CCEM’s mission is, “to connect and encourage Christians to confidently live out their faith in the workplace.” This article is intended to encourage Christians to approach performance assessment with a mind towards God. Furthermore, it is intended to equip the men and women of our community to look at business related topics with a spiritual mind, and an eternal perspective for both professional and spiritual growth.
I recently received a formal communication kicking off the annual performance assessment cycle. I knew it was coming, there are no surprises here, only consistency. However, after the year we have all had in 2020, something about the email troubled me. It’s not that the email said anything wrong, it was just the thought of starting the performance assessment process again felt disheartening. Now I’m going to be very open and vulnerable right now; performance assessment season can be a hard time for me (and maybe for many of you). I feel like I need to justify my value and it can be exhausting. During tough times, I feel even more anxious. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Fortunately, when I struggle through tough times, I know that I have a heavenly Father who is there for me. He longs for me to turn to Him and to ask for wisdom (James 1:5). Through reflection, 5 key themes were placed on my heart on how to better approach the performance assessment process, keeping an eternal perspective, while also honoring my commitments to the company. My prayer is that these themes might also help you keep your eyes focused on Jesus through this year’s performance assessment process.
1) I already know my value
Whenever I think about performance assessment, I have often approached it as trying to justify my value. In my mind, I was not just trying to justify my value to the company; I was trying to justify my value as an employee, as an engineer, as a provider for my family, as a contributing member to society, etc. What’s worse, I am looking for all those answers from a system that is not meant to be used in that way. If I am basing how I see myself and defining my own self-worth on this process, then this is a mindset that is destined for disappointment and emptiness.
However, there is a better way to define my value: Look to the one who is perfect, the one who created me, and ask Him for His evaluation. I don’t have to look very hard to find His answer: I am priceless (Note: not perfect, but still of an infinite value). Romans 5:6-8 says: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Even though I am not perfect, and I do mess up (a lot), Jesus tells me that I am so valuable to Him; that He loves me so much, He willingly sacrificed Himself for me. So while I recognize the need to assess my performance from a business perspective, and while the assessment has meaning for earthly, company-based decision making, I shouldn’t let that assessment define me. I have already been assessed by the one person that truly matters, and He has told me my value: priceless.
2) I want to honor my company, because it honors God
Now that I have established a firm base for who I am and what my true value is, I can more appropriately look at the feedback that comes out of my performance assessment. Paul tells me, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24). I want to do my work well because in doing my work well, I am honoring God. I am a reflection of Jesus in the workplace in how I conduct my business.
Therefore I should be intentional and proactive in my job. If I seek to honor God through my work, then I should do so with diligence. I should try to understand how my company defines success so that I can contribute to obtaining that success. I should seek out intentional guidance and feedback from others more than just once a year to ensure I am doing the right thing and contributing towards that success.
Then, I should take feedback through that context, knowing that it is not a comment on my true value. Feedback is not criticism of me or my value, rather it can be an opportunity to better serve my company so that I can better honor God. This is a subtle shift in thinking, but I think it has profound impact on how I receive that feedback, contribute to and view the process.
I also think it important to note that feedback is not scripture. Feedback is another person’s view through their own perspective. Therefore, a proper filtering of that feedback is likely warranted. Not all feedback is helpful, and that is okay. I should carefully consider each piece of feedback against its ability to help me better honor my company, and honor God.
One last thought on this, I have always felt a tension about scripture’s call to be humble, and the performance assessment’s call to self-promote. How can I be a reflection of a humble Jesus and also try to convince others about how awesome I am? I think it comes back to a matter of the heart; why am I doing this? I am seeking to honor my company to honor God. When asked to recount how I have contributed to the company’s success, I think it is okay to be an advocate for myself in an honest and accurate way.
3) It is okay to not want to be CEO
Maybe it’s just me, but I have often felt that some feedback comes (with good intention) to help me become a better leader, to help me move up in the organization. A lot of feedback tends to focus on soft skills and how to better present myself. My wife (who also used to work for the company) would often chuckle when receiving knowledgeable other feedback because every year she seemed to get the same general message: “You should give more presentations to management to improve your exposure and leadership skills.” This is not to say that she would completely disregard that feedback. She wanted to improve her ability to honor the company in order to honor God. However, she also had no desire to go into senior leadership. So she was okay with her assessment and feedback.
I always found her approach very mature. She knew who she was (and who she wasn’t). She knew she could honor God, and perform great work for her company without feeling the need to climb the leadership ladder, or making significant personal sacrifices. Recognizing what my professional and personal goals are, along with what my skills and interests are, can help me better filter my assessment feedback into where and how I apply it to best honor my company, my personal life, and God. It is okay to not want to be on the “fast track” and it is okay to not want to sacrifice my personal life for a better assessment. I can still do great work for my company, honor God, and not seek to continually advance in rank and title.
4) Treat others as children of God
Part of the performance assessment cycle involves providing input on others performance. In my particular situation, I will not only have the opportunity to provide input through knowledgeable other feedback, but as a supervisor I will have a responsibility for personally delivering feedback to my direct reports. Through my experience both giving and receiving feedback, one theme remains true: Treat others as children of God.
Genesis says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). All people, regardless of their background, should be treated as individuals whom God personally made in His image; individuals who are God’s children. They are not my people here to serve me. Rather, they are God’s people, of whom I have been entrusted to lead/provide feedback. So how does God expect me to treat them?
I like to think that parenthood is a small glimpse into how God see’s us. My wife and I were blessed enough to have a baby about a year ago. I cannot begin to explain how much I love that little boy. I never want him to feel pain, hurt, or to be mistreated. I only want him to feel joy, happiness and love. However, I also recognize that he will need to learn tough lessons. He will need to hear hard messages at times. I know that at the end of the day, these things are good for him to grow. So how should I handle these difficult situations? Well I certainly will not do so lightly. I will be fair, honest, but with a genuine love and care for his growth and well-being. After all, he is my son and I love him.
If I see others as children of God, shouldn’t I expect God to want the same things for them? Those who have been entrusted to me to provide feedback; I need to take that seriously. It is not “just business.” These are people, people who are loved by God, and people who I should love. That’s not to say I should not be candid or direct, but it is to say that I need to do so with a genuine care and compassion for those, looking to help guide them both professionally and personally.
5) It will not be perfect
At the end of the day, things will not be perfect. I will probably struggle with the right words to say, I may have the wrong words said to me. I may end up having to deliver a hard message (or receive one myself). In any case, I recognize that nothing short of God is perfect and I shouldn’t place my hope in things like performance assessment. Performance assessment is a tool and it has a purpose. If I keep that purpose in mind, without letting it creep into other aspects of my life, I will be better for it. We all will. I can give myself grace in the feedback I receive and I can give grace to those who are giving me feedback, recognizing that they are not perfect and are working through the same process I am. In an imperfect world, with imperfect people, grace is key.
Paul says, “And [Jesus] has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We all need grace and God’s grace is sufficient. When we are weak, make mistakes, feel broken, we can find our grace and strength in Jesus.
The performance assessment process has been around our company for many many years. It is our approach to continual feedback and evaluation of employees. Feedback and evaluation are not bad things, and the process has its place in how our company functions. A lot of good can and does come out of providing a structured feedback approach to employees (both for the company, and the employee personally). The danger comes when we begin to use the process inappropriately or blur the lines between what its purpose is, and how we see ourselves.
However, if we take a step back and re-orient ourselves to who we are as children of God, placing our hope and value in Him, and not in our assessment; if we look at the feedback process not as personal criticisms, but as opportunities to better serve God; and if we treat others honestly, but with love and respect, we can make a potentially unpleasant process an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. We cannot eliminate the process, or avoid the process, but we can look at it differently and respond to it differently. We can create a better culture around performance assessment, and we can live out our culture of caring.