How Can I Tell If I'm Doing Good Work
What can you do when you've been in a job for 5 years and have been told that you are doing a good job and have improved but still get the impression that it's not all that good? there are always various comments made not particularly about the work but I am just wondering whether that is the reason why those comments are being made.
You aren’t “just wondering”; you are feeling uneasy about how you are viewed by coworkers and your boss. Right? How do you determine if the various comments you hear mean that you are not liked, not respected and/or fail to live up to expectations and what are the motivates them? These are the feelings and thoughts that flash in your head each time you hear these “various comments” and may rumble around long after. Should you take them seriously? Should your brush them off? Are they meant to help you? Or are they meant to put you down?
Obviously, it’s impossible to answer such questions from this distance without knowing they what they are, knowing who made them and you. You must be your own detective and you are not alone in how to detect answers to them. How? By asking more questions and evaluating the answers you get, such questions as what are the comments about, when were they made, what happened before they were made that might have prompted them, who made them, who was there to hear them other than you, and why do you think they were made?
How do you answer these questions? You say that you’ve been told you are doing a good job and that you have improved; however, you still get “the impression that it's not all that good”. That impression indicates that you sense coworkers, your boss and perhaps your own evaluation of your work is some distance from excellent. And the fact that you have sent a question to Ask the Workplace Doctors indicates you are stressed about “the impression it’s not all that good” and that more generally how well you are viewed. It is normal from time to time to feel one’s work is not so good and to wonder how you are viewed, so my first suggestion is not to obsess about this. In short, don’t allow it these feelings to play like a broken record over and over again in your head. To stop them, don’t simply tell yourself they don’t matter, but you have an answer to them in your first sentence, “you've been in a job for 5 years and have been told that you are doing a good job and have improved.” That fact outweighs the feelings of inadequacy for comments that you hear.
With that understanding, here are several suggestions that might or might not apply because I don’t know enough about your situation to be more specific:
• Reflect about your job. The feeling that your performance “isn’t all that good” should prompt you to look in the mirror and assess what you are doing well by creating a list of skills at which you do have and assignments that you do well. That look also should detail what isn’t of high quality and that doesn’t get done on time. Compile your performance evaluations and other notes from your boss or customers. These should add up to answering how well you are performing and most importantly help you think about where you on your career path. Is your job just a job that helps keep food on the table and a roof overhead? Or is it one that is something that you love to do and/or that might lead to a career in which you do well and do good loving what you do? Reviewing and assessing where we are and want to be is not just something we do at our first job or two, rather it is an on-going self- assessment. Looking into the mirror and reflecting on your current job will help you decide if you have a future with your place of employment, need more training, and/or should look elsewhere for work. Of course you should meet with your boss to learn what is his/her evaluation of your work. Ask, “How am I doing? What might I need to work on?”
• Reflect about physical and emotional health. Snow White’s wicked stepmother was self-absorbed and insecure in asking, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” It is hard to not ask questions about one’s appearance when we are bombarded with commercials that profile beautiful people with lovely completion and shiny hair. Then there are the ads that make us wonder about body odor and halitosis. Also we are told that this or that pill can lift us out of depression. All of these things are linked to what we think other people think of us personally and that matters. So it’s normal to reflect on our physical and emotional health and unwise not to care. Yet such reflection can become narcissistic and life can become like those reality shows on Bravo if we don’t have a life of our own—one with balance, one that is cares about others, and one that is fun.
• Reflect on the motivation of others. Don’t be obsessed by but do think enough about the “various comments” to interpret what prompts them. Are they intended to help you to better see how you are seen in the hope that you will be more liked or are they intended to put you down so that they might boost the ego of the ones who make them? Some people see and openly or subtly tell others, “I’m OK; you’re not OK.” Thank kind of attitude and talk should be understood for what it is. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to unearth clues to the motivation for the “various comments” that have caused you to wonder about the reason why they are made.
You wrote Ask the Workplace Doctors and now have some homework to do: Reflect, Reflect, and Reflect. Finally, here is one more thing to think about—how my signature sentence applies to you and your workplace: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Do you and your co-workers do all you can to make each other’s work look well? Do you cheer each other on and strive to make each other’s job easier and more effective? Do you all see the big picture of satisfying your internal and external customers?