In early 2012 I started working at an energy company that was large and growing fast. The company served residential electricity and natural gas to homes throughout Texas and the northeast portion of the United States, as well as portions of Canada. Since then the company has been acquired by another energy company based in England and can be considered by all rights a multi-billion dollar international conglomerate with a very heavy corporate identity.
As an employee I worked hard and actually enjoyed working for this mega-corporation. My experiences weren’t as good with previous large corporations for which I’d worked, but this one was different somehow. Thinking back about it, the primary reason I liked it so much would have to be the people. That sounds trite and predictable, but it’s the truth. For whatever reason the people at this company didn’t have attitude problems of the sort I’d seen in other companies. I knew there was friction between people, but I wasn’t experiencing it as I had at other companies. I liked it here.
That’s not to say I didn’t have difficulties with people. I certainly did, and I had to work through those moments of tribulation if I wanted to remain long-term with what I considered to be a good company to work for. Plus I was 50. I didn’t want to start all over at another company yet again. I wanted to stay with this one.
My first “annual review” took place in early 2014 because I had become a full-time employee in late 2013 after nearly 18 months as a temp. That first review was a cold and impersonal experience in corporate policy from a new manager who I felt might have been a better kindergarten teacher. I was told I “met expectations.” I knew I had worked too hard over the previous couple of years to simply meet expectations so I challenged the review. The result was a second cold, clammy, unfeeling, textbook response and I knew immediately that nothing would change.
My next review, in early 2015 for the work I’d done in 2014, was basically the same result, I “met expectations.” However the meeting was conducted with my boss’s boss due to circumstances outside my boss’s control. While she was out on leave, her boss simply told me that I did a lot of work and I did good work, but he knew I could do a lot more and that’s all he’s looking for from me. I left that meeting understanding what he meant and that I could indeed do more. I also knew that I had to make a change so I didn’t get yet another “meets expectations” review ever again.
Through 2015 I kept a daily journal and documented everything I did. After making any improvement to one of my processes I calculated how much time it saved me, and then converted it to dollars. I was meticulous. I began to read books like “Crucial Conversations,” “Getting Things Done,” “The Productivity Project,” and “Essentialism” to name but a few. I opened an account at Lynda.com and took numerous courses on Excel. I requested extra work to get additional experience outside my normal routine. The people above me started to notice my efforts. Around mid-year I was made the lead on a team with three other people to help out a different part of the company for a few months. That happened twice in 2015 and again in 2016. The result was a large bonus for my efforts and a better than average pay raise in my review.
And in 2017 I finally get the promotion I’d been working toward. I can’t be any happier, but the reward also comes with increased responsibility. I find myself struggling at times because where I had felt like I was a major contributor I now feel like a student who is learning and not contributing as much. It’s an uneasy feeling, but I know it will change as I become familiar with my new duties and responsibilities.
The lesson learned? Don’t wait for someone above you to see your hard work. Document it yourself and make sure they know what you’ve done. One manager admitted to me that I was going about it the right way. He said, “Hell, I have 40 people on my team. I can’t remember what most of them did yesterday, let alone what they all did over the last year.”
The take away? You have to take it upon yourself to put in the extra effort, get the training and education to reach the next level, spend some of your own time on developing yourself, and it’s up to you to make sure your boss knows everything you’ve done in dollars and cents.