Monday, February 15, 2016

A Happy Ending

I had my annual review last Tuesday and it turns out that my boss is not going to miss my sunshine. Generally, despite being kind of a slacker, I get good reviews, possibly because a degree of intelligence and efficiency go a long way toward canceling out or camouflaging these tendencies. Last year my boss drafted an extremely glowing review. Alas, by the time the year ended, he had moved on to another position within the company, and his boss finished the review, and savaged me. I figured that, since I’m not really the world’s best employee, I would accept the bad review gracefully. They’re right that I’m doing something wrong, even if they don’t know exactly what it is.

I worked for the boss who wrote my final review for about six months and we seemed to have a great relationship, so I was shocked when I got pretty much the same review as last year, except even worse. My boss mentioned that, since she wasn’t with us the whole year, she had needed to get input from her own boss. I thought I recognized some of those stylistic flourishes. In addition, I think they need to make the case that the decision to eliminate my position was well-founded. (Though, as my dharma buddy said, if they’re going to claim that my layoff was merely a business decision, wouldn’t it have been gracious of them to give me an admiring parting review?) 

This year as last, I have not been the most highly energetic employee, so I wasn’t sure how strong of a tone to take in discussing this write-up. Then I thought about how enraged my mother would be if she read it, made some notes reflecting my honest opinion, and presented all of my thoughts to my boss, and we did pretty much have an argument, albeit a courteous and quiet one.

She had presented all of my accomplishments as if someone else had done all the parts that involve thinking, which simply is not accurate. She actually said that I do well with simple, repetitive tasks, as long as all the details are carefully explained to me, which later caused even my normally calm father to make an exclamatory sound. In the course of my discussion with my boss, she said that, on the one hand, when I successfully completed one thing, she had only been with us for three months, so she didn’t really know anything about it, but, on the other hand, that after working with me for several weeks, it was clear to her that I’m incapable of analyzing data. So either she’s extraordinarily discerning, or completely lost in a fog. I didn’t point out that inconsistency. I just told her what I accomplished and what it took to accomplish it. This was by far the most disagreeable conversation I’ve ever had with any manager, or probably any colleague, in all of my 17 years at this company.

However, I know that, fairly or unfairly, sometimes we get praise and sometimes we get blame. In the end, she added some things to the review that made me feel much better, and I will also learn what I can from her observations, which I’m sure contain some grains of truth.

My last working day was last Friday. On Thursday, I sent this note to my team; I have changed the names to initials here:

Dear Colleagues,

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be part of this splendid team. I have so enjoyed getting to know you.

Thank you, H., for hiring me in the first place. Thank you all for helping me get oriented when I joined the team and for all you have taught me in these years. Special thanks to V. for being a Remarkable QC Query Guru, and to C. for being my congenial next-door neighbor, and most of all to R.—my best friend at work, always there with a kind word and always ready to step in in a pinch.

Please say hello if the spirit moves you, and for those who have inherited any of my tasks, if questions arise, please feel free to get in touch—I am at your service and will always do anything I can to help.

(Bugwalk’s secret contact info here.)

With the best of wishes for each of you always, and with gratitude,

I had a number of very nice exchanges with colleagues in the month after I got my notice, and after I sent the above parting note, there were several more, plus I got a note from my boss which, in part, said, “Your professionalism during this transition has been nothing less than inspirational.”

So I feel extremely good about how I have conducted myself, though sorry to have received a review that makes it look like I’m an imbecile (less so after my boss’s edits). Yet something good happened there, as well, at the very end.

The day before my last day, I got a call from a co-worker who had inherited one of my reports, and I spent an hour walking him through it again. He asked if I’d had help developing it, but I had done it all myself. He expressed admiration, and I said that if he felt like it and had time, I would appreciate it if he’d say that to our boss, and he sent me this note, copying her:

“Thanks again for all your help in reviewing this report. It is a complex report with the links, various calculations, and the nice graphs that you created. Your Excel skill level is very high, something that you can leverage in the future.”

When I got home, I found that F. had left me five supportive phone messages. In the first, he was reminding me, whatever happened, just to relax, which was the exact advice I’d been giving myself. In the fifth, he offered to drop everything he was doing and rush across town to hold my hand, if needed. Between F. and my parents and my other friends and quite a number of my co-workers, I have felt an immense amount of love and appreciation in these past four weeks, and I really am grateful.

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