14 Lives

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A little break from dancing just to talk about something else that has been weighing on me.  This week has been performance appraisal week at work.  We have a two week window when we have all the pieces to give a complete review but I was on vacation last week so I’ve had to cram them all in this week.  It’s been a revolving door to my office most of the week.

In so many ways, I hate this process.  Who am I to be judging other people’s performance?  Do I really deserve to have this much power or control over someone’s life?  Does anyone really deserve that ability.  There is nothing special about me except a position on an org chart.  I’m just a box surrounded by 14 other boxes with lines running to me.  That is how we are linked together and somehow it means I get to tell them if they are doing a good job or if they are slacking and I get to determine what kind of increase in salary they get for next year.

These are 14 people with different skills and different talents and different personalities  Some are talkative and have no problem popping in to do this.  Some are more introverted and/or not comfortable talking with an authority figure so they limit their time with me.  (Finding out I could be intimidating was a true eye opening experience)  I’ve got people at different stages in their lives.  Some are starting or growing families.  Others have kids leaving college and growing up.  Different backgrounds, different experiences but all have something to offer.  Some are certainly stronger than others but there is nobody who is a true slacker or issue.  In that way, I’m lucky.

One of our core values as “leaders” is that we are supposed to genuinely care about the people we “lead”.  Those are the words on the poster but there is really nothing to hold you to it.  Fortunately, for me, as an INFP, caring is just something I do.  I think we are just naturally wired to want to support and help people even though we are introverted and don’t want to spend a lot of time around people.  And I think that helps me in my job because it is certainly true that when you work for a large corporation that it is easy to feel like just another cog in some great big wheel.  So, if there is someone who does care about you as a person and understands that you have a life outside work and that sometimes that life spills over, then I think that makes a lot of difference in how people feel about their job.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

I’ve seen many of them in good and bad times.  For me, that just creates a bond.  It has a downside as well.  I had someone who was a complete slacker and I let that get a little out of control before taking action.  That’s the INFP reaction to conflict – ignore it until the problem becomes almost too big to manage.

And we’ve had a very successful run in terms of launching new products.  Everyone has worked hard and they’ve worked together and they’ve done whatever it takes to get things done and we never once had a schedule slippage because of our group.   I am proud of what we’ve accomplished and I think I’ve got an amazing group of talented people.  It isn’t all perfect but it is mostly really good.

But, the external environment has changed.  It is not the fault of anyone in my group.  It is people farther up the food chain who get paid a significantly higher amount of money who didn’t see it coming and weren’t prepared.  The money is still coming in but just not at the rate it used to.  And now the higher ups are trying to figure it all out and the longer the fiddle, the more the uncertainty burns.  The stress level is way up and the fear level is way up.

And I feel it. It is like the org chart is a living thing and the lines that connect their boxes to me are real and that I’m in some way connected to them.  So I can truly feel their fears and uncertainties.  And I have no words of comfort to offer because the future is quite cloudy and I just don’t know what is going to happen.  I can’t make promises or plans about the future because I just have no way of knowing what the road forward looks like.  It is a dark and foggy and mysterious forest that we all have to just plow through and hope to hit the sun on the other side.

It just keeps feeling more and more like some of my team aren’t going to make it out of the forest.  Heck, I may not even make it out.  It could very well be that this is the last review I give some of them.  No one has come out and said anything but the dots are starting to align so that they can be connected and that is certainly what it feels like.  I don’t want to have to pick who stays and who goes.  I know that is the risk of taking this job but I don’t want to do it.

I guess I didn’t realize how much this has been coloring my thoughts and feelings.  It was funny because two different people remarked about how much I needed the vacation and that I looked more relaxed.  One guy even said it was nice to see me smiling and laughing again.  I wasn’t aware I had stopped but perhaps I had.  I guess we aren’t always aware of how we are projecting to the world.

I hope nothing comes of this.  I’ve got 14 people attached to me and I don’t want to be the one who turns their life upside down.

But I think I had to talk about this.  I was obviously bottling this up before my vacation and I don’t want to go back there again.

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