It took me some time to realize that I am stuck in a vicious cycle of feeling something and then letting it go. When I started my career in my organization, I felt like I was the most privileged person in the room with the attention and appreciation I used to receive from my boss for my ideas and confidence to speak my heart out. Having the opportunity to work closely under his guidance made me think of new possibilities and skills that I had in me.
And then something happened. My boss offered me a promotion to a role that was completely different from what I had been doing so far. At that moment, I froze. I knew this could give me a salary jump but I knew nothing about the role or the department, and it wasn’t even on my list. But I took it up because I trusted my boss and his judgment to place me in this position.
I vividly remember my first day in the role, sitting in a room full of people double my age and ten times more experienced. It was strange at first but then I gradually settled in and knew I was bringing something different to the table.
My first year in the role was challenging but exciting – I was learning how to work with subordinates, putting new structures, meeting young people, and designing new programs. At the end of the year, I was in the same room with my boss for my review when he told me the year wasn’t great for me and gave me an average rating. I wasn’t fully convinced with the feedback but I gave myself the benefit of doubt that maybe it was my first year and there is so much more I can do.
Over the next three years, I kept building the department and its programs brick by brick- I handpicked each of my teammates and trained them for every role that they were brought in for. But every year when I entered the same room for my review, I got the same feedback and rating to an extent where my boss told me they were looking for my replacements.
It was here that my mental health had slowly started to deteriorate. I felt helpless and confused. I knew I was putting my heart and soul and all the possible knowledge and skills that I had in my work but was stuck in the same place in the eyes of my manager. I started growing disinterested and demotivated towards my work. I kept feeling that it wasn’t leading up to anything positive. I began to doubt my abilities as a leader and a professional and that I was in a place for which I wasn’t worthy enough.
I took a career break in between to tackle a family emergency but it felt more like an escape from all the work and performance pressure that I was going through.
Last year I joined the team again – this time motivated, energized, wiser, and more grateful.
Since I had some time to reflect, the first thing I did was to fix things that I had left in between- strengthening structures, giving accountability to my teammates, valuing data insights, and collaborating with as many people as I could. I was pretty sure things had changed and that I had a successful year.
Unfortunately, not everything had changed. My boss gave me a poorer review this time, saying that the team did well but I didn’t. I stood numb. Of course, I didn’t feel the same way but I had no response. I could feel self-doubt creeping on me like always and I could only remember the things I missed or what I wish I could have done.
This time something broke inside me.
I cried my heart out for the next few weeks. I kept blaming myself for the failure I had become or how unsuccessful I was even after so many years. I hated going back to my desk or picking up calls. I stopped eating or sleeping enough. I felt caged and was afraid to speak to anyone at home or the office with the fear of appearing as a loser.
But the distress then changed to anger.
For once I asked myself, maybe it isn’t me who is failing every year, what if it’s my boss who has failed as a manager? Why has he not been able to guide me with what I am missing every year? Why did he hire me in this role if I was such a misfit? Why does the feedback happen at the end of the year and not throughout?
Alas, anger quickly turned into silence again and I turned towards the emails piling up in my inbox.
Feature image is for representational purposes only.