Sunday, April 30, 2017

Just Say No to Eggshells, Part 1

This past week, I got my third annual performance review at work. And I know I never talk about work stuff here, but this is relevant, I promise!

I had my performance review this past Tuesday, and I got a "very good." The way that our performance reviews work is that we get a score on each of four categories, and then those scores are added together to give us a total score. My first year at my job, I got "very good" in three categories and "acceptable" in one category, which gave me a total score of "very good." My second year, I got "very good" in two categories and "acceptable" in two categories, which gave me a total score of "acceptable." This year, I got "very good" in all four categories! It's the best I've ever done, I am really proud of myself for that.

But here's the important piece - last year, when I dropped from "very good" to "acceptable," I was really upset. It was only the difference of one point, but I was right on the edge, so now I had the highest score in the "acceptable" range instead of the lowest score in the "very good" range. And since the scale only goes from 0 to 12, one point is a lot.

But what upset me the most was that I didn't understand why my score had dropped. The first year, my boss basically told me that I was doing really well and didn't give a lot of critical feedback. The second year, she did the same thing. I did not understand from our conversation what I had done differently from Year 1 to Year 2. I read the performance review comments from both years side-by-side, and the comments were very similar. While I could see which category I lost a point on, I couldn't tell why. The description for Year 2 did not explain why my score had dropped or what I needed to work on. I changed jobs within the same department about halfway through Year 2, so the only differences I noticed in the comments were related to the fact that I did a different job now. I didn't get what I had done wrong.

I should have asked. I should have just asked my boss to explain what I had done differently that year. But I was nervous. I didn't want to come off sounding like I was arguing about it, so I just let it be.

But for me, "letting it be" didn't mean saying "whatever." It meant coming up with all of my own possible explanations as to why I lost that one point. These are the ideas I had come up with:

1. I didn't do as much training. At my first performance review, my boss complimented me a lot for how well I had trained other people and how I had made new people feel welcome. When I started the new job, I just didn't do as much training. Not because I didn't want to, it just isn't the nature of my job as much now. I noticed that I didn't get complimented on training people in my second performance review like I did in my first.

2. In Year 1, I did some overtime when we were really busy even though I was not willing to do that. I did not do any overtime at all in Year 2.

3. In Year 1, I was walking on eggshells at my job. I barely talked to anyone. I never talked about anything personal and especially did not talk about my problems. I made myself absolutely miserable because I was scared about making a good impression and I honestly thought that I was doing horribly at my job. After I got my first review, I felt like I could relax and let my guard down more, and after I got my better hours and better-fit job, I was much more myself at work. I worried that this was the reason my performance had dropped - that I was more "professional" when I was walking on eggshells.

All three of these things bothered me. For the first one, I just wasn't sure what I could do about it. I offered to train people all the time, but that job was assigned to other people instead. But I was more concerned about the second and third possibilities. I was NOT willing to do overtime. But even more so than that, I just wasn't willing to walk on eggshells again. I made myself miserable doing that and I am never going through that again. I don't care what our culture says about it - I am going to be myself all the time and that includes when I'm at work. The drop in my score made me wonder if I just couldn't get a "very good" again if I was going to be myself and talk about my feelings.

I was worried about my Year 3 review, because I've let my guard down even more at work. I've cried at work, I've talked a lot more about my problems, I even sent a draft of my book to my coworkers. I've been a lot less held-back and a lot more "me" this year compared to any other year.

I always prepare for my performance review by writing down questions I have for my boss, and this year, I decided that no matter how well I did, I was going to ask about why my score dropped from Year 1 to Year 2. So I had my review. I got the best score I've ever gotten in the same year that I have had my guard down the most and been myself the most at work. So now I knew the drop in Year 2 couldn't be about letting my guard down, and it couldn't be about training people or about overtime because I didn't do those things this year either. I was stumped. So I asked the question about Year 2, and the answer was not at all what I had expected! My boss explained that I struggled a lot when I first moved to my new job in Year 2, I didn't yet understand how to research things thoroughly, and I was making a lot more mistakes. She said that every job has a learning curve, and I was really still learning how to do my new job when I had my review. She and my manager had both decided to bump me up to "very good" this year because they felt like I had a much better handle on the job. And this year, the written comments were different from last year's. Last year's comments said a lot things like "you are learning how to do this," whereas this year's comments said things like "you are following through on research, you are being proactive in your work, etc."

I felt sooooooooo much better after hearing my boss's explanation. I mean, I get it! I understand what she means and I'm not upset anymore, I feel like, okay, that's fair. And I feel like a huge weight has been lifted now that I know it really was just a purely work-related issue all along. I didn't lose points for being myself and talking about personal problems at work or anything like that.

So what I learned from this experience is that when I'm worried about something like this, I want to just ask the question from that start. I would have felt so much better if I had just asked my boss the question when I got the lower score last year. Going forward, that's what I'm going to do. When I don't get specific enough critical feedback, I'm just going to ask specifically what I'm doing wrong and what I could improve on, because it is never worth tiptoeing around on eggshells.

No comments:

Post a Comment