You know that “polite company” filter most people use to screen their conversations?
Mine doesn’t work so well. Okay, that’s not really accurate... It has been known to work reasonably well, so long as I give enough of a shit to implement it. Most of the time, I don’t.
In June this year, I started working for a new company. Being so wet behind the ears, I was hopeful that I might possibly avoid the annual drudgery of filling out a performance review this month, but no such luck. Besides the mutually agreed upon goals my manager and I had developed, there were also four core company beliefs for which I had to list examples demonstrating my participation and understanding. They were:
- Accountable: Drives results by owning the solution, getting the right people involved and delivering on promises.
- Brave: Takes bold and decisive action to deliver ambitious outcomes, and champions a culture of high performance.
- Decent: Listens, encourages and respects difference; treats all people fairly, with honesty and transparency.
- Imaginative: Looks beyond their immediate job both inside and outside Company X and introduces new ways of seeing, thinking and working.
I was in a groove, rolling out the BS, and then got stuck.
Over Skype to Coworker
Dan: I’m stuck for something to put under Decent on my performance review. Do you think my sense of humor, ragging on everyone, regardless of their rank and power over me, counts?
Sam: I think that counts for Curmudgeon At Large. :)
Of course, then he ruined it by saying how much I had supported not only himself, but also two interns we hired over the summer. Still though, I like that title!
This past week, I attended a conference in Albuquerque. Although I’ve been to many many work conferences before, this was a totally new experience for me. Instead of being stuck behind an exhibit booth, playing the sales drone and giving demonstrations to whomever I could capture as they wandered by, I could actually attend sessions and learn a few things. During the last session though, that Curmudgeon At Large title became relevant again.
There were for of us from my company, and because we had to leave for the airport as soon as the session was scheduled to end, we all sat together. As we were claiming our seats and getting situated—standing by our chairs, gossiping, and blocking through traffic--a teacher I knew from the TX School for the Blind said hello, and I introduced her to my colleagues. She then introduced the person sitting next to her—we’ll call her Stephanie W.
“Oh,” I said, stretching out my hand to shake, “I don’t believe we’ve met. My name is Dan.”
“Oh Dan,” she responded, somewhat snootily I thought, “you’re silly. This is Stephanie from Region 11.”
Retrieving my hand, which she had not bothered to shake, I said, “H’m, I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize your last name.”
To myself, I thought, “Oh, THAT Stephanie!”
We did indeed know each other. About three years ago, she had taken over the teaching coordinator position at Region 11, an educational service center in Fort Worth that had formerly been one of my best customers, and had promptly ignored almost every communication I had sent her. It had been a shock, both because the former coordinator and I had gotten on very well, and because I had known Stephanie previously as a teacher and thought we also had a pretty solid relationship.
“Well,” she explained, “I got married about four years ago, but never bothered to change my ID. It finally expired the other day and I had to.”
“Oh,” I said, smiling widely, “waiting to see if it would work out?”
“Wooooooooow,” exclaimed Sam, who was sitting next to me, “I would have to know someone for a really long time before I said something like that.”
Stephanie and I both agreed that we had, and then she turned around.
I am very thankful to now be working for a new employer after putting in twelve years with the old one. I’m just as thankful that the self-evaluation part of said company’s performance review process is now complete. And finally, I’m thankful that everyone who works with me is now familiar with the golden rule, “Don’t mess with the Curmudgeon At Large!”