George Osborne's pocket guide to your six-month job appraisal

03 December 2014 -


For our political columnist’s money, today’s Autumn Statement was the chancellor’s masterclass in focusing on achievements and unveiling Opposition-flummoxing plans for the future

Jon Bennett

Six-monthly appraisals can be daunting at the best of times. Being subject to scrutiny twice a year on the targets we set out to achieve can leave us wishing we’d promised rather less, or scratching round at the last minute for evidence of our success.

The system is such that the skilful handling of an appraisal can be just as important to an ambitious manager as their actual performance. And any aspiring leader with an appraisal in the offing could learn some lessons from chancellor George Osborne, whose appraisals take place in front of the nation through his pre-budget and budget statement. His main lesson from this week: stay in control of your own narrative – regardless of your promises, or the evidence to support their delivery.


Against one high-visibility KPI, the chancellor has come up short. Government borrowing is forecast to be £91.3 billion this year, rather than the £87bn forecast to MPs in March. Correspondingly, debt as a share of GDP is heading in the wrong direction – rising from 80.4% this year to 81.1% in the next. Facing down a chancellor who had promised debt reduction, his Shadow counterpart Ed Balls asserted that Osborne had failed in his promise “to balance the books in this Parliament”.

Knowing that his failure to meet debt targets would be a sticky wicket, Osborne used his statement to take his appraisal in a new direction. The UK is the fastest growing economy in the G7. Growth in 2014 is forecast to be 3% - an increase on the 2.7% predicted in March. Half a million jobs have been created this year, 85% of which are full time, and unemployment is set to fall by 5.4%. The lesson for performance reviews will be familiar to most. Not performing quite so well against one of your targets? Compensate by focusing on the target where things do seem to be heading in the right direction.

And if your wily appraiser is alert to that particular trick, talk about your delivery of something new and shiny that no one was expecting. Here the Chancellor excelled, with his reform of stamp duty. With one smart move, he handed a tax cut to homebuyers and stole a march on Labour’s mansion tax. His move to charge 2% on property values from £125,000 to £250,000 and no more than 5% from that point up to the £925,000 mark is badged to save £4,500 on the average-priced home. And while homes over £937,000 will see their bills go up under this system, the tax will be linked to a housing transaction – by stark contrast to the mansion tax proposals, which led some to argue that asset-rich but cash-poor families would be forced to move.

With the short-term crisis of this appraisal well and truly managed, you can look to the future. And this is where the chancellor and the Treasury have yet more to teach us. Set expectations carefully, and you’ll make things far easier for yourself in six months’ time. With UK growth forecast to fall back next year, the chancellor can claim economic achievements today and not be bound to the same again to follow.

All in all, a tour de force performance. Could there be a promotion in the offing?

Jon Bennett is managing director of corporate communications consultancy Linstock Communications.

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