Why I Write Terrible Reviews About People
Last month at work, I had to participate in completing a few written reviews of people (including one review of myself). You know, the kind where they say “do you think this person is skilled at their job?” and “do they have good interpersonal skills?”, or “how do you think you could improve in your job?” and “what’s your greatest strength?”, etc.
And I don’t know WHY this is, but as soon as I start reading the questions in these surveys… something comes over me and I just can’t seem to take it seriously.
I mean, I know that giving feedback is important, and I know that it’s anonymous and the person isn’t going to see it, and I know that nobody’s going to fire me if I say the wrong thing so I should just be honest and professional… but somehow, the idea of reviewing people I don’t feel qualified to judge somehow makes me get a little panicky. And as a result, all I want to do is write sarcastic comments.
And it’s not like I even have anything bad to say about anyone! I have very high opinions about everyone I work with, so any review I give would most likely be positive. So what’s the big deal?
Well, my experience tells me that I don’t know the person enough to give super specific answers, so my first response is to write a rambly review full of disclaimers:
“I don’t really know what kinds of tasks Jane does, so I don’t actually know how knowledgeable she is at her job, but I’m sure she does great and knows exactly what she’s doing because I have no reason to think she doesn’t, and she’s super nice, so why not?”
But that’s hardly helpful at all, is it?
So I try to sound a little less like myself and a little more confident:
“Jane is a knowledgeable team-player who undertakes each task with a mentality of strong reasoning combined with a willingness to learn and a desire to make others feel at home. She displays a mixed skill set for gentle correction, adherence to instruction and the added ability to think for herself and make tough decisions in a given situation when the responsibility is thrust upon her.”
But then I just start laughing at myself because…seriously, isn’t that trying a little bit too hard? Like, am I just making all this stuff up because it supposedly sounds good? Do I actually know what any of that means? Would I ever actually say this in real life? In my defense to the latter, the way I write IS different than the way I speak, but it’s still so over the top…
Then finally, I get so disgusted with myself that I decide to just answer sarcastically with whatever comes into my head.
Is Jane flexible?
Yes, she is the greatest contortionist I’ve ever seen; she’s practically Elastigirl.
How are Jane’s interpersonal skills?
The skills of her interperson are quite astonishing, really, whenever she switches personalities.
How knowledgeable is Jane?
Not. At. All. Jane knows nothing and should be fired immediately.
No, of course, I didn’t choose the sarcastic options, no matter how sorely I was tempted. I generally ended up going with a condensed version of my second example; you know, the Random Big-Words Simulator.
But seriously, at the end of the survey I had to take about myself, the final question was something like, “What are some skills you would like to learn in your job?”, and I was SO tempted to say, “How to answer these questions without sounding pretentious!”
But because I didn’t ACTUALLY say that, I guess I will never learn.
Or maybe I’ll just get better in time.
Or maybe I’ll forever be a Feedback Failure.
I’m ok with any of those, really, as long as I don’t have to give Feedback about my Feedback. That could be a thousand times worse!