This summer the annual performance appraisal season came around, like it does every year, and I faced it courageously by ignoring the whole thing until the last few days before deadline and spewing out whatever I could get done in the time remaining. It's a process that has served me well since I was in grade school and the end result remains the same: I get something done, and it never matters whether it's any good or not. Honestly, if I'd worked solidly for weeks on that report about Ecuador in fifth grade instead of cranking out a copy of the encyclopedia entry the day before it was due, would my life be any better today? I'm pretty sure finishing my thesis sooner by working harder on it instead of writing smarmy fic for an extra two years wouldn't have made me any richer either.
Some while ago, I complained that after years of habitually working hard to earn responsibility, my performance rating was reduced because the new boss saw what he expected and found it... satisfactory. Able for once to learn from an experience, I dialed back my level of effort. Instead of being the first one in to the office and the last one to leave, I was able to consistently remember to be the last one in and the first one out the door at least 75% of the time. I made a conscious effort not to care about things that should have upset me, and to avoid doing anything extra. I took more long lunches, hit the coffee carts at least three times a week for latte breaks, and even joined the gym so I could go on two-hour swim sessions on hot days because our office is all about the wellness.
I didn't start attending the Toad's pointless meetings; in fact I managed to avoid 95% of them this last year despite PHB's statement that I'd get a better rating if I would show up every time. Cat rescue and home repair meetings took a morning or afternoon at least twice a month, and I used more sick days. The critical stuff got done, of course, I remain cordial to our clientele, and kept my minions busy and happy doing stuff I didn't feel like tackling myself, and that's as much as I felt would be noticed or rewarded. How right I was....
When it came to the appointed time to meet PHB in his office and hear about my rating for the year, I was fully anticipating to be rated the same level 3 that I'd gotten last year, because I felt I'd done pretty much all he could expect me to do for a 3. Was I ever surprised when it turned out I'd done so much... better. I was back up to a 2 this year for my stellar and amazing abilities, and he even hinted it was just a 2 because nobody in EHS ever
gets a 1. He even wrote a glowing paragraph about what an asset to the department I am and how I excel as a stupidvisor and mentor to my minions. If there were raises to be had, I would have had one.
It was kind of embarrassing and a lot weird. I acknowledged that I believe in supporting my minions, and that I felt I'd achieved a much improved work/life balance this year because admitting that so far as I can tell, the harder I try to not try as hard, the better I look seemed like the wrong thing to say at the moment. Or maybe not - I really don't know any more.
If keeping me humble by causing me to question the very assumptions and underpinning values of my training and employment was the goal, he's done a more than adequate job this year. By this time next year I hope to have fully internalized the lesson that the less you do, the more the world gives to you. Next up: the more you eat, the less you weigh! That's true in this reality too, right?