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In my current part-time work situation, we have weekly meetings where we discuss our ongoing progress. I often present my work along the lines of "I had a pretty busy week so I wasn't able to accomplish as much as I would've liked, but this past week I was able to x, y, and z, and from here I'm planning to work on a, b, and c." My manager continues to express satisfaction in the progress I'm making, and I am meeting all expectations so that is a non-issue.

I've been unsure whether I should continue to mention my reasons for not meeting my personal desires. On the one hand, I feel that it helps encourage understanding within my manager, so they keep in mind that I'm a busy person and to manage their expectations accordingly. It might also help them understand when my work is challenging if I explain that my slow progress is the result of a difficult problem, not out of laziness (I am working outside of their area of expertise or familiarity, so they don't know what is hard to do and what isn't).

On the other hand, I'm worried it might have some long-term effects on how they perceive me. They might remember me as the "didn't accomplish much" person, or the slow worker. I don't think they'd do this on purpose, but I'm worried it might sneak into their mind if I continue planting the idea so often.

Given that I continue meeting expectations of my manager, should I continue explaining my reasons for slow progress (as applicable), or stop this practice?


For some background to my specific situation, I am an undergraduate researcher at a university. I am the research team's sole software developer. I am currently unpaid for my work (hence the low expectations), but that may change in the future. The reason I ask this question here instead of the Academia site is because I feel confused on whether I should do this also once I'm in a normal job, so I feel it applies to the workplace more generally.

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  • I had a pretty busy week doing what? Assigned job? Other job? – Sourav Ghosh Nov 13 '20 at 6:56
  • @SouravGhosh it varies a bit, but usually it's things related to being a full-time student, e.g. "studying for midterms," "catching up in classes," "a bit swamped in homework," etc. I only mention these things when they're true, it's just that they end up feeling true often – Drake P Nov 13 '20 at 7:00
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Given that I continue meeting expectations of my manager, should I continue explaining my reasons for slow progress (as applicable), or stop this practice?

You should stop this practice. The main thing your manager wants to know is if you have completed the expected work. Apologizing for finished work is confusing to people, and can also grow tiresome to people who have to listen to the constant apologizing.

Having said that, if there is anything sub-optimal about the work that needs to be addressed in the future, definitely bring it up, but you don't have to apologize for it. People generally know that you can't finish everything perfectly every time.

On the one hand, I feel that it helps encourage understanding within my manager, so they keep in mind that I'm a busy person and to manage their expectations accordingly.

It sounds like you may have a self-confidence problem, which isn't unusual, especially early in your career. You're unsure if you are measuring up, so you are repeatedly asking for feedback, albeit in an indirect way. Ask for that feedback directly, and less often. If you continue to get good feedback, then you can scale back both the explanations and requests.

It's like when you receive a compliment on your work -- rather than responding with a self-deprecating comment, or trying to diminish your effort, simply say thank you and move on.

On the other hand, I'm worried it might have some long-term effects on how they perceive me. They might remember me as the "didn't accomplish much" person, or the slow worker.

This is a distinct possibility. As you say, it's unlikely to be a conscious thought or decision, but people may associate your apologies and excuses with an inability to follow through (even though you do) and decide not to assign you work.

Sounds like you're going about things the right way -- you just need to practice taking yes for an answer, and be more confident in the work you are doing well.

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Set a rule for yourself:

  • Expectation and achievements from your personal viewpoint are for your personal growth tracker.
  • Expectation and achievements from the professional viewpoint are to be presented and reviewed in the weekly calls.

Keep these two things separate.

In the weekly calls,

  • State what your accomplished in last cycle.
  • State / discuss what you plan to accomplish for the next cycle and get approval on that.
  • Mention about any hurdles/ blocker in the anticipated progress and ask for any help needed to enable you to achieve the target mentioned in previous point.

Keep is short and focused. You only need to justify / show reasons if you're failing to meet the committed goal in the previous meeting.

Whatever your personal goals / wish-list items are, keep them out of this discussion.

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