Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Performance Reviews: Judge Thyself

As part of the yearly wrap-up at my work organization, I am being asked, as I was last year, to write a detailed evaluation of my own performance.  I've never had a root canal, but have a sense it might be more fun than self-appraisal.

Last June I was only a year old, and could ride on newbie status at this world-class place I'd gotten the chance to work at.  I've learned more than I even imagined, and my colleagues amaze me with their talents and their work ethic.  Good Lord, their work ethic.  Twenty-plus years ago, when I living in a pup tent for months at a time and planting trees on the tundra from six in the morning until nine at night (remember, in that part of the world in June the sun doesn't set until almost midnight, and it rises again by about three in the morning) the expression was, go hard or go home.  Well, there were others, but they mostly about poop and not for a family-friendly blog. 

So I thought I knew hard work,  As a treeplanter, I didn't need to look nice.  I got to say as many swear words as I wanted, especially because there were about five guys to every woman in the camp.  I didn't worry about my hair, as I was wearing a hard hat all day and didn't get to bathe for at least ten days at a time.  And since full tree bags weigh about eighty pounds and I might have been pushing a buck ten in those days, I was really bad at the job.  As I spent more than half my time trying not to tip over, I didn't feel much love from fellow planters, and as it was piece work I didn't make much cash, either.

When we go through these very ugly failures--for the record, I did not go home, but went back for a second year and failed only marginally less, proof of my hardheadedness--we can only say it's character building.  Otherwise, we are big losers, and since what I did was pretty bloody hard, I figured it was okay to say I'd earned some grit.

Still, how to I personally evaluate myself against the gold standard I see every day?  I consulted Psychology Today, which says that overly high self-esteem is indicative of the manic phase of bi-polar folks, so I'm out of the woods there.  And really low self-esteem sounds a bit over the top, and when I saw it in writing I realized the people who are stuck there need a hug and a good cup of tea, and then a talented therapist.  I've had a couple of wonderful ones, and they've helped me absolve myself of my tree-planting sins and a multitude of others.

Exercises involving formal self-appraisal help us look back on what we've learned and what we need to do to grow more.  But for people who listen to the 99 things they've done well but go home and obsess about the one thing they've done badly (I'm getting better at this, but old habits die hard) they are rough.  I remind myself that I am learning from among the best, and that I know a lot more than I did when I got into this field a decade ago.  If I thought I was all over it, that would mean that I am sitting in my comfort zone. Boring and chickenshit. Gotta grow, gotta grow. 

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