As I’ve mentioned previously writing is only one of the many hats I get to wear on a daily basis. Unfortunately as I was changing out my desk calendar I was reminded today that the party is over. I need to put on my boss hat and get started working on the dreaded performance reviews.
Yes, I do have direct reports (no I didn’t force them to buy my book), and yes I do dread the performance review as much as they do or more. Why is that? Because my work requires us to complete reviews in a one-size-fits all format which can put people on the defensive. Additionally my office is not very large and so I am very familiar with why an individual did or did not complete their annual goals for the year without the need for another meeting.
The part I dislike though most about the process is where the manager is expected to provide constructive criticism. The trick is presenting it in such a way as to motivate the person towards changing the behavior in the long-term rather than instigating a finger-pointing war. There was a Dilbert carton recently which showed the pointy haired manager reminding himself to criticize the behavior, not the person. In typical Dilbert fashion, he failed miserably. Hopefully though I’ve offered suggestions to my staff throughout the year, making this requirement on the form redundant.
You have to be able to first identify what motivates the individual and then how to best leverage that trigger into their work. However it is just as (or even more) important that the person being reviewed respect the reviewer, otherwise there will be no change. As an aside, I would expect that the majority of my protagonist’s from An Uncertain Faith reviews haven’t gone so well as of late.
Authors should be able to relate to this concept as much of the same work goes into effective character development. When I was developing my character notes, I had to describe to myself what was this person’s core needs? How did they respond when under stress? Some of these notes made it into the story verbatim, some were probably less obvious to the reader, but helped when it came to dialogue. I didn’t take the time to properly sit down and review my characters on previous writing attempts definitely contributed to my writer’s block and ultimate failure on those attempts.
It is much easier to write what should be done when preparing and conducting performance reviews than it is to actually do it. In my case there is a generational gap between myself and some of my staff. It didn’t take me more than a week on the job to recognize that what motivates me professionally is vastly different from what motivates a person closer to retirement or one just entering the work force. I would recommend that anyone attempting to write about a character vastly different from themselves study up on how to motivate those not like you or managing different generations.