June 23, 2010

Is It Okay To Disagree?

Tomorrow afternoon, I have the hideous honor of attending my annual performance review. I dread these and I confess that I hate getting any kind of criticism. Even the positive criticism stuff. I'm sorry but there is just nothing worse than sitting in a stifling hot office getting beaten up for an hour about your job performance. Managers don't beat you up because they WANT to it is because they HAVE to. I think I have only gotten one perfect review in 10 years. When I was an executive assistant to a bigwig VP, I did everything but jump off a skyscraper for him but the great thing was is that he knew it and recognized how much I did for him. He fully knew that he could not function in his job without my help. Did I make sure he couldn't function in his job without my help? Yup. It paid off both literally and figuratively. I eventually did leave him to take a more career-oriented role and he left his job there shortly after. He was one of my favorite people that I have ever had the pleasure of working for and we still keep in touch to this day.

In just about every job performance review I have ever had in my 10 years of professional work experience, I think every manager has told me that I need to speak up and contribute. It's not that speaking up or coming up with new and fresh ideas is a hard thing for me to do. It is more along the lines that I am afraid my ideas aren't good enough, or that they aren't even that original. I have to give huge props to my former boss. My first year at this place, I was intimidated by him and was definitely his "yes girl." I did whatever he wanted exactly the way he wanted it with zero suggestion as to how to make it better or even expand upon his ideas. So, at my first review, he told me that I need to step it up and asked what he could do to help facilitate that. For the next two years, he let go of the reigns on me and let me have some creative freedom. Rather than telling me the exact specifications for a promotion he let me put together several samples of campaigns to choose from. Many were thrown in the trash, some were huge hits and others were altered so much in the end that I barely recognized them (which is what happens when there ends up being too many cooks in the kitchen).

My boss was let go last fall and it has impacted me immensely. I feel like I have to start over from square one with a boss that isn't use to my style and frankly, we butt heads a lot.  Promotions have been e-mailed to me with the entire copy already written and laid out as well as what the pictures and "look" should be like. Now, if I worked for an agency, this type of detail would be spectacular, but I don't! I'm supposed to be the Marketing Specialist. The campaign guru. I feel like the perpetual creative wind has been kicked out of  me. I've been trying some backwards ways to get some more freedom, but most of them have fallen on deaf ears. Besides just the creative roadblocks that I'm experiencing, there is an entire philosophical difference of opinion when it comes to advertising. I am very much the marketing that is in the camp of a catchy headline and tagline in which the entire promotion then gets built around. It is a different marketing world out there today and people no longer want to feel pushed or manipulated into buying your product. They want to feel like they are genuinely getting a deal. They want to know exactly what they are getting and walking away with. They don't care about interest rates in and of themselves. They only care how an interest rate can affect them. It is SO important for businesses not just to SAY they are different but they have to PROVE it. Putting a generic ad in the newspaper isn't going to get attention. Putting a DIFFERENT ad in the newspaper will. How do you be different? Well in the ever so regulated and generic financial services world, it is in what you say. It is coming up with offers that are different than what they are seeing everywhere else. I have attended about a million webinars in the past two years preaching exactly this. So why do my very different and new ideas keep getting rejected? This rejection makes my blood boil. What makes it worse is that I am given no logical explanation as for WHY I can't take a unique approach. I was told "I've been doing this a long time." Um. SO HAVE I!!! Overall I am fine with someone telling me that what I am doing isn't the direction they want to take. I've gotten pretty used to my stuff becoming unrecognizable over the years. What I don't like is being told flat out that my opinion is not even remotely valued or trusted. At least the line "I've been doing this a long time," made me feel that way.

This is why I am asking the question: is it okay to disagree? After being told over and over again for years to speak up, and when I finally do, I get "I've been doing this a long time," did I make the wrong choice in vocalizing my disagreement? Am I in huge trouble here? I confess, I am a little terrified of my review. I always get nervous for them and they end up not being the worst thing in the world, but this time around, I have that gut feeling that I'm going to take a pretty severe beating.

Thank goodness for a well-planned girl's night out and PTO on Friday- I have a feeling I'm going to need that glass of wine.

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