This past week, my company held its annual performance evaluations. Our company has a pretty simple process – a short form completed by both the employee and the supervisor, then discussed in a one-hour meeting. The evaluations were partly about past performance, but largely dealt with our goals for the coming year and any obstacles to our performance. Our corporate culture revolves around weekly and monthly meetings that are focused on our tasks, so someone who was outright failing to live up to his obligations would know well before the annual evaluation. I found these evaluations to be a good time to talk about bigger picture issues, including longer term career goals.
I’ve been in organizations with more formal evaluations and some with much less or nonexistent evaluations, with both longer and shorter leashes. When I was delivering pizzas, your “performance evaluation” happened every single night. Poor performing drivers were weeded out quickly; if your work took a sharp dip south (as happened to one driver I knew), it didn’t matter what your annual record might be – you’d be on your way out.
In most corporate environments, though, my performance evalutions have revolved around annual goals tied to my job description. They’ve usually include a rubric of corporate values or performance measurements – teamwork, leadership, effectiveness – with some sort of scoring scale. Usually, these goals have related directly to my daily work, except in one unfortunate case when not only did my annual goals have very little to do with my actual work, but they were changed every few months by my supervisor, making it impossible to know whether I was really performing up to expectations.
Celebrating Achievements, Receiving Feedback
I find performance evaluations to be incredibly stressful. At the end of a typical day, I’m much more likely to worry about all that I haven’t gotten done than to celebrate the things that I have gotten done. When I started my current job, my wife bought me an accomplishments journal that I could use to keep track of what I’ve done. I don’t update as much as I’d like – due to forgetfulness and neglect, rather than a lack of activity – but I can use my daily journal as a reminder of how I’ve spent my time. Continue reading Evaluating Your Performance
The first time I was unemployed, I became an incredible basketball player.
Several players, in fact: a playmaking point guard, a high-flying forward, a 7-foot defensive specialist. Not real ones, of course — these were all versions of me that I created in NBA Live ’99 on the GameCube. Eventually, my team of avatars played for the NBA championship, and it felt — well, kinda awesome at the time.
That period in my life was hardly the most productive or rewarding one I’ve experienced. As I’ve reflected on why I spent so much time playing video games, when I could – should – have been doing so many other things, a few reasons occur to me.
A lack of urgency: My wife and I had very few bills at the time (we were living with her grandmother), and she had a full time job as a teacher. So, from my (mistaken) perspective, I could wait for the perfect job to find me. But here’s what I didn’t know:
- My wife would become pregnant while I was unemployed.
- It would take me 9 months to find a full time job, never mind the “perfect” one.
- Eleven years later, we would still be paying off the student loans that we thought would be “easy” to pay off once I got a job.
I should have felt urgency. I should have been doing much more with my time. There were ways I could have been making money that I didn’t even consider, and there was a tremendous amount of unpaid work that I could have been doing. (More on that in a minute.) Continue reading A Second Chance at Unemployment
A few years ago, I read The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. It has been described as the best book ever written by a US President. While I’ve not read every book by every president, it remains one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. Written as he was dying of cancer, Grant intended the book to provide for his family after his death. 
As I read them, I was struck by how little Grant wrote about his civilian life. Most of the book details Grant’s military career, first as a young West Point graduate in the Mexican-American War, then as a general in the US Civil War. Grant covers the seven years between the end of his first military commission and the start of the Civil War in just a couple of pages. Largely, I’m sure, it was a business decision: Grant and Twain knew that the reading public would be far more interested in Grant’s remarkable military career than in his unremarkable life outside the army or his disastrous presidency.
The contrast, though, between Grant’s descriptions of his Civil War campaigns and his civilian is so great that I wonder if there’s something more going on here. Continue reading What Will You Remember about This Chapter of Your Life?