Your Performance is not the Problem

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It was late summer back in 1998 and I was finishing off the final work term of my Industrial Engineering degree at Dal. And as everyone is aware, with every single job that you will ever have there is some kind of performance review process to go through.

Judgement day was here and it was time for mine.

Ahead of this meeting I was given a multiple choice questionnaire to fill out that basically described how I thought I did. I filled it out and brought it to the review meeting with my boss. We went through it question by question and he gave his selections for my performance level. Most of his answers were lower than mine, none were higher.

In the discussion following the questionnaire my boss went on to say “When I think of the people that I can count on in this department, your name doesn’t come to mind.” Further he said something to the effect “You don’t really fit in to this environment, and maybe a Government job would be more up your alley.”

Now, I am not going to say I did a great job during that work term, or that I was terribly engaged with the work I was doing. Because I didn’t, and I wasn’t. But there was a serious lack of depth to his analysis of what was going on, and the commentary of what my life direction should be was completely out of line. As well, having just found out I was going to have to write a supplementary exam for one of my courses, he caught me at a particularly vulnerable time.

I had two other work terms for which I had good reviews, but it’s funny how it is always the shitty stuff that sticks with us. That single meeting had an impact on many life choices I made over the next several years. A huge part of my issue with performance reviews is exactly what I described above. The amplified impact of negative feedback.

When you spend the majority of your waking hours at your workplace a poor annual review can haunt you for months. Your self worth takes a hit, your bank account, your mood, it can trigger anxiety and depression. All for what? It seems that many of the side effects of negative feedback can sabotage your ability to improve future performance.

An often overlooked fact is that a person’s performance doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What you are doing and why you are doing it are VITAL components to how well you do it. Are you accessing your Natural Skillset? Do you have a clear purpose?

This is why finding your passion is so important. When you are chasing your passion, performance management almost becomes irrelevant. Where you need to improve a skill you find a way to teach yourself how to do it. When your tools aren’t good enough, you save up and invest in new ones. When you have no time, you simply get up earlier, stay up later, or stop binging on Game of Thrones. When people criticize you, you tell them to go f**k themselves and you keep moving forward. You are on a mission and nothing else matters.

True performance management is a one person activity.

Yes, there are probably dozens of people that can help you do what you do more effectively. But your actual performance, the level at which you work with what you have in the immediate now, can not be improved by someone else.

But everyone wants feedback. Most of the time I believe people just want to make sure they don’t have the terribly awkward and painful conversation at the end of the year.

What I’ve discovered since launching ‘The Passionate Why‘ is the incredible value of real time feedback.

  • Facebook provides instant info for every post telling me how many people have seen it and how it compares to every other one. It tells me when my viewers are most likely online and even breaks it down by gender.
  • On Twitter a sudden jump (or dip) in followers or re-tweets lets me know immediately when I have done something with an impact.
  • On WordPress I know how many people have read my post, which country they live in, and the search terms that were used. I know the best day to post, and the best time of day.
  • And on YouTube I can track the amount of money that is generated from each video. Very minuscule at this point, but the impact is still powerful and even addictive.

I will take this live, ongoing, unbiased, impersonal, continuous feedback any day over an uncomfortable annual performance review.

Image courtesy of:LeoWolfert/Shutterstock.com

 

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