Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Stress, Failure, Criticism and my Performance Review

I have been seriously stressing at work for the last few months because I'm approaching my annual performance review.

As a company, we're recently implemented some new forms and the new process is a 20-page document that I'd rather have teeth pulled without anesthesia than fill out.

While I was at therapy last night, I tried to work out why this whole process was stressing me out so much.

I mean, I've never had a bad review and I know that not only my boss but the Partners are very happy with me.

So what am I worried about?

I've talked in the past about how I tend to be hyper-critical of myself as a result of YEARS of my mother criticizing everything from how I stand, speak, dress, behave to how I fold the laundry, wash the dishes or vacuum the floor.  Being an only child was difficult because I always felt that if I had a sibling there would be another person my mom could focus on.  But instead it was always just me, and all the expectations that came along with being the center of my mom's focus.

Now I understand that my mother is critical, not to be cruel, but to try and improve me.  She wants me to be the best that I can be at everything.  Problem is that over 29 years, that has resulted in me only thinking that I'm incapable of doing anything right if she still finds fault in everything.

Now what does this have to do with my review?

The whole process of having an in-depth performance appraisal opens you up to critique.  And that's what stresses me out.

My therapist and I talked last night about the fact that since I was little, I've avoided my mom's criticism by being a good girl.  If I never made any fuss, never broke the rules and never did anything wrong I'd never be criticized or told that I was bad.

It's probably why I'm such a control freak as an adult.

I don't like giving people control of things that I will be responsible for in the end because I rarely trust them to live up to my standards.  But they're not my standards, they're standards that are unattainable because they're based on the view that EVERYTHING has to be perfect.  I have to be perfect.

Well newsflash, nobody's perfect.

And that's why the review process stresses me out so much.

Because it's an opportunity for people I work with, to point out everything that is wrong with me.

Everything that just isn't good enough.

So instead of viewing my review as an opportunity to hear how good I'm doing, or how much people appreciate me, mentally I'm just focusing on the fact that someone could write something on there that's bad and then people will realize that I'm not perfect.

Hurt your head yet?

When asked what I'm afraid they would say that could be so bad I had absolutely no answer. 

I mean I know I'm good at my job, I know I'm friendly and respectful and helpful.

So what could they possibly say?

I don't have an answer for that.  Because what I fear is this big UNKNOWN that would catch me off guard.  I mean what could be worse than being told you're bad at something that you didn't even know you were being evaluated on?  Or being told you're bad at something that you think you're good at?

I know I'm not perfect.  I'm realistic about what areas of my job could use more focus or attention to detail.  So if stuff like that came up, I'm ok with that.

What I'm afraid of is being blind sided by this unknown criticism that I don't know how to protect myself from.  That someone will find more than a fault in my skills, but will find fault in me.

That I haven't just failed at a task.   That I'm a failure as a person.

And that's a scary thing indeed.

Cheers,

Ash


8 comments:

  1. We do performance evaluations monthly, and I hate it. It's stressed me out since day one, but over time has gotten a little easier... I have no advice for you other than try to take deep breaths and know you'll be fine. The standard you hold yourself up to is higher than anyone at work ever would.

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    1. I couldn't handle this monthly. I'd snap.

      I know I'm holding myself to unrealistic expectations. And I KNOW that the higher up's are happy with me.

      I just can't deal with opening myself up like this to people I essentially don't trust.

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  2. Good luck with your review, though it sounds like you don't need luck. If you're half as good at your job as you are at blogging,you'll be fine. ;-)

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    1. Thanks Amanda. That's very sweet.

      I'm sure it'll be fine. But that's the joys of being totally irrational. Sometimes you know you're irrational and can't do a damn thing to stop it.

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  3. I completely understand the irrational fear, I get it too. Try to keep reminding yourself that you're your harshest critic. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

    I can't really say much more on the topic than you already said above, but I REALLY connected when I was reading this:
    "My therapist and I talked last night about the fact that since I was little, I've avoided my mom's criticism by being a good girl. If I never made any fuss, never broke the rules and never did anything wrong I'd never be criticized or told that I was bad.

    It's probably why I'm such a control freak as an adult.

    I don't like giving people control of things that I will be responsible for in the end because I rarely trust them to live up to my standards. But they're not my standards, they're standards that are unattainable because they're based on the view that EVERYTHING has to be perfect. I have to be perfect."

    Knock 'em dead, sunshine!

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    1. Thanks Hun. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that you can't do everything perfect and you're not always going to make everyone happy. It's focusing on making yourself happy that truly matters.

      HUGS.

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  4. Remember, Ash: You get to hold some of the cards, too. This place knows what an asset you are and they don't want to lose you - I'm SURE of it - so this is also an opportunity for you to air your grievances, too, right? In all likelihood, because it's corporate crap, they will have to come up with areas where you can improve and that sucks to hear; feedback can always be tough when it's not saying you're 100% perfect. You can't spend 3 months out of the year stressing about an hour or two when you know the kind of work you've done there has been nothing but outstanding - that's not healthy for you. I'd also like to high-five my mom about how her emotional bullshit she put me through until I was 23 and how it's impacted other areas of my life. You're not that little girl any more and you have a say in your future, too. You got this, Ash.

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    1. Thanks hun. I know in my brain that I'm good at my job. But all this other emotional bullshit creeps in and makes me doubt everything I know to be true.

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