These thoughts come from two specific discussions, and years of pondering, and reading Dilbert
(thanks to the B2BBlog for these, … you can read their post here)
On employee reviews. Last night I was talking to a buddy about his company’s annual review process. I remember my annual reviews, where were a joke. They seemed to be an act, where there was no (or little) substantial feedback from the manager, and the better I did, the more nit-picky they got about what I needed to improve (becauase Dumb Manager 101 says you must help your subordinate to improve, right?). My friend mentioned that once he had a review and didn’t even know it – he was told in the subsequent review “oh yeah, that was our review.”
On job search interview techniques. At a job search network meeting we were asked how the training process was for us unemployed souls. I commented that we were getting armed with a lot of incredible knowledge and techniques, but the people who interviewed us came in significantly less sophisticated than we were (due to preparation). It was frustrating to be interviewed by someone who seemed to be fumbling in the dark, asking questions they didn’t understand (they were reading from some list). If they didn’t get the question, how could they appreciate the answers?
Why were these incompetents becoming the gatekeepers to my career future?
Definitely a frustrating experience. In defense of stoopid, incompetent managers throghout the world, I’ll claim my own stoopidity. As a manager I wanted to work with high-speed, low-drag employees who required no handholding. However, as a judgement error, I’m sure I was too hands-off and didn’t do my managerial job as well as I should have.
So how do we, as CEO’s of Me, Inc, deal with this widespread issue?
- Recognize our place, and what that means. Submitting to this ignorance doesn’t mean that we are being ignorant ourselves. But it might be job-suicide to do what you really want to do. Put the manager in his/her place. Go above them and tell the manager’s boss what’s going on (or the president). Blog about it :p I don’t suggest you just sit there and take it, but I suggest you think about what the consequences might be, and how much you can risk. Is money not an issue? Then you can afford to be more bold. But if you are too dependent on the paycheck and benefits (health insurance, etc.), you better craft a smart strategy.
- Figure out how to get out without getting out. In my first “real” job, I had a manager who had a slew of problems. One time I walked into her cubicle and she was lightly banging her head on the bookshelf whispering “I hate my job, I hate my job, …” over and over. I was shocked ….! I loved my job, even though I didn’t get any management or leadership from her. Somehow, her boss took me under her wing and I got the mentoring and projects that shaped that learning period for me – it was incredible! There was a little bit of tension between me and my direct boss, as I started to get some awesome projects, but I was definitely in a better place.
- Prepare anyway. Just because the interviewer isn’t sophisticated, or the boss doesn’t know how to do an annual review, doesn’t mean you can go in like a dunce. Be prepared, have strong statements, stories and supporting evidence, and be sure you prepare them for a stellar performance. You aren’t competing against the boss or decision maker, you are there to make a sale! Do your best, and learn current techniques.
- Keep a long-term perspective. When I was at the FBI it was sometimes like walking around a Night of the Living Dead set. It was normal to talk about lame stuff, problems, issues, and safe/boring things. No one was out to over-achieve, or do more than asked. There was no incentive, and no fear of getting let go. If you are in a situation like this, which I feel is a direct result of the culture the management creates, either figure out how to cope with it with a long-term perspective, or figure out how to get out before it ruins you. But don’t let it snuff your spirit!
- Do a great job! No matter what hell you might be going through at work, with no appreciation, etc., as long as you do a great job you can have a clear conscience AND you might be setting yourself up for bigger things. That rotten manager might be making your life hell right now, but one day, management is going to figure out how to get rid of them, and guess what? They might just be eyeing you, based on your performance.
- Realize you are in a job search. We are all in a job search. We’re either actively doing it, or passively doing it (recruiters call people who are not looking “passive candidates.”). This is where JibberJobber comes in – you should be doing certain things RIGHT NOW whether you are in an active search or not – employed, unemployed, unhappily employed, etc. Taking control of your next job placement, to any degree, should give you a greater peace of mind!
What stoopid management stress have you put up with, and how did you deal with it?