Scott Hanselman

Changing perspectives on your job - Will you renew your boss for another season?

January 30, '15 Comments [33] Posted in Musings
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Within a single week two different friends of mine called me to talk about their job satisfaction. One didn't like the project they were working on and felt that when they were pitched the job they were sold one job but ended up doing another. The other friend felt like review time each year was a Musical Chairs-type parade of employees and they were left wondering "Will I be picked again this year? Will I still have a job next year?"

This is such a challenge to talk about as some of you may be out of a job and looking right now, but some of you may be in a job and thinking some of the same things as my two friends.

I'm pretty happy with my job. I like my boss and my team. Remote work is a challenge sometimes, but we are doing some great work. However, I never assume my job is granted. I never assume "Hey, I'm Scott Hanselman, I refer to myself in the third person and have Google Juice, I can't be replaced or canned."

At the same time, however, I DO feel good about my work and I think I DO provide value to my company. Therefore, I've changed my attitude about Annual Reviews. This isn't just the company's chance to review me, it's also my chance to review them.

Do I still want to work there?

My wife and I have been married 15 years. The joke is "She's decided to renew me for another season," just like TV ratings. Well, the Annual Review is my time to decide if *I* want to renew *my Employer* for another season. This is a small brain trick, or trivial change in thinking, but changes in thinking are the first step in changing your world view.

It also reinforces the impermanence of employment (and tech, and life, etc.) and makes it OK to broach the question. Do I still want to work here? And if you DO decide to "renew your boss for another season," remember you don't have to stay there forever.  One season at a time, while it feeds your spirit. When it stops, you should stop too.

This helped my two friends, and I wonder if it helps you, too.

* LEGO Stormtroopers on a Wire by Pedro Vezini, used under Creative Commons.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Friday, 30 January 2015 02:47:09 UTC
so are you renewing your boss for another season?
Friday, 30 January 2015 03:03:48 UTC
Scott, this is spot on. I've taken jobs in the past for the wrong reasons (money, position) and only recently feel like I've found a job that really clicks with me. I've seen people stick out jobs for years on end because they were afraid to be looked at as job hoppers but life is too short to not enjoy going to work every day since it's such a big portion of our lives.

Kudos for calling out that we all have a choice to do what we love and not be unhappy day to day at work.
Michael Merritt
Friday, 30 January 2015 04:41:22 UTC
This is the right perspective to have. Great was to look at things.
Friday, 30 January 2015 05:22:16 UTC
What do you mean by "Google Juice"?
Marcellus Pelcher
Friday, 30 January 2015 06:04:59 UTC
Google "Scott" and you will know what he means by "Google juice".
Eric Marinko
Friday, 30 January 2015 06:35:19 UTC
The best part of this blog was the Lego Storm Troopers on a Wire. If you made that image like the Lunch atop a Skyscraper that would have been fantastic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunch_atop_a_Skyscraper. Still, Lego Storm Troopers, pretty neat.

I say, give a new gig 90 days and if what they told you in the interview doesn't work out, get out and get on with your life. I am seeing first hand a disturbing trend in software employers where they will say almost anything to get you working with them and then turn around a few months or weeks later and reveal a different truth. Or in other words you find out what they didn't want to tell you. (No, really. Stuff like, "Yes we use Git", and point of fact they have Git with TFS on the road-map but don't actually use Git daily. Or, "No there is no travel", and then they ask you how you feel about flying to a client site every other week to camp out.) If there is not something else like a great team or money to compensate for the bad parts they fail, not you. Be aware that job hopping can affect your personal life dramatically. Other than that, go after your passion and work for people who deserve your talent and your time.

Allen
Friday, 30 January 2015 06:53:00 UTC
yup (and thanks for the similar conversation several months ago)
Friday, 30 January 2015 09:46:12 UTC
Imagine, you don't have any BOSS
Meysam
Friday, 30 January 2015 10:22:11 UTC
We make the mistake of thinking about our life as everything that happens outside of work. But the truth is that if you spend 40 hours per week (or more) at a job, that job is just as much part of your life as a wife and kids would be. I've been there, hating my job, and it effected every part of my being. It was also scary to make the change. But at the end of the day, if you want to be happy you have to face that fear head on.
Friday, 30 January 2015 11:45:50 UTC
You nailed it! great one!
Neel Bhatt
Friday, 30 January 2015 11:57:52 UTC
Its easier to say this when you are < 35 or are a specialist.

Anyway if your not happy you should always look for something else.
Ed
Friday, 30 January 2015 13:37:02 UTC
Completely agree with this. People need to realize that being employed is a business transaction. If you're not happy, change where you work or change where you work.
Delmania
Friday, 30 January 2015 13:44:49 UTC
I'm sceptical. Just turning the tables by changing your perspective doesn't make the general problem go away - the problem that people (employees) are more and more treated and rated as if they were some kind of stock exchange objects. It probably makes you feel better about it and more confident, but in the end, the employer is the one in the equation with much more power than you, and finding another job when you're voted out can be challenging even with the best references.

I wouldn' start working for a company that is holding such annual reviews in the first place. It's an anti-social attitude that leaves a bad taste in my mouth every time I hear about it, because it shows that companies don't build up the relationship to their employees on trust but excessive control nowadays. To a certain extend it's okay to look at your staff to find out if there goes something wrong and what can be improved, but instead of talking and listening to your employees what goes wrong and what could be better and giving them a chance to improve, they go the simple route of firing them.

We've become slaves of a system that was originally made to serve us, but it turned into a beast of it's own and now it's all about the system and not us - the people - anymore. The system has to live and survive, no matter how illogical that may be, no matter the cost. Problem displaced, problem solved.
Florian S.
Friday, 30 January 2015 14:21:15 UTC
I came upon this idea by accident last year when I realized that I had had three straight annual reviews with different managers, none of which knew what I had been working on that previous year.

As a result, I received little to no valuable feedback on my performance. I eventually realized that I needed to look around and find a better place to work. And I found one. Great post!
Friday, 30 January 2015 14:26:01 UTC
The job I have now is the best job I've ever had. I work for a small company making ecommerce websites for companies that people have actually heard of. I've had one "annual" review, and it wasn't soul-rending; it was all about accomplishments. (I had the gumption to ask for a raise: I got it.)

I feel appreciated, and I feel that my work is appreciated also. Everyone gets along with each other. At this point, I'm not leaving until the well runs dry, and judging by the length of my bug list, it's not going to be any time soon!
Friday, 30 January 2015 14:33:50 UTC
This is so important.

For the past 10-15 years (I'm 45), I've taken the approach that my boss/org works for me. The main benefit is that I never complain about outside influences since it's now my responsibility to provide solid expectations, resolve conflict, identify risks, etc.

If you find yourself in a position where you feel powerless, you MUST change. Get better educated, work on side projects, network, start your own business!, etc. Eventually you'll be able to position yourself in such a way that you're no longer behaving like a victim.

Bosses and organizations don't change, but you can.
Matt
Friday, 30 January 2015 15:35:55 UTC
I recently went out on my own after some changes with my previous employer. Great company, great owners. Loved the 14.5 years I was there (most days), but I decided I wanted to try and start my own business. Will I succeed? No idea. But I'm going to give it my best shot. Even when things are great and you are happy, you should still review your current situation and make sure you aren't staying in a rut (even if it is a rut that feels good.)
Friday, 30 January 2015 15:43:42 UTC
A simple inversion in your point of view often has profound impact. Just ask Malcolm Gladwell. It's not 'trivial' actually.
However the real difficulty starts when you try to go from 'boss got a horrible review this year' to 'just turned in my resignation.' Your life has to fit a pretty specific profile in order to be able to do that without a lot of up-front preparation. I know; I turned in my resignation last week and now I'm going to drag the whole family north for the remainder of winter.
Grady
Friday, 30 January 2015 16:57:33 UTC
Great post. This also drives home the point that capitalism is voluntary. Employment is a voluntary agreement between the employer and the employee. The employee has just as much power in the agreement as the employer. Employees *should* capitalize on their skills and experience. If an employee isn't happy and/or doesn't feel like they are being compensated fairly for their contributions and value they bring to their company, if that position is not "feeding their spirit" anymore (love that), they are free to leave and find another employer and position that will. They're out there. You have to go to it. Don't expect it to come to you. It won't.
Vitoc
Friday, 30 January 2015 18:36:00 UTC
In my area (Southern California and probably in yours also) every company is looking for 5 software developers yesterday. A friend of mine got laid off at my company on a Wednesday, effective Friday and was already working on Monday! He didn't even miss a day!

If you are in software, then the power is on YOUR side, not theirs.
PRMan
Saturday, 31 January 2015 23:59:00 UTC
This has opened my eyes like you have no idea. I just went through a bad review that I thought was really unfair. I was feeling really bad until I read this. Thanks!
JJ
Sunday, 01 February 2015 08:26:27 UTC
I totally agree, that's how you should think about your employer. It's okay to look around from time to time and consider other job opportunities as well. After all, you should stay with your company because you want and choose to, not for a lack of alternatives.

If, in the end, you decide you want to stay, then you've made a conscious decision. All the better for both you and your employer!
Sunday, 01 February 2015 15:47:49 UTC
One thing I frequently do at review time is take the opportunity to review my direct supervisor's performance in the same meeting when they are speaking to me about mine. It helps both us be reminded that we are a team and we work together. I firmly believe anyone supervising/managing other should have the opportunity to know what the people they are supervising think of how they are doing. I give them both positive feedback and items to work on. This is something I started doing when I had a supervisor who wasn't very good at effectively communicating. If there are issues on either side that need to be addressed this probably shouldn't wait for the yearly review, but it is a good time to do it since the topic is particularly relevant.
AdamWright
Monday, 02 February 2015 01:05:03 UTC
Yes Very Great Perspective!!

Have you seen or heard Scott Dinsmore that talks about doing what can't not do?

Find him on this podcast:
http://theartofcharm.com/podcast/scott-dinsmore-living-legend-episode-342/

Or Good Life Project
http://www.goodlifeproject.com/scott-dinsmore/
Friday, 06 February 2015 18:03:30 UTC
Thanks @Eric Marinko!
For future reference for other people:
http://google.about.com/od/g/g/google_juice.htm

@Orlando, I am not sure if you are attempting to be funny. If not, I would understand because Google Juice the framework appear more often in Google than the slang term.
Marcellus Pelcher
Friday, 06 February 2015 19:50:29 UTC
It seems that people sometimes forget who is in charge of their life. I suppose it's years of being stuck in an unsatisfying position or possibly constant pressure to "succeed" in the eyes of our parents. Over time, it seems easy to simply give up, show up for the day, collect the paycheck, maintain the misery, and sleep it off until the cycle repeats in 12 hours.

But this isn't a sustainable, happy lifestyle. People aren't alive simply to work. Instead, we work for various reasons: fulfillment, satisfaction, pleasure, success, survival. If these needs aren't being met by your current position, speak up! Leave! Do something else! Change things up in an attempt to get back to equilibrium. An annual assessment is a good idea, but I don't think it's enough.

Perhaps quarterly or even monthly assessments are more appropriate. I know that meeting with your boss at these intervals is probably unrealistic, but you can at least self-reflect at that frequency to measure your equilibrium. Don't settle. You can do so much more.
Justin
Friday, 06 February 2015 23:00:27 UTC
This is so true. I spent close to 13 years at a company that I really in the end was not happy with. I finally made a decision to fire my old company and love the new one... Night and day difference in every aspect.

To those out there that are afraid, don't be!
Sunday, 08 February 2015 00:27:59 UTC
This may be easier to do as a coder where there are more beds than bodies it seems. And where the employee likely has more skills and gets paid more than their boss or even their bosses boss. What can be a real drag is where you have bosses who always have to remind you who works for whom by demanding you do utterly meaningless tasks just because they say so. You hired me specifically because I have good judgment and do not do stupid things, and yet here you are requiring I do stupid things.
I am not alone: codingconfessional.com
MikeS
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 16:06:56 UTC
This is a great article, Scott. You are absolutely right about inverting the way we should look at our jobs. This is a breathe of fresh air everyone needs.
Sunday, 15 February 2015 08:23:03 UTC
Much, much easier to have this mindset when you you have confidence that you'll be able to get another job in a reasonable amount of time (when you have mouths to feed this can be short!). Terrifying to quit a job without a backup - and very hard to leave a well paying (albeit miserable) job for a job with unknowns.
HyShai
Sunday, 15 February 2015 16:22:43 UTC
I think having this perspective is key to being happy. Being in the tech field requires you to be plugged in, which makes work and home life really blurry.

If you enjoy your job, what ends up happening is a work/life "integration". I love programming and spending time with my co-workers... but I also make time for myself and family while I'm at work. I have them visit me, take time to call them, etc. I also work on personal goals when I'm at work. Similarly, I usually end up working on work at home in my free time- but when it's all part of one integrated life, it doesn't matter as much to me.

If my job didn't give me this flexibility, I would definitely think twice about my employment. That said, I love my job and definitely don't take it for granted :) Really nice to read all the comments here
Monday, 16 February 2015 09:57:59 UTC
I think this is great advice if you're an employee. And the nice thing about being a freelancer/contractor/consultant like me is that it literally does work this way!
Monday, 30 March 2015 01:21:16 UTC
Very good. I'd add that one should consider interviewing for interesting positions every three or four years regardless. That changes it from a brain trick to a real comparison of potential employers.
Daniel Roth
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.