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I started a role at a new company about a year ago but due to various factors I don't think I've been able to get "up to speed" as much as they perhaps expected (it was a new role to the company, so there wasn't anyone in the role before to compare to). Primarily because the boss is over-committed and hasn't been able to give the time to handing over information (although the role was created because the boss was over-committed I think - it is a "splitting out" of some tasks from the boss's job).

I have been working on projects, but feel like I'm under-performing.

People ask me things, that should be within 'my' area of expertise, but I don't know the answers because within the company I haven't reached that point of understanding of why things are the way they are, why or why not can we change things in XYZ way, etc.

I have a 2-weekly (and it was weekly in the past, initiated by me) catch-up / one-to-one in which I talk about ongoing projects etc.

I've prompted my boss numerous times with things like "is there anything you want me to do differently" "is there anything you're concerned about with how much I'm getting through" and I even explicitly said "I feel like I'm not achieving as much as I ought to be" etc which got the response of (something like) "oh you are, I know its difficult, everything is very open-ended here, what's the status of the XYZ project.. yeah I can see why you're having trouble with that".

I feel like I'm waiting for the "Other shoe to drop" to be called up into a meeting to be written up / put on a PIP (Performance improvement plan) / etc.

I hate uncertainty and not knowing what's going to happen etc (mostly due to previous past experiences in jobs -- e.g. coming back from a long-planned vacation to a disciplinary meeting which went on my record).

My question: if I think I'm underperforming in my role but I've addressed it as directly as I can with my boss who says they are happy with what I'm doing -- what could or should I do differently, or how can I get to the root of what my boss really feels about it?

Edited to add: I'm not new to the workforce or fresh out of university. I'm in my late 30s with almost 20 years of experience at numerous companies, mostly as a highly rated performer! But this is the first time I've encountered something like this. In the past there have been a few occasions where bosses didn't like what I was doing but they brought it up -- either directly, or in a sort of "people have been saying that they were concerned about so-and-so" kind of way.

I do have a bit of "what am I going to be surprised with next?!" baggage from previous jobs - at different companies.

  • Why do you feel your boss "really" feels differently from what they are telling you? – Seth R Aug 6 at 21:39
  • @SethR extrapolating from my own experiences I suppose. If I were the 'boss' in that situation and the new role had been created to offload some specific tasks from me, but then the person in the new role wasn't carrying them out and I still had to pick them up anyway -- I'd be thinking "what are we paying you for then?" -- and I have been that boss in a past company, albeit pushed into taking on additional people when I didn't want to, and lo and behold they just added to my workload because cross training + doing myself + rework. – user107656 Aug 6 at 21:45
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I do have a bit of "what am I going to be surprised with next?!" baggage from previous jobs - at different companies.

Sounds like a psychological issue.

Take inventory of the facts:

  • Your boss is happy
  • Your work is new to everyone and you are doing the best you can with what you have
  • You're an experienced worker who knows how things are done
  • You said it yourself that you have some unresolved anxiety picked up from previous life experiences

Repeat these to yourself whenever the feelings come up.

Keep an open line of communication with your boss and keep doing your work. THat is probably the best you can do. Having said that also try not to come across as too insecure, you still want to have a brand (yourself) to sell.

If you believe you might have some anxiety issues it might be a good idea to speak to a doctor for a diagnosis/treatment.

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Welcome to my life. You might be suffering from Impostor Syndrome (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome), it's extremely common amongst fresh grads and people new to the workforce. I'm told it will dissipate eventually and your confidence will grow as you learn more stuff and/or realize that everyone else is just faking it the best they can too.

If you are doing the best you can with what you've got, and are regularly soliciting and taking to heart advice on how to perform better, there's not much else you can do. It's up to your manager to help grow you as an employee. If you are under performing it is their job to identify that and help you improve.

  • +1. I work on a codebase that's been around (parts of it) for two decades. I've been working on it for several years, and if I haven't had to fix some subsystem, I don't know how it works... – stolenmoment Aug 7 at 1:05
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I always feel that way too. Probably your boss sees your potential and knows that you will eventually get it. Given your track record as a high performer, this is probably what will eventually happen. In the mean time find other experienced personnel that are less overworked and tap into their help. Look for people who have been at the company a long time and could use some interaction. I did this when in my 30's at a new job and I learned a tremendous amount from those who had been at the company 30+ years. And read like crazy about whatever subject matter will improve your ability at this work. We can't always rely on the boss to bring us up to speed. Put in a little extra and creative effort and I believe you will get on track, even impress others. Then you'll feel less insecure about your contributions.

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