16

I have been in my current role as a software engineer for 1.5 year. I started there eager to put the extra mile and hours but I soon realized that I wouldn't get much back (recognition/raise/promotion). After a year or so, I decided to do what was absolutely necessary to get the work done and no more. I was still performing and successfully completing any task I was given on time. However the feedback I am getting now is that I am not putting passion in my work and that the role demands soldiers ready to fight for their team and company.

The management now tries to find and point out "mistakes" (edit: by "mistakes" I mean usually subjective and controversial issues that even experts could disagree about or do not make any difference at all, e.g. code style issues, libraries doing the same thing, etc.) that I am making in order to justify my lack of enthusiasm and I feel that I am being closely monitored.

Is lack of passion a valid reason for getting negative feedback at work?

  • 3
    What specifically have they stated they want you to do? Work more hours? Smile more? Be more engaged in conversations and coworkers? – UnhandledExcepSean Jul 20 '18 at 13:46
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    Without the context of what Management is basing their performance on, this is going to be extremely hard to provide actual feedback to the your situation as none of us really know how you work. In my experience, if management is already on a point where they point out these "flaws" about you, I would take it as a red flag. I think it would be more beneficial for you if you give deep thoughts about your future in your current company. – Isaiah3015 Jul 20 '18 at 15:25
  • @Mike What exactly do you mean by “negative feedback”? Are we talking simply “acceptable”/“average” or actually “needs improvement”? The former, by your own admission, sounds as though it would be justified, the latter maybe not so much. – Joe Stevens Jul 29 '18 at 8:17
20

That's emotional manipulation, friend. Your manager is a psycho or an a-hat.

Unless your work contract explicitly states you are a "soldier" and you have to have an X amount of "passion" at the end of each month, all you owe that company is 8 hours a day from 9 to 5 or whatever your work schedule is. Not passion, not hard or soft work, not soldiering, not fighting. They only bought 8 hours of your time, not your soul.

To me this looks like scare tactics into either forcing you to concede to more work for no pay or they want to fire you and can't find a legal reason to do so, therefor will try to get you to leave on your own.

My advice: whenever you hear this type of manipulation, pack up and leave. It's not worth the hassle.

10

Assuming lack of interest does not mean underperforming you should consider that, maybe, they hired you because of the job you, virtually, can perform. They kept you after probation period because of your results and now you obviously stepped back then your managers are - rightfully - concerned. If "...soldiers ready to fight..." is their literal wording then it's definitely weird but I'd not give more weight to something that probably is just some team building BS.

In my opinio the main point is time. You worked there for 1.5 years and in this short time frame:

  • You have been inducted, you learned about the company, the product, the team, and their procedures (assuming you were already proficient with their tech stack).
  • You performed at the reasonable best of your possibilities, possibly better than average.
  • You noticed there aren't raises and promotions for your performance.
  • You decided (after a year or so) to do the minimum necessary.
  • They noted this pattern and talked about it.

Don't you think you have been too fast to draw your conclusions? Unless your performance was stellar (not merely good) I'd consider one year the minimum for an educated performance review.

While your reasons might be perfectly fine (but you had to investigate these issues when interviewing or, at least, during probation) this isn't the right way to handle the problem. As I often say: communication is the tool to solve problems. Explain your concerns and you can try solve the problem together, ideally you had to do this during your yearly performance review.

You don't know their reasons then you can't make assumptions unilaterally. Maybe, currently, they financially can't afford any reward; maybe you were performing well but not better than the others, maybe they WERE planning to give you a promotion after next review (but after a year or so you stepped back). We're just speculating because we simply don't know.

I think that this attitude is terrible both for the company and for your own because it may quickly become a radicate trait of your professional personality. If you can't find a solution together with your managers then maybe it's time to pursue different challenges elsewhere, maybe in a faster environment where good performance are quickly rewarded (but be careful because suboptimal performance are then quickly punished.)

5

The way I see it a company needs to reward (promotion, salary bump, etc) you for going above the call of duty. If the company fails to do so without any clear reason (budget shortfalls, etc), I don't see why they can fault you for just doing what you are hired to do. Why burn your candle at both ends if the company reaps all of the rewards from your hard work?

Don't get me wrong. I'm as hard working as they come, but I don't like feeling like a sucker. I would describe you as a "rockstar" using the term from Kim Scott's book Radical Candor. I wouldn't expect you to rise in the ranks quickly, but I would expect you to get the job done if I asked you to.

As for pointing out your mistakes, your manager could be looking for excuses to explain your drop in productivity or they could genuinely be looking for ways to help albeit in a poorly communicated way. As your manager, I would trying to understand why your productivity dropped and how I could rectify it given the resources I have. Part of your manager's job is motivate you to do work or, even better, more work than you are paid to do.

4

Every workplace and leadership team has behaviours they value and believe are important. If they believe putting a lot of ‘soul’ into your work is an important behavour then they have every right to criticize you for not doing it. They should do everything they can to describe these expectations to you and offer you advice on how to exceed their exceptions.

Sometimes managers have a difficult time describing particular behaviour they would like to see. They know passion or soul when they see it but they may have a hard time describing it. When this happens they can tend to point to other things as problems because they can’t communicate the real problem. If the problem they are talking about is not the real problem then fixing it or even spending time talking about it is a waste. You need to be honest with yourself and with them, then decide if the behaviours they value are aligned with what you can and want to do in a workplace.

3

If they can find the mistakes, they're not punishing you for the lack of passion. Evaluation is just that: evaluation of the complete work. If you do not put in extra work that other people are, but still make the same mistakes those people are making despite putting in just the bare essentials, then that's viable feedback.

Personal anecdote: I'm far from best developer at my company, but my mistakes in development are tolerated because I help organize a lot of the extracurricular stuff. One of my colleagues "just puts in the hours" and recuperates every minute he works extra, but makes sure that whatever he does during those hours is completely beyond reproach. Both of these are completely accepted. What wouldn't work is counting the minutes and still make mistakes.

So stop giving them ammo, they will stop shooting.

  • 3
    Thanks for your input. I am not sure about other industries but in Software Engineering someone could always find "mistakes" in your code if they want to. These are mostly subjective/style "mistakes" where even different linters disagree like "you'd leave an empty line here", "you'd rename variable name to x" or even more involved but equivalent solutions. The management sometimes avoids to point to the exact piece of code and even trashes my code after a PR. Finally sometimes there is no justification, the management is always right "because reasons". – Mike Jul 20 '18 at 10:17
  • @Mike You should edit your question to make it clearer that these aren't real mistakes that management is complaining about. You used scare quotes around the word mistake but that's not enough. So many people do that just for emphasis it's not always obvious that scare quotes are actually scare quotes. – BSMP Jul 26 '18 at 15:01
3

Is lack of passion a valid reason for getting negative feedback at work?

Certainly. Don't focus so much on the literal words. Instead interpret their real meaning.

You used to work very hard for the first year. Now you don't bother and are only putting in the self-determined minimum amount of effort.

You can't be surprised that this causes negative feedback. The company would prefer that you work the way you did initially. That's not a surprise. You can't get arrested for putting in only minimal work, but it's unlikely that you'll get positive feedback for it.

If you feel you aren't getting the "recognition/raise/promotion" you should, then you should find a new job and leave this one. Being passive-aggressive and working only the minimum is unlikely to get you what you seem to feel you deserve.

2

When I was young I had, many times, heard a job is like a marriage. After a few decades in the industry I can say a job is a reationship and sometimes it's a complicated one.

There's many types of relationships and partners and I can point one a few things to pay attention for.

  1. Be honest, first with yourself and then with others. It's important to know what's your feeling and why you are feeling it. OP looks doing right it. He feels there's no point in exceeding expectations if there are no rewards to it.

  2. Communicate, both parts must communicate. OP, maybe, has not raised the question but for sure management felt it and communicated (in a very silly way, maybe even being manipulative). That part must be improved. OP must be clear and communicate with his/her manager and spit out what he expects from the company. Manager just said what he/she expects (a lot!) from OP but never said nor did nothing about rewards.

Caveat: There's a bad side in being honest and communicating it: not everyway the other part will be honest too and sometimes you can fell being punished by being honest. Don't get worryed by it. Do your part on the relationship and give opportunit to the other part to do their part too. If they don't you just is knowing them better.

Finally, don't stay in a silly realtionship, it will poison your soul and mind. Seek a good and health relationship where both parts can be happy one with another.

1

I don't think it is unreasonable. Unfortunately, after your first year of employment, they expect "more" from you. What I would do is ask specifically what being more "enthusiastic" and "passionate" mean. Maybe because your first year you went above and beyond they expect that all the time.

The bit about being a soldier sounds very silly. I would ask, "What exactly can I do to improve upon being more passionate?" Your boss would tell you and ask for a 3 months follow up on whether you're now more "passionate." If he cannot tell you, or make up more reasons about you not being "passionate" then I would follow suite like in that move Office Space where you have to wear more than the minimum number flairs but unspecifically tell you why or why not that is right or wrong to go just the minimum.

-1

You stepped down your efforts and it has been noticed and you're getting dinged for it.

You're lucky that they just interpreted it as a lack of passion and not a deliberate act of sabotage and fired you outright.

Let me be clear

It's not a lack of passion, it's you trying to punish your employer by doing the bare minimum and you got caught and they are well within their rights. What you are doing is a passive-aggressive job action towards your company which is pushing more work on your coworkers. This is sabotage. While it's not an active sabotage like introducing a virus or throwing a spanner in the works, it is doing damage nonetheless. If they're finding errors in your work, then you're not doing what is absolutely necessary to get the work done.

Step up, do your job, or move on. What you're doing now is wrecking your own career. You are deliberately allowing your skills to atrophy, and you'll not likely get a good reference from your current employer when it comes time to move on.

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    @RichardU why is the OP under any obligation to go 'above and beyond' what is specified in his contract/work agreement? Not doing so may affect their prospects for promotion, etc., but they are under no obligation to give 120%, imo. – Time4Tea Jul 26 '18 at 18:41

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