The title of this post was not originally intended to be a metaphor for the process of going through the day-to-day business of living, but more a discussion of my literally falling down, getting back up, and then falling down AGAIN and having to get back up. Seriously, my bathroom floor was cleaned yesterday (thanks M!) and if it were not tile (cold, hard, uncomfortable to the bum) I might have just stayed there awhile and taken a nap before work.
After quite a lot (for me) of time without banging myself about, I seem to be trying to make up for lost time. First tumble I got tangled up in a flip-flop getting out of the shower. Second tumble 30 seconds later was a slip on the bare floor. Oh well. These things happen to me. There was much swearing involved, and had M been home probably a stream of heated words directed at him about the way he arranged the rugs in my/our master bathroom. He typically does the floor care in our household, but for some reason he placed the freshly laundered rugs in such a way that tripping and then slipping became prime opportunities. Fortunately I have a lot more temper restraint when it comes to having to text my irritation.
First world problems, I know. The only real injury is again to my pride and my ego; bum muscles escaped unscathed.
But as I was driving to the office and my first appointment of the day – my performance review with the bosses – I was pondering a text exchange last night from a friend who posited that “life slowly returns to normal” after a really awful month with more family emergencies than any family should have to bear in a year, or several years, much less the span of a couple of weeks. What is normal? Is that a standard we should chase? Or are we constantly reinventing and moving the bar up, down, all around in pursuit of the comfort of the routine and the predictable?
There are moments when I feel like I have a “new” normal every day of the week, because the fluidity and change that comes with each new day is just part of life. Maybe not to the degree my friend and her family experienced in the last 30 days, but still. How well we can or do adapt and roll with those punches may be indicative of how comfortable we can or do become with the skills we have developed and the habits adopted through the years. As I have written many times before, our lives can change in a blink and how well we are able to cope with the outcome of those changes is woven into our personal histories. Through the years I have noticed how differently M and I respond to a crisis or perceived threat – we are a study in contrasts right down to the way our worry manifests. That could be contributor to why we are well-matched as a couple; our crisis management skills complementary.
Which is my scenic route to my work-related issue of the day: performance appraisals. I hate writing them, hate receiving them even more. This firm is self-evaluations, review by immediate supervisor and partners, then preparation and delivery of actual performance evaluation. I have noted communication in this firm is pretty exceptional, that when issues arise they tend to be addressed and positive and corrective feedback is a continuous cycle and relatively informal. Until it’s not, and then you become a coaching client for someone in the firm.
But I am apparently not in need of a behavior or performance mentor this year. Overall, a unanimously positive review and performance bonus award. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the feedback received. The improvement box is tiny and contains nothing surprising and nothing that has not come up in prior discussions or from discordant frictioning within the office. I am apparently a little too direct for some of the sensitive souls (our former associate) and others wish my in-the-office presence were more full-time than part-time. Small cakes issues, neither of which require a lot of (or any) behavior changes on my part. By the natural direct comparison with my predecessor, I won over the entire staff without trying very hard. However, I am by nature fairly laid-back in management style and it is not difficult for me to present as approachable and responsive to concerns. But as one of the partners put it, I am almost too nice nearly all the time, and it does make a stronger contrasting impression when I have to morph into a policy preparer and enforcer.This was not a criticism or even an corrective action item, more an observation. He brought it up because I may not have recognized the impact on the staff … that and they are not used to a kinder, gentler, professional approach to their concerns and ideas for changes to office policies and practices.
I feel as if I am tough enough when needed, but being a hard-ass in the office is completely not my style. Our discussions lead me to believe it is a fine balance, particularly with the administrative staff. While it is not much of an issue in this environment, I am a fierce advocate for administrative classifications when it comes to being respected for the tasks they perform that keep the office running and the work process flowing. That said, I am also well aware of who has the expertise to bill the hours and is most profitable for the firm. Just because I demand our non-professional staff be respected for the jobs they do within the firm does not mean they are a direct equal of the attorney classifications, so no, I am not going insist that even the least experienced of attorneys on staff take a turn cleaning up the kitchen each week or making lunch runs when a case is on fire and everyone is buried. There is a hierarchy and we each have our place in it, and yes, making money, being profitable is a primary objective for our business. Not the only objective, but a high-priority, critical objective nonetheless.
Because I have to deliver our receptionist’s performance review this afternoon, I am thinking about the observation and perception of me. I am not exactly obsessing about it, but I am thinking about it. Really hard. Receptionist’s recent pouting attitude has me giving more weight to this quality of my leadership; perhaps I am perceived as too much of a soft target? Do I need to be tougher, stricter, more of draconian manager?
Nope, I need not go there or pursue that trajectory. They hired me for the professional attitude and aptitude I bring to the firm; if they wanted another dictator running their office there are plenty of them out there, a few I know personally looking for jobs.
This review was not me falling down and having to get back up. This review is me standing up straighter, taller, because I am actually quite excellent at my professional pursuits and it was clearly acknowledged this morning. And really … is there such a thing as too nice? I do not let staff walk all over or take advantage of me, but I do welcome input and discussion of available options and opportunities to change processes for the better. Perhaps the contrast with my predecessor and his micro-managing style makes me appear to be nicer than I actually am in reality.
I am stepping off my hamster wheel about this and getting back to work. I am fine, and all is well in my professional world. My ability to overthink everything remains unchallenged.