Friday, February 6, 2009

Self Review

I hate performance analysis. I thought I was done with it after high school, after those god-awful projects called Portfolios, where you had to include a certain number of certain “types” of work, and every piece had to include a standardized Cover Page on which you described the assignment and then wrote about why you thought you had done a good or a bad job on it, what you learned from it, or some such blather. It was so tiresome to write about yourself that way all the time. If the piece was good, I knew it was good; that was why I had gotten an A on it. Plus, it sounded arrogant if you complimented yourself too much; but on the other hand, if you berated yourself too much, other kids got mad at you for being falsely modest and fishing for compliments. Plus, if it was bad work, then I didn’t want to wax poetic about how I “could have done better.” If I had wanted to do a better job, I would have! So the whole process was simply tiresome and a huge waste of time as far as I was concerned. A waste of time, and an even bigger waste of paper.

But now here I am, stuck doing it again! Along comes my six month review, and lo and behold! My boss presents me with a six-page-long form called “Performance Planning, Appraisal, and Development” which asks me to describe what I do and how well I think I do it. What’s worse is, I don’t get to see my “grade” first. My bosses assess me after I grade myself. So do I give myself “straight A’s,” in the hopes that they see me as confident and competent? Or do I try to be modest and claim that I believe this is how I’m supposed to do my job (which is in fact what I really believe, although I do think I am slightly more efficient than the average Joe Schmoe)? Which side of the self-esteem line am I supposed to walk? Because now my job depends on it. This isn’t about a simple report card, with a silly little letter on it. This is now about money and professional reputation. This is going to affect my Real Life in tangible and potentially irreversible ways. This is, for better or for worse, something I have to do, and something I have to do well.

The worst part is, I live my entire life performing the self-review process. My daily internal dialogue consists of, “Yes!” “Oh no.” “You are such an idiot! How could you do that?” “Thank god you did that.” “Oh my god, that would have been a disaster.” “You are so amazing.” “You are so retarded.” All day, every day, I evaluate what I do and how I do it. That’s just who I am. However, I am constantly going over this “performance evaluation” with a split mind. Half of me is confident and proud of my achievements: this is the half that is pleased when something goes well and will attribute successes to my own intelligence, hard work, or proper planning. The other half is never satisfied, always striving to be better, and therefore, constantly finding fault. If something goes wrong, it was my own lack of foresight, my own stupidity that is to blame. If someone is unhappy with something I have done, I should have known better; I should have done it right the first time.

Consequently, going into a formal evaluation with this sort of dual mindset is immensely stressful. Which “me” is being realistic, and which is blowing things out of proportion? Everything in life is such a delicate balance, and now I have to create that balance on paper. At least from here on out, it will only happen annually.

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