I have been talking to a friend who has impeccable credentials as far as resume of an Indian engineer goes: IIT + IIM, about 15 years of work experience working in various big and small software companies in US. Such a resume attracts amazing amount of offers at incredible salary points. However, my conversations with him repeatedly bring up a point: he thinks he is no good, his experience is not useful to any company, he doesn’t do anything that deserves a grand salary, etc. etc. This is an insane view of the world, and when I prod him, I realize what is happening: his current company and his managers have been conspiring against him and using every performance review to tell and show him that he needs to improve in his current work, that he is just an average contributor who is found dime a dozen in this world.
Such an atrocious lie! Such a waste of talent! Such an underutilization of human resource!
Of course, companies and managers don’t do it with malicious intention; they do it with good intention. They think the job they have assigned to a person is the job most suited, and hence if the person doesn’t perform 100%, they must provide feedback about areas of improvement, and push the person to stretch and meet their performance bar. All people and performance management books state that giving clear feedback about areas of improvement is the best service you can do to a person, and so every manager and organization do it.
However, at least in my friend’s case (and I am sure in case of many other people), manager and organization are solving wrong problem. They have put him in a role where an average Joe will do better, but my friend will not, because his interests are totally mis-aligned; he wants tangible, visible fruit of his labor that he can be proud of, what he gets is a bunch of random features delivered through others without any clear idea on what he really contributed to the project except maybe sending status reports. All performance review feedbacks that he gets are focused on how to make the average Joe perform to his best, and my friend can’t comprehend those feedbacks.
However, and this was shocking to me, he has started assuming that these feedback must be about him (even though it is about the role and the average Joe who is supposed to do them), and his self-confidence is plunging. This is scary, because lack of self-confidence kills career aspirations. And it seems it is doing the same to him; he is actively thinking about whether to change his career track completely since everyone around him thinks he hasn’t and can’t do much good in what he is doing. Such a shame!
I fear that there are many such people out there whose career aspirations are being killed at this moment by their manager and their company. And I am scared because this means so many careers will not realize their full potential, and there will be so many people leading a miserable life since they can’t fulfill their aspirations. And I am sad about it because the solution is so simple.
This is the solution that I offered to my friend, and is applicable to everyone who finds themselves in such a situation: PLEASE LEAVE YOUR CURRENT JOB RIGHT NOW! It is like slow poison, as soon as you realize, you must stop taking it, even before you find a cure for the problem it has caused so far.
Please, save your career!