Monthly Archives: December 2012

Performance Reviews – The Adult Report Card

Performance Reviews – The Adult Report Card

Andrea Freedman

Growing up, I usually dreaded the time in the school year when report cards came out. As an adult, I often think of my work performance review with similar trepidation.
Why is it that seeing something about oneself in writing makes it seem that much more serious? Hearing someone offer verbal constructive criticism may not always be pleasant either, but there is nothing quite the same as seeing it on paper. A review, of any kind, can sometimes feel like a rejection.
I can be having a great day, thinking everything in my world is alright, when all of a sudden I get my annual performance review, and whether or not it is positive overall, seeing any comments whatsoever that imply there is room for even the slightest improvement in the way I do my job, is enough to make me yearn for the day when I can somehow retire.
I remember being apprehensive about showing my parents my report card, worrying that they would try to force me to limit my social activities in order to buckle down and spend more time studying and doing homework if my marks were not good enough. I thought of my potential loss of privileges with as much chagrin then as I do now when I am faced with having to prove myself at work year after year in order to get even a modest salary increase.
Those of us who sought approval of our report cards when we were younger may subconsciously seek a similar type of approval from our bosses by way of our performance reviews, even though we are now adults.
I feel like a grown-up; that is until I receive the dreaded performance review. Depending on what my boss thinks of me in a nutshell, that will determine the fate of the future of my job, as well as any potential chance for even the slightest bit more money.
Bad habits can follow one through life, thus resulting in similar criticisms whether we are students or employees. Comments on a performance review such as ‘Has difficulty focusing’ might have appeared on that person’s report card in the form of ‘Has trouble staying awake in class.’
Someone once considered a class clown, thus garnering criticism on report cards about being too disruptive in school, might very well see similar comments on performance reviews at work, about getting carried away and distracting one’s co-workers.
How many times do I have to read the phrase attention to detail? Quite frankly, I’m sick of it. Even when I was in school, I found it almost impossible to pay attention for the duration of any one class, much the same as I do now all day long at the office.
If you are like me and have been in the workforce, in the same field, for most of my adult life, it is often difficult to keep up with the constant advancements in technology. In today’s world, every student coming out of school has advanced computer expertise; it comes as second nature to them, whereas for me, I sometimes find it a struggle to keep my computer skills up to date. That certainly does little for my confidence when it comes to review time.
When I got home from work the other day, my husband was watching the end of a golf tournament and informed me with dismay that Tiger Woods had lost because of a bad putt on the eighteenth hole. Some golf fans wonder if he will ever golf at the same level he did before his life became mired in scandal. While some of us may be just as happy in not knowing what everyone says about us, a person as famous as Tiger Woods cannot escape it, most likely making him feel under even more pressure.
Even for those of us who are so interesting that someone might want to write a tell-all book about us, the price of fame would likely come with seeing things in there we would rather not read about ourselves.
Once a person’s confidence takes a hit, it is often difficult to get it back, sometimes only resulting in further errors, whether they are at work, school or as a professional athlete. It is easy for a person in a position of authority to chastise us, directly or indirectly determining our fate. It is one thing to write recommendations or criticisms and expect a person to miraculously change overnight. It is quite another to read those comments about ourselves and bounce back from them.
We may think we are great at whatever it is we do, but it is others who we have to impress, on paper and otherwise, if we want affirmation of that.
I realize that no matter who you are, seeing a written critique of our abilities, whether it be on a golf score card, a critic’s review, a report card, performance review, or the many, many rejections faced by writers, we all must face scrutiny sometimes, and the chance that our confidence will be shaken. How we choose to deal with that will determine if we can overcome it.
The only way to ensure never getting a bad review in life is to not go to school, never work, not write or practise any form of art, not compete in sports or try anything at all, simply for fear of receiving a bad review. One person’s opinion is only just that and is not always necessarily correct. It is very difficult to always get a good critique from everyone, and sometimes impossible to receive a perfect score from an habitually harsh critic. That does not mean that we are not good at whatever it is we choose to do, no matter who chooes to give us a bad review.♠

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012

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The Art of Looking Busy

The Art of Looking Busy

Andrea Freedman

As many of us who have been in the workforce for many years know, between the advancement of technology, bosses actually learning to use their own computers, and tough economic times, things are not quite what they used to be.

If there is not enough work to keep us busy, even make-work projects, what are we to do? That is the question I ask myself as I read the news on the Internet for the fiftieth time on any given day, minimizing my screen every time someone walks by.

While I am relaxing on the one hand, I am stressing myself out at the same time, worrying about whether anyone notices how little work I seem to have to do and whether I will forget any skills that I have left by the time I actually do have something to do. For those of you who may be having the same experience at work, I have compiled a few basic tips to help you get busy looking busy:

Adapt a serious facial expression
• This gives off a no-nonsense impression. A serious facial expression can come particularly in handy when your boss or other superior is speaking to you and will ensure to that person that you are really listening to them.

Stand up and be counted
• Instead of spending the entire day sitting in a chair, stand up and move around, do some things around your desk, whether it be cleaning your computer screen or some type of organizational task. When you stand up and move around, not only are you getting your blood and circulation flowing after having sat in a chair for much of the day, you will also be visible to others around you, sending a subtle message that a) you are in fact there, and b) that you are not just sitting lazily in your chair all day but are actively doing something.

Hold a pen
• Somehow this one utensil can instantly create a businesslike, even authoritative, aura about oneself. Holding a pen while speaking to a boss with a serious facial expression, as mentioned above, can be a useful prop. Reading while holding a pen makes it look as though you might be about to revise something at any minute.

Dress the part
• I find that just the act of putting on a jacket magically transforms me into looking life a professional and I find it easier to get into the role. Dress as nicely as you would if you were motivated and maybe you will be.

Posture
• Posture is more important than one might think. If you slouch at your desk or lean your face on one hand, not only will you most likely hurt your back and neck in the long run, but bad posture at work also gives the impression that you are not alert and are disinterested in whatever it is, if anything, you may be working on.

Walk Boldly
• When going from place to place in the office, walk with confidence. If you have to make just a little noise with your heels, go ahead. Walk with your head held high, not sheepishly like someone who did not have any work to do and is nervous that he or she is about to be found out.

Hold File Folders and Documents Visibly
• Walk around the office with a sense of purpose, holding file folders. A simple stroll around the office is one thing, but the minute you pick up a file folder, that’s when you’ll get noticed. You must be working on something or why else would you be walking around with a file folder (of course, adorning a serious facial expression)?

Every hour or so, staple something
• The sound of the stapler is unmistakable. By using a stapler strategically every now and then throughout the work day, you will ensure that people close by will undoubtedly hear you at some point or another or see you when they walk by your desk several times on any given day. If you’ve got paper to staple, you must be working on something.

Remind them that you are there for them
• A simple “Is there anything I can do for you before I go to lunch?” can go a long way, especially if your boss has all but forgotten about you for most of the morning. (not that this is entirely a bad thing). If you are going on a coffee break, offering to get your boss a coffee will be appreciated and seen as a nice gesture, even if they decline the offer.

Fillers
• It is surprising how much time can be wasted simply by going to the washroom several times a day. If you are fortunate enough to have a coffee station or kitchen where you work, walking to and from that spot and preparing your coffee can not only pass some time, it can also aid in the need for the extra trips to the washroom.

Take a Smoke Break
• There are times at work where I almost wish I smoked, just so that I would have an excuse to take a couple of breaks during the day, besides the hour I get for lunch. Whether you smoke or not, a short break in the morning and another in the afternoon can be refreshing and rejuvenating and not only does it take up some time and break up the monotony of the day, it can also lead to doing a better job at any work we do have, in the long run.

Smile
• Above all, and perhaps the most difficult, don’t look like you are bored. When someone asks if you are busy, act as if that were the most natural question in the world – rather than bursting out laughing and saying “That’s a good one. As if I’m ever busy.” Don’t advertise being idle at the office, even to co-workers who you believe to be harmless. Office gossip doesn’t take long to spread, and the last thing you want is for the wrong person to get wind of the fact that their company is paying you just to be a body occupying space.

Answer the phone right up until the end of the day
• You never know who will call for your boss even at the end of the day on a Friday and even if your boss is “working from home” that day. As much as we don’t like to think negatively of our employers, it is entirely possible that a superior at work could solicit a friend to call in on the pretence of speaking to him or her with the intent of finding out if that person’s employee is still loyally at their desk or whether they have skipped out early.

Don’t be the one to suggest leaving early
• After all, you’re too important to go home early! As far as you are concerned, unless someone says “Take the rest of the day off”, you are there until the end of the day. Asking if you can leave early brings your lack of work, as well as lack of enthusiasm for being at work, glaringly to light to an employer if it was not obvious already.

It is not always easy to sit and do nothing at work; in fact, at times it can be more difficult than being busy. By remembering some simple tools, we can not only pass the time more quickly at work while giving the impression that we are in fact working, but also have a few laughs with ourselves in the process.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012