Appraisals and Reviews

Aren’t they great!

During my 3 months of freedom, I have achieved quite a lot of things on my long-standing ‘to-do list’, mainly related to work on the house, learning, reading and exercise. I am now finding that as the summer is over and the holiday season is ending, my ability to met up with friends and family is drying up as they go back to work and their new workloads pickup and reduce their availability.

I am now starting to wonder about joining the rat-race again. Unlike other FIREs who have a family and a strong friendship circle, I live on my own and lack that daily human contact and could do with some conversation. Most of this is my fault, I have let work commitments and ‘duty’ get in the way of personal life. I should have said “No”.

Reasons I left my last job included: the poor management, aggressive environment and disrespect for employees. I was also having terrible headaches and finding it hard to go in. I think I was having mild panic attacks which really worried me – and concerns me about re-joining the rat-race. The final straw was a review to fill in and what was ridiculous was the lack of direction and motivation that it evoked in me when it is supposed to motivate you.

It was obvious from my role in the organisational structure there were no promotion routes (other than my line manager’s job)  – the only goals that could be set were: to met and learn more about the business departments (I was a new employee) so trying to fill the form in was very hard. Anything I came up with was rejected as either a ‘jolly’, not measurable or not challenging. I couldn’t put things down based on my ‘next assignment’ as the manager couldn’t tell me what I would be doing next. I felt disillusioned. I couldn’t see where I was going in the company – and there seemed to be no direction just immediate short-term deadlines.

Talking to my contractor work colleagues, they commented on how they don’t have to worry about reviews and appraisals. It got me thinking that my return to the workplace maybe better as a contractor or temp. You go in, work your hours and leave without the office politics and monthly/quarterly/annual reviews which are actually stifling motivation rather than encouraging it.

Appraisals and reviews are great when you are young and training is offered – I found then useful then – but once you are in the latter working years, career ladders are not so easy to climb when there are only 2 or 3 rungs left? Training courses are few and far between, if offered. It means that quite often the only way you can progress is by leaving the company or be explicit and say your target is to take your line manager’s job! At one place I worked, the review was just seen as a way of ranking employees and then using this as a basis to reduce head counts when times were tough.

Now when it comes to FI targets, I could fill in the form with a list of goals – but I didn’t think my employer would be too happy in goals based on releasing me from the workplace.  🙂

The review form:

List your career path/vision goals:

Goal – Objective – KPI – Target Date

1- What has gone well since your last review?

2- What are you proud of?

3- Is there anything you have struggled with or are concerned about?

panic I currently have a ‘fear’ of joining the rat-race given this recent experience so I need to take my time and review my FI goals and personal targets. I need to appraise my skills and work on my self-confidence and self-belief. This experience has knocked my confidence big-time and made me questioned my ability – “can I really do the job?” – I was beginning to question this given the flack I was getting. I need to take my time and find something that fits rather than let the voice of ‘fear’ make me jump into the first thing that comes along. That was one of my FI goals – providing space to chose and to have choices rather than rush into things.


8 thoughts on “Appraisals and Reviews

  1. Really like what you said at the end here… taking the time to find the right fit is super important. I don’t think you should fear rejoining though – I’m sure it was more a case of your workplace being sucky than you being sucky, otherwise as you say they may have just gotten rid of you, wouldn’t they? So you can’t be that bad.

    Remember our recent discussions on contractors – if you do go down this route, you just need to be careful about your payment to make sure that everything is spelled out in your contract and you know how many hours and what is exactly expected of you, as well as how and when they will pay you (some large companies are routinely taking more than a month to pay people in this manner). Also if you do go down this route, make sure there are no exclusivity clauses or anything like that. You could therefore take on some other side projects or other work as and when you like and when it’s available.

    I once wrote about why losing my job was the best thing that happened to me:

    but you’re in a much better position than I was back then. You know what you’re doing re. finances and you have the choice to go back almost whenever you want. However, what I would do also is to use this time to try and work on other areas that could improve your earnings e.g. take a course – anything from a free online course with edX or Coursera or actually sign up to a course at college/night school/a professional body’s certification route. This might give youa bit of an edge and also help to boost your confidence for future work opportunities.

    Best of luck with it all,


    • Thanks TV

      I was doing a good job there – someone said if they didn’t like me they would have chucked me out immediately but I couldn’t stick it there. The person I was working with daily was horrid and everyone felt sorry for me having to put up with their behaviour and the review debacle was the final straw.
      I have been doing some free courses to supplement my knowledge. Yes, I do need to get up to speed and savvy on the contract side of things. I have a few contracting contacts who may be able to advise me and help out. Its the middleman agents that could be a problem with clauses – I need some recommendations from my contacts. Thanks for the advice TV.

      My biggest critic is myself. I am always trying hard to do a good job and get everything done. It is a strong point to my character as well as a weakness. I am not one of those who talks up their ego. I am more of a humble sort who is grateful for anything given or received.

      With courses, I am considering changing tack and retraining to do something completely different – its sitting in the back of my mind as a nagging thought – some ‘autonomy’ and ‘doing a good job and being recognised for it’ are my drivers.


      • I like the sound of training in something completely different. Perhaps there is something out there that would use many of your existing skills, but in a completely different way or a different industry? Best of luck with it!

  2. You’ve highlighted an important point about jobs – no matter how great a job is or how well paid, the people you work with can make a huge difference in your enjoyment of the job and your ability to do it properly. In your case, you unfortunately worked with someone who was horrid and who knocked your confidence down, instead of supporting and helping you to develop.

    The reason I’ve stayed so long at the place I work is that I’ve been lucky to work with some great people, some of whom are friends outside work. My bosses at worse have been ‘ok’, but have largely been people that I respect and who help and support me.

    Perhaps it’s worth considering that returning to the rat race isn’t your only option (unless your FI figures show that you need to earn your previous salary again).

    I think your idea of retraining and doing something totally different is great. Attending an actual college to retrain will lead to you meeting new people, increasing your network, perhaps making new friends.

    Or for other human interaction, perhaps you could consider applying your skills to voluntary work and work with people who will value your expertise?

    I would echo There’s Value’s comments re going contracting – there’s a lot to think about. I’d also add that as a contractor, you will be on your own, you won’t have the support of a full-time boss and you will be expected to deliver within strict time-frames. My best friend is an IT contractor and often ends up working late into evenings to reach deadlines but she’s been contracting for years and is used to it. Consider how contractors were viewed by the people you worked with when you were permanent – I’ve known people who have gone contracting, only to return to permanent positions because ‘it wasn’t the same’.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

  3. I had a fairly charmed work life until my first ever traumatic exit in my mid thirties – I thought the world was ending “Why why why, what did I do ?” Aside from the inevitable short term anxiety and depression,the humiliation did stick in my head for a quite a few years and did affect my self confidence/worth/esteem. I wonder now how I’d let my self confidence/worth/esteem get quite so tangled up in job .

    Fast forward quite a few years I’m probably FI and mostly RE’d, I still do the occasional project because I quite like the work and I can confirm that without the psychological overhead of being an employee there isn’t much downside… unless you just have something else you’d rather be doing.

    However as I eased off of work projects I finally noticed that a) my friends are all from university / work b) they’re all more than 50 miles away c) we don’t have quite so much in common anymore.

    You might notice some common themes with your experiences 🙂

    One thing about being (probably) FI that I keep having to remind myself of is that I don’t need to fear anything anymore, it’s an old pattern of thinking ingrained from fear based working environments and a debt based society.

    So specifically, if you want to go and do a contract job do it, if you don’t like it ditch it! Use an umbrella company to save aggravation. If you want to travel then travel, if you want to study then study and so on. There really isn’t any downside to trying something and just bailing if it doesn’t suit you. Duty, sacrifice, pat on the back? – NFW, you’re only answerable to yourself and beholden to no one.

    • Like your response Nathan.
      I have had two redundancies and I don’t think I had recovered emotionally from the first one when the second happened.
      I am pretty much FI even though I am a little short of my original target, not by much! If I can keep to a fixed ‘income’ ( based on the previous 3yrs annual spending patterns, inflation stays flat) and multiply that by the number of years I have until I reach state retirement age (as currently set by the government!) I have enough (without accounting for interest, investment growth, etc…
      As you say its the old pattern of ‘fear and debt based society’. Its a psychological thing that seems to be part of retiring from the workplace. Whatever your age that transition from work to non-work days can take its time to work out.
      Yes, I can agree with your common themes!
      Thanks Nathan for taking the time to share. 🙂

  4. Hi,

    I agree with your comments about how appraisals and reviews can be of very limited value when you reach a certain point in your career. Mine are pretty much a paper exercise now as there’s nowhere I want to go in the organisation except out and training is out of the question as it’s too expensive.

    It sounds as if you would benefit from doing something that uses your obvious skills in a more organised way but, as Nathan says, there are lots of routes to get positive feedback and social interaction without taking on the stresses of full time work as an employee – especially if you don’t have to. Things will eventually look clearer but in the meantime you should try to be careful not to put yourself back somewhere you don’t actually want to be 🙂

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