I try to hit you. You would react by protecting yourself or hitting me first, perhaps. Well, “to overreact” means that you do too much. So, I try to hit you and you pull out a gun and you shoot me. Well, that’s overreacting and overreacting also can happen when somebody says something to you and then you get very angry or you think something very bad or serious is going to happen.

Mitch, according to Don, Becky’s boss, likes to give “constructive criticism.” “Constructive criticism” (constructive) – “constructive” and “criticism” (criticism) – “criticism” – “constructive criticism” – means that you are giving someone comments in order to help them, not to punish them, not to say they are bad but you want them to do better. So, “criticism,” which is something negative, you often say to someone. “Constructive criticism” means good criticism – things that will help the person. And Becky’s not sure and Dan says, “Well, if you ask around, other people will say the same thing.” “If you ask around” – “to ask around” means to ask other people, to talk to other people.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue at a native rate of speech.

[start of dialogue]

Don: So how did your end-of-the-year review go?

Becky: Oh, it was okay. I had my meeting with Mitch this morning and his bottom line is that he thinks I need to show more initiative. He thinks that I need to start being more creative.

Don: Did he actually say that?

Becky: Well, not in so many words. But I know that productivity is a big issue for him. Oh, he said the usual things like "Keep up the good work" and "Thanks for your hard work," but he also said that he's thinking about bringing some employees into my department. That, to me, means he's not satisfied with what I've been doing.

Don: Are you sure you're not reading too much into what he said?

Becky: No, I don’t. Either I shape up or my job is on the line.

Don: Well, I think you may be overreacting. Mitch likes to give everybody constructive criticism and I think that's what he was doing.

Becky: Do you really think so?

Don: Yes, I do. If you ask around, other people will tell you the same thing.

Becky: Maybe you're right. Thanks, Don. I feel better.

Don: I'm glad to hear it.

[end of dialogue]

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

ESL Podcast is a production of the Center for Educational Development in Los Angeles, California. This podcast is copyright 2005. No part of this podcast may be sold or redistributed without the expressed written permission of the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
end-of-the-year review – a meeting or talk one has with one's boss at the end of each year, when the boss talks about the good and bad things about one’s work

* Leonia did not do a good job at work last year, and her boss made sure to tell her at Leonia’s end-of-the-year review.


bottom line – the result or conclusion; the final and most important part

* Armando may have seemed angry at his daughter for returning home late, but the bottom line is that he was worried about her safety.


to show – to do an action that can be seen by other people
* Sandra showed her friends how happy she felt by smiling and laughing.


initiative – leadership or motivation; the skill to think of ideas, make choices, and do tasks without needing to be told how to do things by someone else

* Lance showed initiative when he took control of the project without his boss telling him to do so.


creative – having the ability to create something new; having the ability or skill to think of new ideas that no other person has thought of

* The desk could not be fixed easily, so Deanne had to be creative and come up with an unusual fix.


not in so many words – not directly; without saying the exact words just spoken

* When asked if Alejandro told Kristina that he was angry at her, Kristina said, “Not in so many words, but Alejandro did act like he was angry.”


productivity – the ability to finish tasks or work; the skill to produce a result in a short amount of time

* The workers were told that they needed to increase productivity if they want to keep their jobs.


keep up – continue; a phrase one uses to tell someone else to do an action that he or she has already been doing

* Devin’s mother told him to keep up the good work he had been doing at school.


to read too much into – to think that someone else’s action or speech had a meaning that it did not have

* Parker was only having a bad day, but Jamika read too much into his behavior and thought that he was angry at her.


to shape up – to get better; to fix mistakes and do better work

* Alicia knew that her cooking needed to shape up because she would not be able to impress her boyfriend if her cooking skills remained that bad.


on the line – in danger of being lost; at risk of no longer having something

* Mario’s reputation for being the best was on the line when a new athlete started to score more points.


to overreact – to respond or react to someone else’s actions or words in a way that is stronger or worse than it needs to be

* Inga overreacted when her son accidentally broke the living room lamp.


constructive criticism – advice or suggestions meant to help someone do better; something said to someone to help him or her fix a mistake or do better work

* The professor gave her students constructive criticism so that they could improve their grades before the end of the semester.


to ask around – to ask other people; to get opinions from more than one person

* Sierra asked around and learned that other workers in the office building had the same complaints she had.

Culture Note
The Land of Opportunity

Some have called the United States the “land of opportunity,” a place where your hopes, dreams, and plans can come true, if you’re willing to work hard for them. Whether you believe that to be true or not, there are some interesting “statistics” (information in the form of numbers) about “immigrants” (people who move to the U.S.) that may surprise you.

As of 2012, in California, about 27% of its “residents” (people who live in a place) are from a foreign country. In “the greater Los Angeles area” (the city of Los Angeles and its surrounding area), the numbers are even higher: 34% are “foreign-born” (born in another country). And in Los Angeles, a surprising 44% of the small businesses are owned by people who were foreign-born. The city of Miami, Florida, actually has the highest number of businesses owned by foreign-born residents — 45%. (A business is considered a small business if it is “privately-owned” (its stock is not publicly traded on the stock market and it is not owned by the government) and has a small number of employees.)

Nationally, immigrants “constitute” (make up; total) 13% of the population, and make up 18% of small business owners. These numbers are up from 20 years ago when immigrants were 9% of the population and 12% of the small business owners. In the L.A. area, foreign-born business owners most often come from Mexico, Korea, Iran, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Just as certain cities or states attract immigrants from particular countries, certain types of businesses attract immigrant business owners. According to a 2011 report in the Los Angeles Times, about 37% own restaurants and 49% own grocery stores. Other common immigrant businesses include laundries and “dry cleaners” (clothing cleaning businesses), doctor’s offices, real estate companies, and truck transportation services.