Despite the overabundance of Christmas decorations you see in every retail shop in America, this is NOT the “most wonderful time of the year” for HR.
Why? It’s because, in addition to the normal chorus of Stupid Employee Tricks, it’s the time of year where everything is due at once. Right now I’m working on a few of the following:
Annual AAP and EEOC reporting (the latter is finished. The former? SHOOT ME. I mean, I’m all about diversity. It’s the mind-numbing minutiae of government documentation that makes all of us approach this task with the enthusiasm and vigor of preparing our taxes or heading to a root canal.)
Open Enrollment – the annual event where HR pulls you all together and shoots confusing terminology and abbreviations at you for a full sixty minutes. The end result of this meeting is the expectation that you place you order for your own personalized combo platter of a pre-tax alphabet soup that you’ll pay a couple thousand dollars for. On the menu are PPO, with or without FSA (dependent care, medical, or BOTH); OR HDHP, with or without HSA (so study those co-insurances and copays, folks!); LTD and STD, the latter of which cannot be cleared up by antibiotics, and you really DO want, just in case, and and let’s not forget to remind ourselves of the benefits of our EAP and 401(k).
(Side note – Seriously, folks. You’re probably spending upwards of $2000 on insurance – take an hour or two and READ the stuff HR gives you. We don’t print it because we are budding novelists desperate to see our names in print. We do it as an attempt to educate you on what we know is an overwhelming, confusing, and expensive topic. I’ll bet the last time you bought an electronic device, or a new appliance, you spent HOURS poring over Consumer Reports and Amazon reviews, determined to get the best value. And that likely didn’t cost you HALF of what you’ll spend on insurance. So take a stab at actually using the tools HR gives you. This is a much bigger – and more expensive – decision than whether you need a built-in ice maker or not.)
Performance Reviews: Ah…my favorite. And by “favorite,” I mean “time of year I most frequently question my career choice.” And by “choice,” I mean “where I accidentally landed after discovering that most people lack the chutzpah to tell someone when they’re getting canned.”
Your performance review is supposed to be the time of year where you get dedicated attention from your boss – where she actually has an in-depth conversation with you about your job performance, your career potential, and your future with your organization.
What it often ends up being is a quick meeting where you get a pencil-whipped checklist from your boss, where you were arbitrarily rated, like wine, cheese, or earbuds, on a scale of 1-5. This scale is meant to capture the full spectrum of performance, with a rating of one meaning “unable to safely operate a crayon” and five being “not only walks on water, but turns it into wine when he’s done.”
Often, you and your peers are force-ranked – this means that your company has set quotas on how many people can sit in which seats on the rank bus – so most of you are solidly in Seat 3, which is Neutral, or Neither Agree Nor Disagree, or “Does my boss even know my name?”
Suffice it to say I’m not a huge fan of performance reviews. What should happen is that you have clear job expectations, and you receive frequent feedback from your supervisor so you know EXACTLY how you’re doing every week of your job. Feedback should be an ongoing process, not a once-a-year event.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret – most managers completely suck at managing. (OK, admittedly, that’s not much more a secret than water being wet.) Most of them are pretty candy-a$$* about telling you when you’re doing something wrong.
*I tried to find another word here, because although in real life I swear like the mechanic I was raised by, I try to keep my blog pretty clean. But Thesaurus.com didn’t have ANY synonyms for “candy-a$$” – it came up empty: “Did you mean cantatas?” Uh, no. Choir peeps may SOUND all innocent when they’re blasting through Vivaldi’s Gloria, but don’t let the robes fool you – they will TOTALLY cut a b!tch. Especially the altos. Those chicks are dark.
The point here is that if HR didn’t force managers to write down how you’re doing once a year, you’d never actually know, well, at least, not until the day you get called to HR and your boss is waiting there with the exit packet.
So that’s why your company does performance reviews. And that’s also why your review tastes oddly like banana candy.
Banana Candy SHOULD be good. I mean – SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR. Right? It’s sweet. It has a fun, bright color that should signal a party in your mouth.
But it just doesn’t taste good. The sweetness is cloying. The flavor is…odd. Unpleasant.
And it certainly tastes NOTHING like an actual banana. It’s totally fake. I mean, it has the COLOR of a banana, and because you’re told that it’s supposed to taste like an actual banana, you eat it and play along.
But if this candy was, say, blue, and shaped like a prickly pear? No way would that shiz stay in your mouth. You’d spit it out. You’d agree pretty quickly that it was nasty, artificial crap that has absolutely no business being called food.
But when we’re told that it’s supposed to be something we normally find palatable, we dutifully nod and swallow it.
You see how this is much like your annual performance review?
It’s supposed to taste just like a banana.
Incidentally, this is how I’m feeling in my marriage lately. I’m trying to recover from the “incident” from a few weeks ago, and I’d been doing remarkably well, actually.
Then I made the decision to go back to therapy. I had my first return visit on Friday.
As it turns out, I’ve been feeding myself a whole heckuva lot of banana candy.
That whole inner peace thing I’ve been carrying around like Fall’s must-have Tory Burch backpack? Fake. Forced. Surreal.
I’ve spent the last two days in the uncomfortable spot of really feeling the feels. Oh, and eating them. I demolished a 26-oz bag of this in under 24 hours. (Add THAT to the list of “can never buy again.” Curse you, Costco.):
For you math geeks, that’s almost two pounds of popcorn, folks. 3,640 calories.
Now THAT is one big-azz banana.
Yesterday, the hubs took me for a massage. (Which should have been nice. But all the nice things he’s doing for me lately feel artificial, too. Despite his insistence on the authenticity of his actions, I can’t accept them as acts of love; they feel like guilt gifts. Obligatory offerings. Choco-flavored maraschino-esque balls of goo.)
I cried for much of the massage. As the masseuse worked my shoulders out of my ears, I watched big, fat tears of heartache fall through the face pillow and onto the floor. I wanted them to take some of the anguish with them, but all they did was broadcast it, displaying my hurt for everyone to see.
I spent the rest of the day hiding under a cold, dark cloud that I pulled over my face and head to shut the world out.
My homework from therapy is to let myself experience the emotions I have. I guess now that the popcorn bag is empty (EMPTY. seriously @(#@#WTF*$@!!!!) I can start to do that. Dr. P encouraged me to sit with these feelings. They’re admittedly (and obviously) unpleasant. But eating doesn’t lessen them, nor make them disappear. It only postpones them. They lie in wait until you’re ready to deal with them. It’s like sheets in the washing machine. Eventually, if they sit there long enough, you’ll need to rewash them once in a while. But they won’t get dried and put away until you begin the arduous task of taking them outside to dry on the line, hanging them one corner at a time.
I hate feeling this way.
I don’t want to have these feelings any more.
I’m really, really sick of this damn banana.
But I guess if I want to really heal, I need to eat every stinking bite of it. I’ll need to force myself to choke down one piece at a time, brown spots and all.