Descriptions Are Not Prescriptions


“I’m a millennial. We catch on quickly.”

I’m not a millennial, but when I overheard a coworker say the above one day, I also caught on quickly. I sensed immediately that my colleague was serious about her declaration. Her tone came with no humor, no self-deprecation, no doubt about the virtues of youth.

I rolled my eyes. Not because my colleague isn’t terrific and a quick learner. She is. Nor because her remark tapped into a stereotype about her cohort. Rather, it was because she felt it was relevant to bring up the stereotype in the first place.

Now, before you roll your own eyes anticipating a blog post bashing, praising, or analyzing millennials, hold on. I have no interest in rehashing something you’ve probably read 45 times in Fast Company (or on Fast Company if you’re a millennial).

I’m more concerned with a broader question: When do generational clichés in the workplace make sense?  Continue reading “Descriptions Are Not Prescriptions”

How to Love Annual Performance Reviews

woman-1253508_960_720-2-2What? You don’t love annual reviews?

It’s OK. You’re not alone. If you think they suck at your company, you’re probably right. They suck at most companies. They always will—because there will always be pundits who need to make money by telling you about your organization’s poorly-designed system.

But I’m not one of them. I’ll share my thoughts for free about your rotten procedures.

There are many reasons why corporate America fails its people when it comes to year-end appraisals, more than can fit into a blog post, article, book, or series of books. One such cause centers around the anonymous nature of multi-rater feedback.

What if it weren’t anonymous? Would the CHRO’s head explode? Would a company collapse? This year, I decided to find out.

The Usual Approach

Anonymous feedback about an employee from a variety of colleagues aims to provide a more complete impression of that person’s performance. You know how it goes: Jane selects coworkers of all different types who will offer unbiased opinions whom she knows will say that she parted the Red Sea. Jane’s manager then asks those people to provide comments about Jane, whose multi-raters subsequently practically cream themselves in their remarks.

Except for Bob. Bob secretly thinks Jane is overrated or incompetent or said something mean to him back in 2002, so he concocts a list of Jane’s “areas for improvement.”

“I received some troubling feedback about you,” Jane’s manager conveys to Jane, who leaves the conversation shocked and on a hunt to discover which of her colleagues/frenemies whipped out a knife that may ultimately slice into her compensation. Continue reading “How to Love Annual Performance Reviews”

The Real Reason You Hate Negative Feedback

06-sally-field-oscar-acceptance-w536-h357-2xI have a problem: I like to be liked. It’s a problem because not everyone likes me, and that often messes with my head. Why can’t I be like those people who never miss an opportunity to point out, “This is who I am. I don’t care if you love me or hate me”?

Because those people are liars. I never believe them. Neither should you. Not when they’re talking about themselves or their work. I don’t think even they believe their own bullshit. Nevermind that no one utters such nonsense after hearing, “Great job!”

“I don’t care” is nothing but a passive-aggressive defense mechanism to hide the fact that we all care what others think of us. We all live for the applause.

So what happens when someone can’t see what you see in the mirror? How do you feel and what should you do when coworkers criticize your work? If you’re like me, you feel shitty, binge on chips, watch Vanderpump Rules, hate your haters, binge on chips, take an Ambien, write some loopy Facebook posts, bing on chips, and feel even shittier.

I’m thinking of negative feedback right now because earlier this week, I re-launched this blog, and some people dislike the design. Perhaps you, too, agree with my friend who insists that green is a terrible color and that my blog looks “like it was designed on a PC in 1999.”

commodore-64-2Actually, a 1989 Commodore 64.

Regardless, you know the cliché about negative feedback. It’s a gift! Embrace it! That’s the sort of garbage that crappy corporate intranet articles spew about self-development. I should know. I’ve written those crappy articles.

Except, gifts make you feel good. Comparisons to ’90s computers, not so much. You also hug kids and pets. Nineties computers, again, not so much.

So when peers tell you that your work sucks, it’s easy to mutate into a smiling Stepford Employee as your mind races with self-doubt: Do others think I don’t know what I’m doing? Is that because I really don’t know what I’m doing?

There it is. Right there. The heart of why we hate negative feedback. It’s not because we don’t get trophies as much as because second-guessing our choices makes us feel incompetent. So how should you manage impostor syndrome?

It’s a gift! Embrace it! Run for President! Continue reading “The Real Reason You Hate Negative Feedback”