Tag Archives: career

Slacking Away

Well in a previous post, I pointed out my plan to not work so hard at work anymore since it didn’t seem to be an effective usage of my energy based on the flaws in our performance review system.  I think I used the term coasting, but slacking would also cover it.  One particular astute person commented that I might find myself out of a job if I wasn’t careful, which was a valid point.

So the trick was a slack away at my job a bit, but not too much as I might find myself out of job.  Well another cycle of my performance review is over and I got exactly the same rating as last year.  Ironically, with about a magnitude less effort on my part (and yes, I mean magnitude like logarithmic scale) so I would say my slacking was just about bang on.  I even got a raise this year (which is better than last where they gave to us and then took it away).  As an aside, I timed this perfectly this year as there was no difference between the top performance people and my raise (again supporting my theory that the process currently discourages people from being exceptional performers).

Now I basically go into to work, do my job until the day is done and whatever isn’t complete will have to wait until tomorrow.  I avoid overtime like the plague, I don’t put in that extra effort I used to on projects and I don’t even bother thinking two steps head of most of the other people.  The result is my job stress is basically dropped like a stone and I have to say I like it.

Perhaps the only interesting constructive feedback I got on my performance was regarding my interactions with some other people in the department.  Apparently,  I believe the term they used was “abrupt” with some people.  Which is fair since in the last year since my tolerance for office politics has tanked to a all time low. I’m not crude, I just won’t bother playing the game.  But ironically, my boss noted he felt he was reaching to find something to say with regards to that comment.  He doesn’t mind my tendency to get to the point in the slightest and nor does my co-workers who I spend the most time with.

So overall I’m putting in a lot less effort and enjoying my day job a lot more since I don’t stress over it.  I now aim for ‘good work’ not ‘great’ or ‘hard’, just good enough.  I just wished I had discovered this pace of work years ago, but oh well, I know it now and I’m enjoying my last few years of work because of it.

How much effort do you put into your job?  Would you slack off at the end of your career or not?  Why?

Your Performance Review Isn’t Fair

I was talking with a co-worker the other day about my company’s performance review system and they were venting about some of the problems with it.  I pointed out in fact the entire system was structurally unfair, so why bother getting upset about the details of it?

You see the system does mean well in some regards.  Overall we have four ranks in the system: exceeds expectations, meets expectations, developing and doesn’t meet expectations or in number form the highest rank is 4 and drops down to 1.  You can tell someone tried to make the system meaningful by limiting the number of people in the company that can be assigned a 4 rank or exceeds.  Which in theory I agree with otherwise the rank becomes sort of meaningless if half the company get the exceeds rank (trust me this does happen…everyone likes to think of themselves as better than average).

Then you are supposed to set your annual goals.  Then you rank yourself on your goals at the end of the year and your boss does the same.  Then you compare notes and discuss the areas of disagreement.  Up until now the process is somewhat fair in the fact if your goals clearly outlined the criteria of exceeds. Unfortunately I have yet to see that happen all that well or consistently in my company.  So the unfairness starts to creep in.

Then it gets worse, because your boss then takes your draft rating to a calibration session where all the managers and your director discuss the proposed ranks and adjusts them as required.  On one hand I appreciate the concept here.  You shouldn’t be able to suck up only to your boss and screw over everyone else in your work place and still get a good rating.  But all to often I can see these turning into popularity contests which sort of negates the point of calibrating the ranks.  The people that are liked best end up with a higher rank.

In effect, the title of the process, performance review, is rather correct.  This isn’t about how good you do your job, but rather how good of a actor/writer you can be to make yourself look better than everyone else (ie: your artistic performance).  This isn’t to say results don’t matter, but rather their presentation of those results are more important than most people realize.  Oddly, I’m sort of shocked that more people haven’t clued into this fact already.  Thus the most proficient players at this game will purposely let their projects go a little off the rails towards the start of the evaluation period so by the time they do the review they can point to the fact they brought everything back on track just last week.  The look like a hero and managed to also exploit the fact we have a significant bias to more recent events rather than what happened at the start of the year.

Then the final insult to this entire mess of a complex process if each department is given a set budget to offer raises out of, so the amount of money on the table between each range is rather tiny.  I learned this year the difference between the top of rank 4 and top of rank 3 was a mere 1.5% raise.  Seriously, you want me to work my ass off for an entire year to get only 1.5% more than just coasting along and doing an ok job?  Are you nuts?  Do you not understand the idea of diminishing returns?

Then on top of this entire mess I was told the following: because I do such good work already the expectations for me are higher than my co-workers.  Pardon?!? Did you just tell me I’m being held to a higher standard than everyone else because I do good job?!?!  Um, perhaps the people doing crap work should just do a better job…nay, that would sound like actual performance management.  Or god forbid actually fire the crappy performers.

So rather than bitch with my co-worker about the process I have decided instead the sweet spot in this insane system: coasting.  Since I only have another 30 or so months less the entire appeal of getting my income to compound is much less important than getting my investments to compound.  After all the tax rate on most of my investment is less than my job income anyway.

Therefore I have said goodbye to the following:

  • Extra effort to get the job done.  Why bother when I have been informed that won’t be rewarded anyway?
  • Working late or coming in early.  Nope. My contract stated 40 hours a week and I’m sticking to it.
  • Going above what was asked of me.  Again why put in the effort when my only reward is more work?  Which seems to get dropped on my plate anyway, so why add the stress?
  • Speaking of work, I now will try to actively avoid extra tasks.  No volunteering to help out with a project that isn’t assigned to me or saying yes to requests.  My default answer is now: no.

In HR lingo I’m now ‘actively disengaged’ or in plain English:  I just can’t scrap together the motivation to give a damn about what I do.  I show up, do my work and then leave and never think about it much beyond that.  Which I could perhaps feel bad about it until you Google workplace engagement and realize that majority of workers (depending on the study 60 to 70% of your workplace) either are just apathetic to work or outright hate their jobs.  On the spectrum, I’m not into hating my job at this point I just refuse to put anything resembling like extra effort into a system that only punishes people who try and be engaged.

So that is the tale of my lack of motivation at work.  How is your workplace?  Does it also choke out extra work for no actual benefit to the employee? Or worse yet give extra work to the high performers because they are more productive? Or do you just game the system for all its worth?

The Month Off Report

So today is my last day of my currently month long vacation.  This will have been the third time I’ve done this now and I have to say I’ve learned a few things that I found interesting.  Perhaps the most telling thing is this I’m just starting to think about bit about work now and what I have to get started on when I get back and oddly enough I’m not dreading it.

I think what happens to me after taking off a longer period of time is I actually managed to detox from work.  I really do cease to care about it, think about it or even want to do anything about it.  I was contacted once during my vacation via text to confirm one small fact which I was able to answer in two sentences.  Perhaps the most difficult thing I had to adjust to was since I had a work issued cell phone was getting in the habit of not even reading the subject lines of work emails as they came in.  Otherwise, I didn’t do anything related to my job and as I mentioned to my boss: work had become a hazy memory.  I recalled it, but I no longer felt it effecting me.

In my case, I can detox fairly quickly from my job since I have set it up to be lower stress and have learned to let go of things that happen there.  I can’t control much at work, so why waste the energy pretending that I can.  Also it helps that I have a great boss now that really just cares about the results.  He is the kind of guy who gets when you say: I’ve finished what I need to get done and now I’m leaving early to my kids swimming lesson.  He replies: sounds good, have a good night.  Yes, I’m very lucky in that regard…I know.

Of course I did do some traveling on this trip, but rather than being a burden of trying to shove in too much we took it easy and did two main trips: one to Vancouver Island (where I got the chance to meet up with long time reader jon_snow, hi jon) and the other to visit family in Alberta.  Both were fun and I enjoyed doing them but at the same time we did have a week at home as well in there so it was nice to get a few things done around the house and of course play some video games (it is a vacation after all!). I even managed to be interviewed for story for CBC see here.

Yet if this life were to continue on in early retirement I can easily say I don’t think I would ever get bored.  I mean I had full days as is and could have easily tried to cram in more stuff, but resisted the urge and made sure to have some relaxing time in as well.  I have so much that I want to read, watch, write, or do around the house that I can see just going along forever with out running out of things to do.  I noticed my to do still filled up rather quickly without much effort on my part.

So in the end, I think I’m ready to leave work at least mentally able to do it.  I won’t be begging to come back after getting bored or even worry about it after I go.  Only about 20 more months of work left…I’m looking forward to the end of it.

Did you ever take an extended break from work?  Did you enjoy it or what did you learn?