So I had my annual appraisal today. At the company I work at, more so than anywhere else I have ever worked – the entire appraisal process is extremely thorough and taken very seriously. It consists of anonymous feedback solicited from up to 10 colleagues across all levels of the organisation, usually by email. This is then fed back over 1.5 hours by your performance manager.
When I last had my appraisal I’d been in post only 6 months. It was the honeymoon period and the feedback reflected that. It was overwhelmingly positive and the development points were quite anodyne (“needs to push back more”, etc).
I don’t want this to be a narrow, opinionated blog entry, so it’s worth saying fairly early on that I had very good feedback this time round, too. This was especially the case from senior people – from the consultants, directors, the top management team, etc. Really good. And my ultimate rating was 4 out of 5 (meaning exceeded what is expected / exceeds benchmark). This is a Very Good Thing. And it’s something I’m pleased about.
Also, some of the developmental feedback I had was very helpful. It was challenging – quite tough in places – but I recognised it and found it developmentally helpful. The whole point of the feedback is that it’s developmental. So the development box is the bit where you can highlight a person’s weaknesses (politely described, though, as ‘development areas’).
I had some very nasty, quite bitchy feedback. Someone said that I “talk down” to people, that I am “at odds with the organisation’s culture where everyone else mucks in” and in other areas, that I “dump work on others and he does it with lots of people”. I don’t have the paperwork in front of me so I am partially paraphrasing, but even so. When you have worked incredibly hard for 1.5 years, practically martyring yourself for the organisation, and a colleague has the audacity to imply that you belittle/patronise junior staff – I do take it very personally.
But do understand. It’s not that I don’t like criticism (I don’t, but that’s not the point). I just hate the anonymity of it all and that people with a chip on their shoulder or an axe to grind are given carte blanche to slag people off in the appraisal process. Where is the developmental side? The whole point of feedback is to help and support others through constructive feedback. Making comments like I’m at odds with the culture, dump work on others, etc, really makes me angry. What makes me most angry is that half the (useful) developmental feedback was that I must start saying no to people and start delegating more. Yet when I evidently try, it’s seen as dumping on others.
And I sense-checked this negative feedback with people I trust internally, including my 1 (sole) direct report (I have a 1/2 direct report – my PA – who I share with a couple of others). My sole direct report said he didn’t recognise it at all and he actually seemed to get quite angry reading it. We get on like a house on fire. I hired him. I did his own appraisal last week. We get on extremely well and I experience huge loyalty from him. I also asked my closest female friend at work (consultant) and she also said that it wasn’t a representative image of me.
Having said that, I think I know where the attacks are coming from. From someone who has been there many years and who started in a very junior role, who sees me as a huge threat and obstacle to their own advancement. Thankfully, the feedback I left for this person was suitably…. developmental. It actually was, rather than being bitchy.
The trouble is, as mentioned, I find criticism very hard to take. Understand, though, that this is true of all ENFPs (having gone through personality profling last year, I fully and absolutely recognise the profile I was given – the ENFP):
ENFPs dislike personal criticism, because it threatens their validity as an individual and the validity of their value system.
May feel intense anger towards people who criticize them or try to control them. But will be unable to express the anger. Left unexpressed, the anger may fester and simmer and become destructive.
Tip: Smile at Criticism. Try to see disagreement and discord as an opportunity for growth, because that’s exactly what it is. Try not to become overly defensive towards criticism; try to hear it and judge it objectively.
But the whole thing left a nasty taste in my mouth. My own boss, who I hardly see, said she was thought I was “unhappy” and at risk of “burning out”. She’s worried, of course, that I might leave – as this will reflect very badly on her. And I will leave. Only – not yet. I’ve said since about month 9 that this is a 2 year stint. By late autumn of this year I will have done 2 years and I will be ready to leave. I’d decided quite some time ago that this is only a 2 year job for me and knowing that I’m 75% of the way through my tenure makes me feel better. I have developed enormously in the time I’ve been here and have made some deep, lasting friendships. But for lots and lots of reasons – not least of which is the absolute workaholic/treadmill culture – I don’t want to spend more than 2 years here.
And I won’t.