Sandia’s outmoded employee evaluation system is based on an idea that many other companies have abandoned: rate employees 1 to 5 and set rigid rules about how many can be in each category. Then base bonuses, raises, and promotions on those rankings.
Sandia claims to hire nothing but “the best of the best”. Then it says that a majority of those must be rated mediocre (3) and below. Next, it says that managers must base these ratings, in part, on subjective criteria like “attitude”. In other words, to get a top rating, you have to brown-nose your manager better than anyone else in the group and also back-stab your colleagues, with whom you work every day. Do you think that makes for great team cooperation?
Now a new wrinkle has been added to make the ranking and raise policies even less fair. Sandia will let colleagues add evaluation comments to each other’s evaluations. An employee will be shown who has added comments but not what each person said. That makes back-stabbing even easier and potentially makes the evaluation system even less fair. Get ready for flying lawsuits.
There’s a reason that companies like Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and other large firms have done away with this unfair evaluation system. Sandia, always behind the curve, has decided to double down on injustice to “the best of the best”.
The comments about Sandia at Glassdoor.com range from glowingly wonderful to downright awful. Some of the glowing comments were likely written by Sandia’s own PR or HR departments (a common practice with many companies) to help attract new employees.
But if Sandia would take seriously comments like those below, it would be a much better place.
- The performance review process is ridiculous.
- Lots of bureaucracy and office politics.
- Vision and purpose very much lacking.
- Management not open to hearing ideas, Director /Sr. Manager doesn’t really care about managing people, some also don’t have any real management training.
- Extremely socially conservative among the technical ranks. Diversity is decreasing. If you are from the military, you may like it here. Women, people of color, non-Christians, and liberal thinkers are all put down.
- The bureaucracy is pretty bad. I’ve witnessed many bright staff pour their hearts and lives into Lab projects over the years only to get their passion and motivation drained by the Sandia system.
- Performance reviews are not at all based on “performance”, but instead based on office politics and/or how well your manager likes you.
- The most LGBT unfriendly employer I have ever seen, with institutionalized workplace bullying.
Here are Glassdoor.com comments from one employee who left very unhappy. But his or her complaints could provide management with several ideas for improving the work environment at Sandia.
I can’t think of a single thing. I am quitting soon and going back to academia.
- There is no money for R & D
- If you have a PhD you will be treated without the respect earned by your degree
- There are “technical staff” who couldn’t balance an equation if their life depended on it
- The lab is full of lazy staff members
- FFRDCs are losing funding and as a Sandian you cannot compete for money which is handed out to universities
- if you are a PI, then some idiot manager will be placed in charge of your budget and will spend all the money on the “deadweight”
- There is no focus on sound scientific research and development
- Focus is on nuclear weapons and nothing else matters
- No latitude for creativity
- 90% of the technical staff is over the age of 50
- Employees will tell government agencies anything they want to hear
- Many people here do not understand the scientific method (engineer culture) or the value of hypothesis testing
- Poor culture towards women, minorities, and LGBT (I am a white male)
- Avid climate change deniers in Senior Management
- A tattle culture
Advice to Management
Scuttle the ship?
This is one of the best Glassdoor.com comments I have ever read. Enjoy:
“You will not find a better company to work for! There’s nothing like it.”
Current Employee – Member of Technical Staff in Albuquerque, NM
I have been working at Sandia National Laboratories full-time (More than 5 years)
This is my top ten list:
- Easy to get a job. Lack of candidates with US citizenship and advanced degrees resulted in hiring those who couldn’t get or keep jobs in private sector. Interviews consist of behavioral questions, and no technical questions are asked.
- Non-existent dress code. I have seen more cleavage and butt cheeks here than at Hooters. There are many college coeds and office admins who dress provocatively. A+
- Work-life balance would make French jealous. Many employees take 2 hour lunch breaks and/or always come in late and leave early. Working over weekends is so uncommon, you will not see another living soul around. Telecommuting is encouraged, and some employees never show up for work.
- Encouraged to come up with the most ridiculous ideas that get funded. Never mind if there is no market for your product/idea because you will get more money to go around and market this product to other groups and customers. It is a great place to reinvent the wheel.
- At the end of each financial year, you get to splurge on new equipment, computers, and etc to spend down unused funds.
- Get time off for working overtime.
- Traveling to conferences and training is encouraged.
- Outstanding educational benefits – You get to go full time to an Ivy League university while getting paid 75% of your salary.
- Opportunity to shake hands with state officials and senators who like to come over and brag how much they did for SNL and NM.
- Free healthcare at the onsite clinic.
Keep doing the same thing. There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing.
Advice to Management
No downsides at all to working here. This place will ruin you for other jobs.
One way to understand the success or failure of management at any company is to look at employee comments.
Many companies encourage, and take seriously, employee critiques of management. Sometimes, these critiques come with employee names attached, which leads to brown-nosing more than honesty. More often, in well-run companies, there are avenues for serious and honest anonymous critiques of management.
Sandia management is paranoid enough that it doesn’t allow either. But web sites like Glassdoor.com do let current and former employees provide sometimes honest evaluations of how a company is run and what it is like to work there. And there are over 330 evaluations of Sandia on that web site.
Almost every page of this web site has room for comments and discussions.
But if you want to discuss Sandia Labs in general, or raise a new topic, this is the place to do it. This is also the place where I’ll post my thoughts from time to time.