Review time

Across the conference table from me, my manager is giving me my assessment. It’s not in his nature to be serious, so his praise for my work and the projects and responsibilities I took on this year, seems almost like a joke, even though I know he is being sincere.  It is nice to hear, but I only have ears for the part he hasn’t addressed yet: the areas for improvement. The failings, as I will see them.  He offers only one: “Be more confident,” he tells me.  But I don’t understand what that means. To me, he might as well be saying, “Change your personality.”

Fast forward a year…

The same company, a new manager, a new role I have held for only a few months.  Across the desk from me, my manager tells me that, for the major project I was thrust into, the pieces I was responsible for were fine but the project as a whole was a dismal failure. Though it was outside my control or responsibility – the person who owned the project quit suddenly, just before its doomed end – what I hear him saying is that it is my fault, my failing. I have disappointed, and it disheartens me beyond measure. I am derailed for a while after that. Eventually I learn and grow from the experience.

Fast forward three years…

A new company, a new industry, a very different role.  My manager understands what motivates me, and I understand his expectations. The team as a whole is high-performing under his leadership.  My review is in 15 minutes, and I am antsy at my desk. I know what to expect; my manager believes that if anything comes as a surprise in our reviews then he hasn’t managed us well all year long. I know that while there is always room for improvement, he is pleased with my performance overall. The review will be positive. He will remind me, once again, to work with confidence. This will not make any more sense to me than it has in the past, but it will at least not feel like a personal critique. I know how the review will go, and that there is no reason to worry. Even so, the weight of his opinion is heavy on me and in these final minutes before I go into his office, my anxiety level rises and rises until I have to get up and walk away from my desk – making a loop across the second floor and back – just to burn off the excess energy before I have a nervous breakdown.

Fast forward two years…

The same company, a new manager, an expanded role. She’s called me into her office for my review. I’m surprised at how unaffected I feel at the prospect, but then, what she does is so little like “managing” and she is so completely off her rocker most of the time – she is driving us all down a slow road to insanity – that I am morbidly curious about what feedback she’ll provide.  Instead she asks for an update on my projects, gives me a cursory nod of acknowledgment, and then launches into a tirade about how this manager that’s no longer here was a chauvinist and that manager that’s no longer here was no friend of mine.  She asserts that she is the only one I can trust around here. What on earth is she talking about, and what does it have to do with my performance? And then I am dismissed, befuddled as to what just happened and what on earth she’ll be putting on the forms this year.

Fast forward two years…

A new company, another industry, a different role.  I feel nervous for my review but it comes out as nervous energy; I’m wired. I walk into my boss’ office, and she gives me my review. Or I think she does. She always finds me funny – whether I mean to be or not – and we laugh through the entire review, so much so that it’s hard to actually feel officially reviewed. At the end she reminds me of the rating system I haven’t yet really understood, and then lets me know that I just got the top rating; the rating they never give anyone. I’m giddily pleased but still want to know the important thing: What do I need to improve? The question actually seems to surprise her.

Fast forward two years…

The same company, a new manager, a transforming role.  Across the conference room table from me, my manager pulls out notes from my clients. Customers for my primary area of responsibility over the last few years, even before she was my manager, call her regularly with feedback on my work for them. It’s all positive, but the feedback we will both put the most weight on is the responses of my new customers, the new responsibilities, the parts of my role that are in the space she lives and breathes. I am nervous; this area is all new to me, and I agonize over those projects. I am flooded with relief when I hear what they’ve said. In my heart I think, God is so good to me; it’s Him and not me that accomplishes these things.

And then the part that’s what I fear, and what I need: what I need to work on.  In how the two of us – both having been teams-of-one for several years – can work more effectively as a team. Training and growth opportunities for the year to come. And to be confident in my work; another flavor of the one instruction I never know how to accomplish.

And so I ask: What would that look like to you? And she explains it in a way I can almost understand… that to be confident in my work is simply owning my opinions and acknowledging my expertise in a given area – not arrogantly but clearly so that my customers feel confident that they are in good hands. I might actually be able to learn to do that.

Fast forward a year…

Review time is coming. I loathe this time of year. I loathe the process.  But then again, it’s a chance to move forward, to learn and grow in my work. And that is good.

Fast forward…

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About aka gringita
Flotsam generator. Amateur photographer. Avid traveler. Christ follower.

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