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I am almost a month into a job and the CTO says,

"It's important to realize that we don't expect you to know everything perfectly. Based on our levels of conversation with you throughout the interview process, your code submission, and your work history, we thought you were a bit further along that what we're seeing so far. So we definitely have some work to do to get you to that point..."

This was in regards to a CSS library I had never worked with before, never stated I had, and was clear I could care less for it.

Confused and a bit offended so I am putting it out there to you all. How should I proceed as a professional? How should I respond? Also, keep in mind that the CTO is one of those folks that if you correct them, they will write you a huge wall of text on Slack, so how to avoid that too.

For me, its like, I am getting the job done with this new tool I just learned on the fly, not as fast as they would like because I just learned it on the fly. So, lets stay on task, this stuff about "we thought you were a bit further along than what we are seeing so far", is not staying on task and I find it a bit offensive. As we are all at different skill level depending on the tech or am I wrong about this?

OR

Just keep my mouth shut and look for an exit when available?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Feb 12 at 5:07
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An effective way to deal with bad feedback is to discuss measurable facts not anyones opinions including yours. Ask them for specific details. What exactly were you expecting to see by now? Exactly how long do you expect the rest of the work to take? Exactly what is or isn't in scope for the first delivery? How much documentation are you expecting? If you drag them into objective facts not arbitrary opinions and you are doing good work then you will succeed. Your initial question before edits indicates that you need to go back into the office and take a fresh, fact based, approach.

If you are at the end of a formal probation, and a panel has come together to assess whether the probation is successful, and they judged that they possibly made a significant error in the hiring process, then what is written as fine. After all in such situations it is better to be totally frank.

My answer assumes that isn't the case that they were giving formal feedback based on a review of a probation period. Had this been formal probation feedback I am sure your question would have been different (i.e, asked how to deal with bad probation feedback or having your probation extended). Another thing I am taking into account in my answer below is a one month probation is too short for a senior software engineer. Coding isn't, say, bookkeeping, where each months tasks are consistent, so a company needs to see a variety of tasks performed to be certain a person is, on balance, able to perform at the right level and is good fit for the team and role.

Outside of formal probation feedback the exact wording of what they said, taken as ad-hoc feedback, to a senior software engineer, is inflammatory. They could have just said ”we thought it would be bit further along” and that ”you have a lot of work left to get it to where it needs to be”. That would be a perfectly reasonable statement about their expectations of progress of work so far and judgement about the work left to be done on a specific task. Yet what they actually said was:

we don't expect you to know everything perfectly. Based on our levels of conversation with you throughout the interview process, your code submission, and your work history, we thought you were a bit further along that what we're seeing so far. So we definitely have some work to do to get you to that point.

To a native English speaker who has worked a number of global companies hiring and managing software engineers that reads as saying that you, not just this piece of work, are deficient. It can be very clearly read as implying that they think they have brought you in at too high a level. It implies that the company needs to train you to a level at which you can perform the duties expected of your role.

They could have said "I don't expect” and ”further along than I am seeing". That would have softened the statement a lot as it opens up the possibility that the person may have incomplete information such not knowing how mature or tricky to master the particular framework is. Yet they are making statements as "we" that given their seniority in the company can be only interpreted as being an official position.

I most certainly would have said ”I”, and not ”we”, when it isn't official feedback that hasn't been cross checked with other people. Also, having managed front-end, back-end and full-stack software engineers, I know how varied the work is, and how varied the maturity of front-end frameworks. So I wouldn't make a definite judgement based on one piece of work. Only if the person had claimed expertise of a framework during the hiring process, and was clearly completely unfamiliar with it when they started the job, would I be extremely negative based on one piece of work. You have very clearly stated you claimed no experience with this framework. The rational thing for a probation panel to do in this situation would be to extend your probation, and give you a different task, to see if there wasn't some extenuating circumstances so far.

As you are new to the company it is entirely understandable that you are taking that specific language as very negative feedback. If you believe you did reasonable work given the circumstances, and that you are being judged as not at an appropriate level of general technical competence, when you believe you are not over-promoted into this job, then it is rational for you to be considering all options. They even say that they thought you interviewed well, you submitted a test coding task, and you have a solid employment history. This implies you have reason to think you are not under qualified to work on this task. Yet getting defensive won't help. More objective discussion and transparency of the details will.

At this point in time you will be feeling singled out. If you are correct that this ad-hoc feedback was harsh the you might expect to learn that this person has a reputation within the company for making people feel defensive. In which case you might at some point see this particular point in time as a "rite of passage" into the company that everyone has to face.

  • Thank you, I do feel it was inflammatory and that's what prompted my post. I could have been expressed in a way that does not try to make me feel insecure. That is exactly how I have been feeling since. – Daniel Feb 9 at 23:11
  • Also @Daniel you haven't ansered my comment to the about his feedback was delivered and what your probation period is. In a formal probation feedback where a well considered opinion was being expressed that they really thought hiring you might have been a serious mistake (their error, not your error) then what they said would have been acceptable. Yet I read how you wrote the question that this feedback was a bit out of the blue and seemed to be this person ”havkng a go” not the result of a formal process that was summary of a panel of people. – simbo1905 Feb 10 at 6:30
  • @Daniel I have edited my answer to discuss probation period – simbo1905 Feb 10 at 7:47
  • @Daniel I see you have edited your question to remove discussion of redux. I am sure your initial downvote and first answer that you were over reacting was because you expressed opinions that were not really a good sign for a new hire. You sounded like the sort of person who feels entitled to pick the work the company gives them and who refuses to try to do good work with tools they dislike (”a bad workman blames his tools”). My reading was that you are not that sort of person but that the comments had put you on the defensive. Stick to facts only, not opinions, when talking about performance. – simbo1905 Feb 10 at 9:58
  • Two downvotes and no comments as to why...? Pretty poor folks... – simbo1905 Feb 11 at 16:20
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It seems to me you are taking something personal which you really shouldn't. It's not your decision which software or technology is used at the company.

For whatever reason, it was decided not to work with Redux - IMO, there are legitimate reasons to make such a decision.

The CTO clearly said that, even not knowing the library in question, you were expected to be further along now. There is no point in taking this personally either - it is a professional assessment of your work and his expectations of it.

The way to respond to this professionally is to take this input and improve. Learn the new library and buckle down. Ask for help when needed. I do not think that after a month, you have to write off your career at this company, but it is of course not an optimal start. Still, if you show improvement over the next couple of months, you can certainly turn this around.

As to your last point: Skill levels do differ based on the technology used, but some skills do (in my experience) transcend the specific framework and language, and the ability to understand and learn new frameworks is definitely vital in this field.

I would not recommend changing jobs, this seems like an opportunity to grow. But, naturally, that is another option you have.

Good luck!

  • thanks for the response. I interpreted the professional assessment to mean, "oh you mis-represented yourself" and the assessment was shared after I outlined what steps I would take to remedy this situation in accordance to suggestions made, so I don't know, at that point, I would not have shared that assessment with a new hire and waited to see some improvement, but maybe thats just a different management style. And about what goes and stays as far as tech, I understand what you are saying, it just so happens I was discovered by them based on that tech they are removing, don't get it. – Daniel Feb 9 at 19:29
  • At this early stage, assigning a task with an unknown tool, I would have kept that assessment to myself and waited to see how things go with tools the new hire is supposedly good at, but again, different management style, I guess. – Daniel Feb 9 at 19:46
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    In my opinion, this is good management style. Waiting for improvement passively, then letting the person go when it doesn't happen, seems the worse option. – bytepusher Feb 9 at 19:51
  • Agreed. I got very similar feedback at a previous job. It's not so much a threat as an early warning. I made a conscious effort to ask/look for help earlier, so I could learn faster, and they ended up keeping me after probation. – Llewellyn Feb 11 at 11:29
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I think that bytepusher's is correct, but want to add one additional thing. In his answer, he said:

The way to respond to this professionally is to take this input and improve.

I would add just one thing here: it sounds to me like you may not be clear on exactly what needs to improve. One of the comments mentioned getting objective, fact based examples of where they are not completely happy with your progress. Maybe it's not the specific technology you are using at their request, but it's something more meta. There are many possible specifics, but understanding exactly where the criticism is coming from will help you respond better and in a properly focused manner.

You will have to determine who you should seek this more specific feedback from. The CTO, though they offered the information, may not be the best to go to when seeking further clarification. Or they might! Either way, saying something along the lines of "I've been thinking about the feedback I received on my progress, and was hoping I could get more specific information on what areas I should improve," (and meaning it!) might give you a better understanding of what exactly is concerning them.

The fact that they are giving you this feedback means that they want to work with you to improve. It is never easy to receive critical feedback, but it honestly is a good thing, if you use it correctly.

Good luck!

  • Thank you, I think your answer is a good combination and balance of simbo and bytepushers answer, so I am going with it and i will get to apply what you say this Friday and hopefully they mean it when they say they are willing to work with me. Honestly I have had managers in the past say that and it was just a CYA tactic. – Daniel Feb 13 at 15:58
  • One of the most powerful tools I received in communication training is "Assume positive intent." Always operate under the initial assumption that those around you have positive intent. You will respond better to stimuli with that assumption, which can encourage better responses in turn. This assumption is not always correct, but it is a powerful starting point, and if it is proven they don't have positive intent, you can readjust from there. As a note, I still struggle with this myself - it can be hard to implement! – Minocho Feb 13 at 18:17
  • Minocho, where it becomes challenging is in the fact that the way the professional assessment was worded only succeeded in triggering a feeling of insecurity. In other words, when someone accomplishes making you feel bad about yourself, how do you proceed in that there was positive intent there? Not saying there wasn't, but what does that readjustment look like for me? For some its easy to readjust from that, from others like myself, we can drop into a deep shame spiral. – Daniel Feb 13 at 18:32
  • Also, we have to always keep in mind the unequal power in the relationship. I could say, hey the way you shared your assessment made me feel bad can you provide concrete examples next time. And an extreme but realistic response could be, here is my concrete example, "you're fired". – Daniel Feb 13 at 18:35
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    Assume positive intent means that you consciously make the decision to assume the CTO meant well. Assuming that positive intent means that you look for how it could be meant to help. In this case, it is calling your attention to a problem. Assuming positive intent includes stop assuming negative intent. "They're trying to shame me. This is a giant setup to CYA before they fire me. They hate me. They're telling me I'm a failure." It's a conscious effort to interrupt those processes and assume they want the company to succeed, and they're showing you how to join them in success. – Minocho Feb 13 at 19:13
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They expect to "get you to the point". That indicates they are willing to "fight" for you, to some extent. On the pther hand, get busy. Ask for new stuff to do, ask about how you can help them (even if you are not ready). We could say this is a "bilateral agreement": Although they have thought you could deliver more than they expected based on your interviews, they are offering "help". On the other hand, you must correspond that help by doing your best.

You should count on that help. If they fail, complain, talk, open your heart. Remember their words:

So we definitely have some work to do to get you to that point..."

And sou you have.

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