“Can you step into my office for a moment, please?”
Have you ever had a performance review? How did you go into it? Were you dreading the outcome or did you go into it confident and assured? Were you challenged to stand your ground? Did shit get REAL?
I’ve had a few performance reviews. Aren’t they fun? All the awkward sweating and crying… or was that just me? My very first one was in college. Yes, the famous Sandwich Artist story. Long story short, I was being paid meagerly ($5.65 an hour!) to do a job I found boring and embarrassing, and I was well known on campus as “the grouchy sandwich lady”. You can read more about that endearing memoir here. And clearly, since I talk about it so much, it was a pivotal position in my life. I can remember so many details about that job that I wanted to erase from my memory…funny how that works, hey? ha ha. ANYWAY, here’s how I remember my “first time”…
It was in a poorly lit cubbyhole of an office in the basement of the cafeteria. My supervisor was a tall, thin, dark haired upperclassman named Katie. Katie was very midwestern and polite and seemed very much like her job made her uncomfortable. And she seemed intimidated by me, a lowly freshman. That didn’t help. Anyway, I sat there awkwardly as she carefully and tactfully brought up the fact that there had been a number of complaints made about my “lack of enthusiasm” for my job. As I listened to her say this and accidentally made direct eye contact, (FUCK!) it was clear that she knew that I didn’t give a shit about my performance review, and now she knew that I knew she knew. I mumbled something like, “Oh, ok, sorry.” Sigh. I applied for an office job after that and the rest is history.
The point is, performance reviews suck. They’re uncomfortable. Nobody goes into them hoping it will last longer than 5 minutes. Employers hate them, employees hate them. But they are a necessary evil because they can be very productive for everyone involved! Even though they can be excruciatingly uncomfortable, they can help you achieve some serious gains when it comes to positive progress in your work environment! Let me bring you along on another employment adventure…
The year was 2002, and I was feeling 22. Literally. I was just freshly out of my third year of college, and I had quit school to move home and marry my small town chuckwagon racing boyfriend. I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?! What the fuck! My poor Dad. Anyway, I landed a full time job with decent pay and benefits in my very rural area, and I felt like I had hit the lottery. I was terrible employee. I was underqualified, immature, and had no idea what it was like to be a responsible adult. But like I said, it was a very rural area so I guess their pickin’s were slim too. So like any entitled 22 year old, I went into my performance review with a list of all of the important and vital contributions I was making toward the company. I was prepared. In my mind, the fact that I was habitually late for work, spent more time socializing than working and often asked for days off was neither here nor there.
I was 22 and if I had anything going for me, it was inflated confidence.
Long story short, even though I was confronted about my terrible work ethic, I left that review with a raise and a feeling of victory. I look back on it now and I can’t believe I was able to convince my boss to give me anything other than a stern warning. Now that I’m a boss myself, I realize just what a load of crap I was feeding him about my actual ‘contributions’. But I also realize that my unbridled belief in myself to ask for what I wanted was one of the first business lessons I ever learned: Confidence is KEY!
If you believe in your abilities to bring something of value to the table, your shortcomings won’t be the focus… Your strengths will. Confidence in your particular brand of contribution is what will keep the engine in your machine purring right along!
So let’s think about the concept of applying the performance review to your life. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the parallels between my business life and my personal life. What if I started running my personal life like a business? What if I became the BOSS of my own life? Who would my staff be? Who is on my advisory board? How healthy are operations? Is the ‘company’ growing and thriving, or is it just getting by? OR WORSE… is my business totally tanking?
The fact is, the first step in being the boss of your own life is doing a performance review on yourself. You’re the one making all the decisions, after all, right? So imagine scheduling some time to sit down and be critical and thorough about your performance, your goals, and your effort. What would you find? Would you deserve a raise? Would you conclude that you’d be better suited for a different position?
Think about that. I did. It’s been excruciatingly uncomfortable, but in the interest of making positive progress, I’ve decided to make some changes. I realized that for a while now, I’ve been approaching my life like a freshman sandwich maker who doesn’t give a fuck and just wants to make enough money for beer and Taco Bell. But it’s time for a change. Maybe we’re all better off going into our own performance reviews like an overly confident 22 year old with nothing to lose. Know what you’re good at, know what you deserve, and ask for that. Demand that. AT LEAST.
Thanks for stopping by my office. I should have introduced myself. I’m Black Raven, and I’m the CEO of what goes on in my life. Feel free to drop in anytime.
Now get back to work.