March marks annual review time at my company, and I’ve been fretting for more than a few weeks about how to go about my employee assessment. I’ve previously discussed my difficulties and dissatisfactions in my current position, and while the search for new opportunities continues, the COVID-19 pandemic has made that rather difficult at this time.

In addition to weighing ourselves against the goals we/our managers set last year, there are sections of the review for “quality,” “efficiency,” and “persuasiveness,” among others. Looking at the scope and scale of the assessment, I actually went to HR and asked how honest I should really be; I believe there are real, systemic issues at my place of work that won’t be fixed unless someone takes a stand, but on the other hand the only time I’ve been fired from a position is when I have previously attempted to do the same.

Our company’s HR rep suggested that I keep things “short and simple” and to “not rock the boat.” A few of my friends, concerned with my employment status, said the same thing, urging me to play nice and keep my head down.

About six weeks ago I was having a very difficult time, head-space wise. It was around that time I wrote I don’t want to be Thailand, where I expressed that I really worried that the largest source of stress in my life was me, and had much less to do with my work environment than I believed; I worried about taking a big risk and making a big change, only to end up exactly where I already was, emotionally.

In that time I’ve spoken with my psychiatrist, who has recommended I step off my existing medication (an SSRI) in favor of a different agent (an SNRI). I knew the transition would be difficult, particularly with so much going on, but that it was necessary and important to keep moving forward as I try to better myself.

I’m glad to report that the new medication has greatly improved my mood, and while I’m still not satisfied or sated with my role at work, I have less anxiety and fear about the workplace than I did a month ago. This week I finally had an appointment with my psychologist, where I outlined my visualization of my mental stress.

On one hand, there were environmental factors, mainly having to do with work and my abject lack of social interaction. On another there were chemical factors, which refers to the very makeup of my own brain and which are not spurred on by outside stimulus. And finally there were behavioral factors, such as my intentionally not going out to find a social group, my procrastination of finding new employment, and so forth.

He liked the analogy and we agreed that it looked like the chemical side was surely improving, based on the progress on new medications, which by now I have been on for four weeks, slowly stepping up the dosage to the recommended baseline prescription. He observed that my behaviors likely stem from the chemical and environmental factors, and that while there are things I could (and should) do to improve my lot internally, a change of environment would likely do me very well.

The reason I trapsed through this little digression is that I want to give you, those precious few who read these mostly-private thoughts hidden within the depths of my website, insight into where I’ve been, emotionally and intellectually, these past few weeks.

When I asked my psychologist for his advice on how I should approach my self-evaluation, he shrugged and said “give ‘em Hell.” his rationale was that it was too easy for me to fall back on old, familiar pains and gripes, like my dissatisfaction at work, and not feel impetus to actually move my situation forward.

More than anyone I value my wife’s opinion. I’ve shared with her most of what I’ve been going through these past few months, glossing over some of the details so as not to overburden her, and I let her know about all the advice I had received regarding the evaluation. I wanted her take on it. In the end, I agreed with her.

To that end I’d like to present to you a slightly-redacted summary comment I added to the bottom of my assessment, after all the boxes and metrics had been checked, explained, and explored. I think what I said at the end of this journal-length comment bears repeating for emphasis, so I’ll do so here.

I hope we may collaboratively design meaningful, measurable, and realistic goals that not only meet local business needs but also facilitate a sense of accomplishment and purpose within myself as an employee.

Some may criticize or caution for me writing the following on my blog, even with how specifically-buried and largely invisible it is to casual passers-by. I fully understand their concerns, and genuinely appreciate their efforts to shield me from potential future pain if for example a future employer were to see my words here. To that I simply say that I am being open and honest about my feelings and expectations, and want to start off any relationship, professional or otherwise, on a playing field leveled by candor and compassion.

My direct supervisor, the president of my company, and our office’s HR representative have all been made well-aware of my feelings on my current role, my lack of satisfaction therein, and the efforts I’ve put forth over the past five years to make personal and systemic changes for the better.

Thank you for reading even up to this point, and for all of the support and care I have received during this time. It means the world to me, and I can’t express that enough. Here’s hoping for positive changes in the (near) future, and in quoting my grandmother’s favorite saying,

This too shall pass.

As defined, nearly the entirety of my position is dependent on other people for workload and success. From salespeople hunting opportunities for me to close to account managers ready and willing to accept clients during hand-off, the ongoing states of our sales pipeline and business structure lend themselves to extended periods of downtime between actionable or meaningful labor.

With five years of experience at [Company] working with the sales representatives in an attempt to promote and grow our IT services department, when stepping into this new role one year ago I explicitly asked what will be different, what would change from prior efforts to engage the reps. I was assured that, with an energetic sales manager and IT-focused marketing and sales campaigns, that they would be regularly engaged with me and I would be productive at a level with which I would not only feel comfortable, but one in which I would thrive. It is a sore realization that these developments never materialized.

A large part of my ability to self-validate is based on the accomplishment of deeds rather than the constant churn of low-level tasks. Helping clients move forward and improve their IT processes and procedures is an area in which I would love to succeed, but the number of opportunities this past year for me to have done so was minimal at best, within the current structure and focus of the company.

My frustration at the state of my position and professional efficacy was such that I sat down with Human Resources to discuss that I was feeling neither valued nor valuable at work, and that I had been experiencing these feelings for many months. My current position requires a minimal amount of time investment, and it is truly difficult for me to create any more self-assigned busy work merely to fill the hours. As someone who has always had a keen interest in process and business improvement, being denied the opportunity to perform these tasks externally (via lack of opportunity) or internally (by dictated corporate inflexibility), has been incredibly frustrating. At times this year it has felt that my primary sources of value to the team have been my institutional knowledge about our clients and ability to articulate the English language.

After speaking with HR about my concerns, I spoke to senior management about how I wanted my position to grow within the company, to discuss the hardships and frustrations I was feeling, and to work collaboratively on a game-plan for moving forward. I was asked in what direction I saw myself growing, and I pointed to my studies of business intelligence and data analytics. Over this past year I have performed much analysis of our IT client data and identified potential customer needs, relative contract value over time, engineer utilization, and other metrics relevant to the improvement and long-term stability of our business.

Senior management’s dismissive response was that the local branch had no need for such a service or role, and that instead I should try becoming a full-time salesperson; a position for which I have expressed my vehement opposition since before I was hired more than five years ago. Disheartened yet undeterred, I began to look for opportunities for data to help the local office, in ways that stretched even beyond the IT service department.

[Internal Software] and other in-use tools log an inordinate amount of data on our past, current, and potential clients, and in many cases has reports ready-made to help with decision-making and to steer business decisions. Yet even with these reports available and the data able to be mined for further insights, I do not see a corporate culture that embraces the power and utility of these tools or of making—or attempting—to make meaningful change, preferring instead to maintain heading and direction, course-correcting only after bad weather has enveloped the ship. Beyond internal practices, there are sources for innumerable marketing campaigns, sales opportunities, and promotional objectives available at our fingertips, if one were willing to look and act.

The reasons I tell this story and share my candid thoughts are to illustrate a single concept that I believe is sorely lacking in my individual position, which perhaps is a symptom of a greater corporate paradigm. I do not feel that, in my position, there has been the effective setting of meaningful expectations or holding accountability to those expectations, which to very large degrees has resulted in those areas of the employee self-assessment above marked “needs improvement.” Without clear direction, is it truly possible to succeed? Without clear metrics, how is it possible to reliably measure success?

I have been made aware that large, perhaps institutional, changes are on the horizon for the IT department, no more than six to twenty-four months away. While promising, it is my fervent hope that myself and my direct management chain do not sit idly by waiting for corporate to hand down new procedures, policies, and expectations for our individual roles—I seek to make proactive, effective, data-driven changes within our local environment for the betterment of our company. If the national corporate office dictates that things change in some indeterminable point in the future, that’s perfectly fine with me—we will not have spent the interim merely floating in place, unwilling to do anything but idly wait.

In the past I have been cautioned by senior management about the audience that may receive personal or emotionally-charged material such as is found within this review. I honestly do not know who in the corporate chain will read this assessment, and whether anything more than the raw score will make its way above even my direct manager. In submitting this form I have been mindful of this caution, and of the recent suggestion by human resources to “be brief, don’t rock the boat” in my self-assessment comments.

I do not believe any situation will be improved without taking an honest look from all sides, and as this is specifically a time and forum for review, I wished to provide my candid, if measured, opinion on what could be done to improve my own personal satisfaction, and thus output quality. it is a hope that this review will at least start the conversation about what could, should, change about our environment in general, or at the least about my position and its assigned duties in specific.

For FY21 I hope we may collaboratively design meaningful, measurable, and realistic goals that not only meet local business needs but also facilitate a sense of accomplishment and purpose within myself as an employee.

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