The blue paper

April 24, 2011

Career counseling

We’re working in a “war room.”  A chilly, white-walled, windowless room with six people working on laptops at a conference table. The table is a mess. Power cords and mouse wires snaking through piles of papers and post-its and bags of beef jerky. Napkins, tissues, empty coffee cups. Everyone contributes and it’s no one’s job to clean it up.

I, too, am in my laptop when I need a quick piece of scratch paper to jot on. I see a blue sheet of paper that I hadn’t noticed before. It looks blank and clean. Sort of in the middle, homeless. I reach for it and give the other side a cursory check – oh, it’s not blank, better put it back, wait, that was my name. My name? My name is printed on this blue paper. Why is my name on here?

I bring it in close. Its title is something about “job competencies” and it looks like a performance review. A dozen categories each with a numeric rating. I’m surrounded by people in the war room, so I try to be nonchalant. A glance down the list reveals overall mediocrity and one bad rating: Strategic Thinking = 2.

(At the moment I’m writing this, a week after the fact, I still don’t know what this thing is. My boss had obviously filled out this form, laid it in the middle of our conference table the night before, and went on vacation for a week. Do I get to rate that?)

Many things went through my head in an instant: Has everyone else seen this? What is this? Should I ask someone? Should I tell my boss’s boss? Should I tell HR? Should I be upset? Should I be worried? Should I ask my coworkers for more information?

I folded the sheet in half, stuck it in my laptop bag and went back to working. The overriding thought: I already have a plan and this blue paper does not matter.

In the past, that 2 would have haunted me. It would have danced around inside my head mocking me, taunting me. “You’re never going to succeed. It’s all going to start crumbling. You’re finally busted for being the terrible employee that you are. They thought you were smart and good for a while; now they’ve figured out the truth.”

But you know what? I’ve hardly thought about it again. All the work I’ve done with my career consultant over the past months has given me a new confidence in who I really am. The reason I got a 2 is because this job is crap. Maybe not for everyone, but certainly for me. And my boss is, well, there’s really no reason to go there.

I know I haven’t been fully engaged in my work recently. I would not deign to use my fabulous powers of strategic thinking on this project. It would be a waste. But my Skills Stories are concrete examples of my ability to strategize, plan, act and succeed.

By taking the time to do the work with my consultant and create a plan for finding my right livelihood, the ratings on a blue sheet of paper by a checked-out boss about an ill-fitting job are of no consequence to me.

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Image: Muffet

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One Comment on “The blue paper”

  1. broadsideblog Says:

    Love this.

    You have tremendous clarity about what matters, and this is a rare thing. Jobs and bosses can utterly destroy our souls and self-confidence.

    In my retail job — at $11/hr, no commission — we received (!?) written reviews with numbers like this. A five was the highest, and I never got one, and two meant “needs improvement.” Yup, I just wasn’t excellent at low-wage drudgery. I wonder why.

    Reply

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