Everyone I have met at workplace wants to make sure they are being evaluated fairly and are given right indications about the result of their evaluations. Most of the time, they rely on the process of evaluation that organization has put in place: manager feedback, acceptance and respect among peers, performance evaluation process, etc. The visible outcomes of these evaluations that people expect are: salary increases or rewards, praise and appreciation from their manager or peers, excellent rating and ranking in performance evaluation process. Lack of these usually signals to them that their performance is not up to the mark.
I have been talking to many individuals recently, and when I ask them how they evaluate themselves in terms of career growth, they always mention one or more of the above. When I ask them the impact these have on them, they mention that they get very unhappy when there is no recognition from their manager or when their rating is poor even when they thought they did very well. And they get happy and feel good when managers praise or rating is excellent.
However, there are many, equally good if not better, career growth measures that can be used which do not depend so much on external factors. Specifically, I am talking about measures that individuals can have to measure themselves. Here is one of the many posts I have done on how one can/should measure one’s career growth. The point I have tried to make is that it is not difficult to devise measures for you. For example, if I can agree that learning is an important goal to have and is a good measure of career growth, then it is not difficult for me to come up with learning goals over next few quarters, and then evaluate myself on how I am doing against those goals. The external evaluation may be better/worse than what I measure myself, but my measure will be always more accurate, and more useful.
When I ask people why they do not use some other evaluation measures, like their own, which they control so much more, and thereby control their own happiness/unhappiness, most of the time the answer is: this is my personality style, I do want to feel good or bad depending on what others think about me.
And I feel so miserable hearing this answer! While I can understand the need for social acceptance for human beings, doing so in an organization can very well mean career suicide. There are so many factors driving external evaluations (budget constraints impact monetary rewards, organizational culture impacts peer acceptance, managers’ style impacts feedback and appreciation you get from manager, etc.) that do not have any bearing to my career growth. Using those measures then becomes not only a way of deluding myself into complacency (when the rewards or feedback are inflated) or frustrating myself (when the rewards or feedback are deflated), but they also stop me from actually measuring my career growth, since I think I already have a measure! This is the biggest injustice I can do to my career, I may as well go see an oracle or astrologer (which some people do J).
My personal experience has been that setting up personal goals and measures for career growth and evaluating myself on those (to know where I am and where I need to be) has been the best practice I have followed for some time now, and it has made me much happier (given that it is hard to find organizations which do a great job in motivating people and rewarding them accurately).
What has been your experience?