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How do I know if I’m doing a good job at work?

People often compare themselves with others in order to gauge their own successes and achievements.  This is a trap because they’re making up a story with very limited information about someone else’s performance. When we compare ourselves we only have our own perspective of capabilities to draw from.  The story we see of someone else is skewed because our mind comes up with the narrative, rather than using factual information of how that person got where they are.  People can compare various aspects of their lives.  In the workplace, the role you previously held was likely different than that of the role your coworker held, and there’s no use comparing unlike experiences.

The most worthwhile approach to appraise your performance at work is to ask your manager, board chair, direct reports, etc. how you are doing.  “What am I doing that’s working well?”  “What can I do to be more effective?”  “What should I not do to be more effective?”  “What skills should improve upon?”

What if I am not likely to get honest feedback or I only get positive feedback?

If you must compare yourself with your own performance, step back to evaluate.  “How long have I been with this company and how many different roles have I held?”  “What does my skill development look like?  Have I honed in on skills that are valuable to this organization, or do I have the exact same skill set I arrived with?”  “Are there areas I know I should work on, and if so what are the first steps to develop them?”  “Have my performance reviews (if applicable) been mostly positive or unfavorable?”  “Who was I when I started this job and who am I now?”   

You won’t always know how to tackle every situation or handle every issue that arises, no matter what role you hold or how long you’ve held it.  This could be intimidating especially if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome in a new position.  To alleviate stress from this, develop and operate from a set of values and principles that you can confidently stand behind, as they’ll help justify your decisions.  Consistently operating from a solid set values and principles prepares you to yield the best decision in any situation, even if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing right away.

Once you let go of comparing yourself with others, you’ll see that having your own set of values and principles creates sound decision models that you can use in any situation.  It might take some trial and error, but your confidence will blossom when you learn to trust your gut and follow your own standards.  Keep in mind that even when things don’t work out in the immediate, they tend to work out in the long run.