Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to Handle a Performance Review

I don't know if my situation is like your situation, but let me tell you, I am always terrified for my performance reviews. It's not that I do a bad job. In fact, I know I do a fantastic job because:
  • I put in insane overtime
  • I am almost anal/ocd about only turning in excellent work
  • I'm actually also completing the backlog of work that was left by my predecessors
  • My coworkers are constantly telling me how impressed with my work they are
  • My boss, my boss' boss, and my boss' boss' boss is constantly telling me how well I'm doing
  • I'm constantly being appointed to big projects or company-wide task forces
Despite all that, performance reviews make me trepedatious. I'm worried that I've accidentally said something wrong on one of my bad days, that I'm not performing well enough, or that I'm not smart enough. Basically, I feel a bit like an imposter, and I feel like I'll finally be told the truth as a surprise reveal at my performance review.

As it turns out, my worries were unfounded, as should have been obvious to me by the evidence I listed above. Despite that, my performance review was still unsettling. It basically turned out to be a weird combination of a game show and interview.

My performance review this year [2013]

Boss: Okay, are you ready for your performance review?
My mind: Of course I'm ready. This is what I've been mentally conditioning myself for over the past two weeks. Give me your worst. I can take it. I'm a warrior with a tenacious and confident intellect. But actually, please be nice.
Me: Yes.

Boss: Great. What is your proudest moment of the year?
My mind: What is this, an interview? My proudest moment was being the glue who kept this department from falling apart. But I can't tell you that because that's your job.
Me: I'm really proud of XYZ project and how much I've learned this year.

Boss: What do you think could be improved upon?
My mind: Seriously? This is the vaguest question ever. This could refer to my company as a whole, my department in general, my experiences with you, or myself. What do you mean? Also, I have to point out that this is yet another interview question.
Me: Well, I think that managing the abundance of projects we have is always a difficult task because resource prioritization.

Boss: How well do you think you did?
My mind: And now I'm on a game show. Guess your score on a scale from one to five. If you guess too high, we judge you. If you guess too low, we pity you. Guess right and you get absolutely nothing. This is a lose, lose, lose situation. Try not to lose!
Me: I think I performed well.

Boss: No really, how well do you think you did?
My mind: Is this a trick question? You just asked me this. Okay, here goes...
Me: I think I performed very well.

Boss: Okay, let me be bad cop now.
My mind: Uh oh. Here it comes.
Me: Okay.

Boss: Just kidding. You have nothing to improve upon.
My mind: Seriously, nothing at all? You can't give me any constructive criticism? Improve timing? Improve leadership? Stop being such a leader? Stop socializing so much? Socialize more? Are you really telling me I'm absolutely perfect?
Me: Well, that's good.

Boss: Also, here's a surprise promotion.
Kaboom. My mind has been blown.
Me: That's great! Thank you so much!
As you can see, the year-end review I had was a bit of a roller coaster ride that ended on a confusing, yet high note. But just to show you that I'm not the only one who is left unsettled and confused, I have a few more year-end review anecdotes for you. Obviously because these are being retold, I can't include the behind-the-scenes thoughts(for the most part, except when they've given me their commentary). However, I'm sure you can fill in the blanks with your imagination.

A friend's performance review

Boss: You screwed up here.
My friend: Yes, I know.

Boss: You also screwed up here.
My friend: Yes, I know.

Boss: Oh, and you screwed up here, too.
My friend: Yes, I know. Do you want me to explain why I missed deadline? I have a very good reason and you backed me up at the time. Oh, you don't? Okay, I'll be quiet.

Boss: You also did a few things pretty okay.
My friend: Well, that's good, I guess.

Boss: Congratulations, we love you, keep doing what you're doing.
My friend: Cool?

Another friend's performance review

Boss: Your work is fabulous.
My friend: Great, it's good to know my effort is appreciated.

Boss: But you have a few things that you should improve on.
My friend: Oh, really?
My friend's mind: Which of the many areas do you want me to improve on? I could know more about statistics. I could know more about biology. I could know more about chemistry. I could know more about nuclear physics. I could know more about astronomy. I could know more about nerf guns.

Boss: We want you to be more professional?
My friend: Okay...

Boss: Basically, we want you to change you to change your vocabulary slightly. Oh, and have better posture.
My friend's mind: That's all? Seriously, that's what you want me to improve on? I'm a scientist and you don't want me to improve my science?

Boss: Oh, and we think we're going to promote you next year.
My friend's mind: Great. Are you going to tell me how to make that happen? No, okay, I'll just smile gratefully.

From all the stories I've heard of year-end reviews, everyone is always left somewhat dazed and confused, regardless of how well it went.

Honestly, I don't really have much advice to give. From what I can tell, a performance review is always going to be a roller coaster of terror and confusion. But if you do your job well, it will usually end in a pat on the back and appreciation because there is still a scarcity of quality engineers out there (if you don't believe me, look at some of the stories Vanessa and I have written about our coworkers...). And since you are surely doing quality work, your company will try to openly appreciate and appease you in order to keep you around. And if they don't, then it's time to start looking for a new job anyways.

Also, I'd love to hear your performance review stories. Are they as confusing and crazy as these? Have you had a different experience than me and my friends?

1 comment :

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