Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ug...the Performance Review

I had my yearly performance review the other day. In truth, I have been here almost 4 years and this was only my second review. So it's not at all yearly. While I've never actually had a bad one (knock on wood), it's still not my favorite thing. You schedule this meeting at which you know the potential exists for you to receive criticism and then you have to spend the next few days anticipating what's going to be said. It's that anticipation I don't like. It'd be a heck of a lot easier if I could just be blind sided by the review so I don't have to spend time worrying about it. Just call me down to an office out of the blue and lay it on me. I can take it. But, like I said, I've never had a bad one. I subscribe to the notion that if there was a problem with my performance they wouldn't (and shouldn't) wait for my review to tell me about it.

Since nothing remarkable happened this year I thought I would tell you about an interesting review I had several years ago. One of my previous bosses travelled a lot. When I say a lot, I mean A LOT. He would go away for two weeks, come back for 2 days and then leave for another week. He would even take a red eye back to the office, work for the day and then head to the airport after work that same day for another multi-day trip. I was his executive assistant. In fact, I was one of his two assistants. So what work there was to do, and there was a lot, was split between two people.  Needless to say, when he wasn't around there wasn't much to do. There were very few, if any, self sustaining parts of the job description that didn't require his presence. No boss meant no letter writing, no phone calling, no emails, no calendar maintenance, no meetings to schedule and prepare. He'd call in once a day but that was about it when he was away.

During one of my yearly reviews he told me that he knows he isn't around a lot but I "need to do a better job finding things to do" to keep me busy. Really? OOOOO...K?

This was by far the most head scratching comment I've ever gotten in a review. I understand this as a piece of useful feedback on face value. If you are a server in a restaurant on a slow night you might clean the coffee machine, wipe out cabinets and sort silverware. But this was an office and I was there to work for this man in any and every way he needed. When he would leave town for 10-12 days I would be left at work for several days in a row without even speaking to him. I could go an entire month of work and only see him for 3-5 work days stretched out over that entire period. I would even go into his office before a long trip and ask him for work to do while he was gone. When you are an executive assistant and you haven't seen your boss in 5 days and aren't going to see him for another three, there are heaps of time when there's nothing to do. I wasn't upset with the comment, it made me laugh more than anything because it was so absurd. Mostly, I couldn't believe he said that.

After some consideration, I realized that this comment came as one piece of criticism in a review that was extremely positive. He felt the need to at least offer up some level criticism as my boss and that's what he came up with. I mean, I know I am perfect and all, but he probably didn't want me to know that I knew he knew I was perfect!!!!

I learned that in our reviews we need to be prepared for whatever comes our way no matter how insane it may sound. How we react to it, in what context it was delivered, and what we do with it is what make all the difference. It is important to not react emotionally during your review as hard as that may be.

There are a lot of great resources available to help us survive our reviews. has a great guide so try starting here:

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