by Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
My very first job evaluation occurred six months after starting my very first job as a professional nurse in a private psychiatric hospital. My boss and evaluator was the psychiatrist of the Day Hospital in the second oldest private psychiatric hospital in the country. He told me that I was performing up to expectation and had made no errors. He had no complaints.
I was confused and unhappy with this evaluation. What had I done well? Where were areas for growth and improvement? Did I add any value to the team? Were there particular skills I could improve? Did I bring any gifts and where were my challenges? None of these questions were answered or even addressed. I didn’t realize these were questions I had and feedback I craved until after the evaluation was complete. Nothing more could be done at this point because Dr. M had checked me off his “to do”list.
Six months later I was sitting with Dr. M again, this time for my first yearly review. He gave me the same kinds of answers and feedback that he had at our first meeting. This time I was prepared though. This time I asked for feedback on what I was doing well, what contribution he felt I was making, and where did he recommend I could improve the quality of my work.
His answer left me confused and unhappy yet again. He said he could not provide me with these answers. The fact that I needed and wanted this kind of feedback indicated that I was young and inexperienced. He then showed me to the door, and checked this task off his “to do”list yet again.
Based on his feedback I gave this a great deal of thought and self-reflection. It was true that I was young and inexperienced. It was also true that my parents provided me with their feedback which included my strengths and areas to focus for growth and learning. So had all of my teachers.
By the time my second yearly evaluation was pending I still was interested in feedback I could use as information to self-evaluate. Maybe I was young and inexperienced, and I still wanted information to help me do my job well. I went into this evaluation prepared to get what I wanted.
Dr. M started the review as he had previously. Once he completed sharing with me all his “satisfactory”checks on the list for employee job performance review he looked at me. I was ready.
Dr. M, can you provide me with any additional feedback regarding the quality of my work
He shook his head no, bent elbows resting on his chair, and folded hands blocking his mouth. My advanced skills at reading non verbal communication led me to believe he planned on saying nothing further.
I would still like this kind of feedback. Perhaps it is because I’m young and inexperienced, but I would find it helpful. Here is my plan that I want to share with you before I implement it. I’m going to ask my work colleagues to please provide me with immediate feedback when and if they see me doing a particularly good job. I would like the same kind of immediate feedback if anyone notices when I do something that could be improved upon. I ask that people share the improvement bit in private.
Do you have any objection to my plan, Dr. M?
He did not.
What happened next was amazing and very satisfying. At our next team meeting (we had these meeting twice a day) I shared with my colleagues what I wanted and asked if they felt they could offer me this feedback.
Yes! was the unanimous reply. And EVERYONE else on the team stated they would like the same feedback given to them.
WOW! The age range of our team was great, some young, some middle and some older. The experience range was equally diverse. Perhaps my desire for feedback was not related to my age or lack of experience.
I learned a lot of things from that life lesson. I learned that what I want does not matter less because of my boss’s opinion. It does not matter more than what other people want including my boss. But it does matter. And it is my job to figure out how to get what I want.
The biggest lesson I learned was this. Asking for what I want takes courage. And asking for what I want increases the chances that I will get what I want.