A Review of My Annual Performance Review

My Review of Annual Performance Reviews
Photo by mentatdgt

After all the non-stop cribbing about my performance reviews and facing severe anxiety due to them for the last two years, I am relieved to announce that I did not get any bad reviews this year. So far, anyway. My anxiety is always on the lookout for some bad news, so it is with some apprehension that I open my inbox each day. Probably my anxiety might last till the end of this year.

Things that might have contributed to some relief this time around:

  1. Regular feedback sessions – I made it a point to seek constructive feedback from my manager regularly. I did not wait for him to provide it to me.
  2. Asking more questions – I realized I should be digging deeper into what they wanted so I could help myself. Asking more questions was the way to go.
  3. Pushing myself – I was a nervous wreck after the last performance review. So I had to shift my mindset from my default self-pity mode to learning mode to make way for improvements.
  4. Better management – The manager did better this time. He was good at providing constructive feedback immediately after a task was completed.

If you get a bad annual performance review, try the above approach before completely giving up on the company. It hurts quite a bit when your work isn’t appreciated. Your first impulse might be to quit the company but take any feedback with an open mind, see if the remarks are legit, and work towards implementing them.

I think a part of me was waiting for this performance review to check if my best was good enough for my company, based on which I would have redefined my future plans. There’s no point moving forward if your employer cannot see the hard work you put into your projects. You can work all you want, as hard as possible, but if your employers turn a blind eye or start criticizing every little thing you do, all your effort is wasted. It is one of the main reasons why I feel a constructive work environment should be given precedence over money: getting more money does not always guarantee more happiness. You need a non-toxic environment to function to your best capacity. Money is essential, yes. We are not working for charity. But the side effects shouldn’t be loss of sleep, unending stress, and depleted family time.

Getting back to positive performance reviews, you would want your boss to know you are completely involved in your work, so you may have to speak to them often. Ask them doubts, questions, and share suggestions, even if you aren’t in dire need to get them answered. If there’s nothing to say, dig deeper. There’s always something to discuss, however major or minor it is. The point is to be as proactive as you can. Take the first step in getting things done. Getting work done silently is undervalued in most companies (sadly for us introverts), and putting on a show is the need of the hour. Unless your manager is as understanding as Adam Grant, you wouldn’t need all these tips, but the reality is something else.

Even though you can manage things independently, your boss also requires validation for their work, so give that opportunity to them – make them feel involved. Sometimes, it takes a slight shift in our own approach toward work to change our current company to the dream company we’ve always wished for. It is more or less like a relationship; you and the company must make an equal effort. So this year, I want to tap myself on the back for not giving up, coming out with a plan to better my work, trying out a different approach, and checking patiently for outcomes and feedback with an open mind. My motivation doesn’t come from money; it comes from my work being valued. Being a single, unmarried woman, I do not have many responsibilities, so I can do away with chasing money. Yes, money is a great plus, but more compensation means nothing if we are disrespected or overworked.

That Time of the Year Again…

Photo by Ylanite Koppens

My annual performance review is around the corner. And I wonder what surprise they have in store for me this time around.

If you have been following my blog, you would know that my last two performance reviews did not go well. It was a bit of a surprise to hear the managers say what they did, because at no point during the year did I receive any feedback from them. My mind automatically deduced “no feedback” as “good feedback.” But that wasn’t the case.

I am not sure what I would face this year, but I could do without the anxiety. I can only think, why can’t companies make appraisal time easier? The stress comes only when you’re given no clue about your performance.

Right now, all I can do to calm myself down is utter the golden words, “I tried my best.”

So will things be favorable this time, or am I in for a nasty surprise again?

Stay tuned.

An Ode to Finding a Passion Outside Work

Photo by Pixabay

Recently, I talked about the distress I experienced due to excess work. I felt exhausted, working day in and out, and was in severe need of some me-time. I had been “at it” for two years since the start of the pandemic, and I was close to burning out.

Thankfully, I got some time out recently – when my manager went on vacation. I was ecstatic at first. There was no urgent work; it almost felt like I was also on holiday. But then I started experiencing something that I had never experienced in my two years of pandemic-induced erratic work hours – the insufferable boredom that comes with having no work. Was it a withdrawal symptom, a side-effect of having burnt a copious dose of after-work oil? When you finally get some breathing space, you have no clue what to do with it. You are left grasping at straws.

The first few days of zilch micromanagement felt like a dream to me. But by the second or third week, boredom took precedence, and I started actively looking for tasks to self-initiate. A few questions that crossed my mind –

  • Is this what retired people go through? They are relaxed and happy the first few weeks of retirement, but many develop a sense of despair later on.
  • How can I stop myself from feeling this way?
  • Why do we always have to be on the move? Why are we so averse to relaxation?
  • What is the optimal amount of work you need daily to keep yourself happy?

Of course, I do not have the answers to all questions. I am not a researcher or scientist. I apologize if you came here looking for answers. However, I can tell you something from my personal experience:

I am happiest when I have at least half a day’s worth of solid work. The type of work that requires my complete attention, work that takes my mind off all kinds of distractions. When I am consumed by an optimal amount of work that meets my skills, I enter this state of flow that ignites my happy hormones. This “work” that I am talking about is not just restricted to office work; it can be anything – cooking, playing a sport, writing, learning, dancing, singing. The point is that it should be something that is immersive and consumes your entire interest.

It might be why experts recommend having a passion outside work. Once you’re retired, this passion will keep you alive and kicking. For workaholics, finding that excitement outside work might prove challenging. They hardly get the time to pause and seek activities that may have the potential to improve their quality of life in the future. One possibility for such plodders is to go part-time post-retirement in context to their work (maybe consulting). But if you have decided to step away from office work, as most of us plan to do post-60, finding yourself a cause or a passion becomes imperative.

We feel our best when we are in service or when we can provide help in some way. Finding your “Ikigai,” as vouched by the long-living Japanese, is essential to one’s overall well-being and happiness. I am not yet sure what my Ikigai is. I enjoy writing, but I haven’t yet sat down to see if I could write for half a day, nor do I know if this exercise would cater to my emotional health eternally. I did some sewing the other day. It made me feel alive. Maybe Ikigai can be a bunch of things – a heady concoction of multi-colored magic beans that contribute to our general well-being. You can embrace each of them as per the mood and season, mix and match, exercise portion-control, and tuck them away in your customized, personalized happiness jar. All it takes is some time to figure out what those magic beans are.

An Ode to Feeling Moody, Meh, and All That

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels

It has been a strenuous few weeks at work. At a point where I am just craving to take a break and go somewhere. Or just enjoy the weather and read. Even the usual weekend break is not cutting it.

But a vacation has to wait because of work deadlines.

I have realized something over the years—whenever I am stressed at work, I also tend to overthink a lot about my life in general and become unwelcomely crabby, subjecting myself to mind-numbing questions “Where am I heading? What am I doing? Why are people like this? Why is the world so bad?” And sulk about it even if I have no plans to shift out of the zone I am in because it is quite perfect for me otherwise, outside these moody phases. So I just sit with the feeling and wait for it to pass, like a hermit in search of worldly answers.

When work is more relaxed and I get a breather, life seems calm and harmonious. Professional life does affect your personal life, no matter how much you try to separate the two. I didn’t realize this behavioral pattern till I saw it repeat, time and again. Now, I know, and tell myself, “Yeah, it’s because you are mentally tired. You just want to take a few days off and do what you like best. You will be okay once you get that break.” This self-realization is cathartic in a way and a problem-solver because you know where the issue lies. But here’s the catch—it only comes when you choose to sit with your feelings and introspect, not run away.

So I am in that phase right now where I get moody seeing others’ travel posts on social media. I get moody when an ex’s update pops up somewhere on my social media feed because of a mutual friend. (Yup, social media is bad for your mental health, especially when you are stressed.) I even get moody when there are too many people around. The things that don’t usually affect you with much intensity, start gnawing at your brain and make you overthink.

As you grow up, you become more familiar with your emotions. You start to ask why you feel the way you do, so that the next time you face the emotion again, you know how to handle it better. Self-realization builds with experience. The more you encounter a feeling, the more you get to learn about its dynamic range and complexities. I feel the manner in which each person deals with their emotions is as unique as their fingerprints. All your experiences shape the way in which you handle or feel about things. What one person goes through in an emotion might be different from the next person as each one’s life story is exclusive and uncommon. So how can we say with finality that we should deal with an emotion only in one particular way? What if there are multiple okay ways to deal with things? And being moody is also an okay way contrary to popular belief.

Most people’s advice would be to snap out of being moody. Movies and tv series show loud friends whisking away their moody buddies to a party to dull down their emotions, hoping it would make them feel better. A person like me would have dissociated myself from such friends even if they meant good because the last thing I would need is a party.

Basically, the world wants you to do just about anything other than feeling your emotions. But I would say, just sit with it. Acknowledge its presence and understand it is only human to feel “nothing” or “moody” for a while. It is not a prison that you need to escape from. It is an intricate, delicate, and overlooked part of you that craves your embrace and attention.