The Great Job Performance Opinion Divide

It contributes to the great job performance opinion divide.

We all do it at some point in our career — believe we are knocking it out of the park, on top of our game, or accomplishing great things, and we rate our job performance as superior when our manager or boss has a different opinion. They would describe our job performance as adequate to possibly inadequate.

When an inevitable event occurs that reveals our false impression, it can be devastating. Again, most, if not all, of us have this experience at some point. It is almost a rite of passage in our career growth. These are positive growth opportunities, even though it does not feel like it at that moment. The important factor is how we recover from these experiences, but that is another topic.

This post looks at the actions we can take to close this performance opinion gap and attempt to orchestrate a soft landing or lower how far our ego falls when our boss’s opinion is revealed.

The two primary sources creating this great evaluation divide are misaligned expectations and a lack of feedback.

Let’s start with a look at the two sides of expectations.

We want to deliver what our manager, department, functional area, and organization need to succeed, and we want to know how what we provide will be judged. We want some measurement factor.

But, we should not talk about measurement but rather about how to meet expectations.

The definition of expectations is:

  1. a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future &
  2. a belief that someone will or should achieve something.

Let’s consider this definition from our boss’s perspective.

Leaders today want to share the future case with their employees or what is to be achieved. They share a goal or project purpose and then rely on their employees to determine if the project or goal is possible and, if so, how to achieve it. They expect their employees to research situations, analyze data, and define and recommend processes, strategies, or approaches to getting their job done.

This is not to say managers don’t want to help; quite the contrary. They are happy to provide feedback and offer suggestions on the next steps. They expect their employees to get started and then seek input ahead of a deadline so progress is not delayed.

Critical thinking is one of the primary skills required to deliver on our manager’s expectations. There are four levels to thinking critically in the workplace. The lowest level is the “Do” level, where we are asked to do something, and we figure out how to do it. As we strengthen our critical thinking at work, we ultimately advance to the “Translate” level, where we can successfully hear and understand a vision or desired outcome of others, which can often be ambiguous and most certainly includes incomplete information. And then define strategies to realize that vision or achieve the desired result. Translate is when we can determine if something is possible and then how to achieve it successfully. The translation level helps us deliver on our manager’s expectations.

But if you still want a measurement factor, ask yourself if your work output met the tasks, project, or your responsibility’s purpose or goal. If your ideas are quickly embraced and acted on, the answer is most likely yes. If you needed to go back to the drawing board, the answer is most likely no.

On the other side of the expectations divide, as employees, we are certainly more comfortable in situations where we are given explicit guidance about what is to be accomplished, when, and direction on how to achieve a goal or tackle a project. But that is rarely the situation at work. Think back to the discussion about expectations. It would often be faster for our boss to go ahead and do the task on their own if they needed to stop to think through the steps required and then relay those steps to us.

As an employee, we need to focus on ensuring we know the goal, purpose, or objective of what we are to do, whether it is a simple task or a request to define strategies to achieve a goal. This knowledge will help close the expectation source of the great job performance opinion divide. If we don’t, that is a great conversation topic to have with our boss to confirm our belief of the goal, and any misaligned expectations are eliminated before work starts and not at the deadline of a project.

So, the first step we as an employee can take to ensure we are a superior performing employee is to know why we are doing what we are doing.

The second source of the great job performance opinion divide is feedback. Feedback is an invaluable gift. It reinforces what we do well and identifies growth opportunities. But it can be fleeting to non-existent from our managers and here are some reasons why.

Feedback takes time, so our boss or others throughout the organization may simply forget to do it, especially if there is no opportunity for in-the-moment feedback. Remote work can be a culprit in reducing the number of opportunities to offer in-the-moment feedback. Managers have fewer chances to say, “Hey, do you have a minute to debrief,” when a meeting ends versus logging off of a video call and tracking down their teammate, which, if not immediate, can be forgotten.

Managers are also spending more time ensuring the mental well-being of their employees, which is wonderful. But it is taking time away from providing feedback.

Some managers have not yet developed the skill of providing effective feedback. They may attempt to offer it, but the level of detail or examples provided may not be meaningful or helpful.

Here too, we as an employee can take charge of getting needed feedback to ensure we are performing at our best. Here’s how.

First, self-reflect. Start by honestly answering the measurement question mentioned above.

Consider how often you are asked to re-work or take a different approach to a project. Are your ideas immediately embraced, and you are given the green light to move forward? If yes, great. But if you are asked to go back to the drawing board often, or your manager offers to help or even take over a task to complete it, or if you are no longer asked to take on new projects, you might be overestimating your job performance.

Second, you can also initiate getting feedback from your manager. Give your manager a heads-up you are interested in feedback, including specifics on what, so they can prepare and provide meaningful help.

If you are interested in your performance on a specific project or another work effort, ask what you did well and what you could improve. If you are looking for more comprehensive feedback, your questions might include:

  • How can I better support our team’s goals?
  • What do you think is working well and not so well with my time management?
  • How do I favorably represent our team to other departments? How can I better represent our team?
  • Who should I work with more closely on the team or across the company?
  • How can I improve my strategic thinking?
  • How can I prepare for the next project or next role?

You need to enter this conversation with an open mind and be receptive to what you hear. If you feel yourself becoming defensive or wanting to make counterpoints, attempt to return your mind to listening, taking in the information so you can evaluate it later.

Remember, the person providing the feedback is not wrong; they are sharing their observations and perceptions. If you disagree, then you should take steps to change their perception.

One final thought. Be careful not to apply praise universally. Enjoy the feeling when you get positive recognition for a job well done. But be careful not to apply the praise of a specific task or project to your overall work performance.

Our community members are learning about their critical thinking, focus, and relationship-building abilities and adjusting their approach if needed to close this job performance opinion gap.

Leslie Ferry, Brize Founder, CEO, & Host of the Bright & Wize podcast shared more about job performance in: