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As I mentioned in another question, I feel I am no longer delivering an excellent work, despite having previously been one of the most dedicated employees who was promoted also very quickly.

I am honestly not sure what's going on, and I receive no exact feedback on what I need to improve on.

If this is going on for a while, and I start seeing a consistent drop in my performance, in the quality of what I deliver, etc. when or how do I assess whether it is time to resign or ask for another assignment/project opportunity?

In other words, what can I do to part gracefully rather than getting fired?

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    Can you expand on the "underperforming" - are you just burned out, or do you have metrics where you did better previously, are you getting "up to that age" and just not as sharp as you used to be, etc. Aug 13, 2014 at 20:29
  • Have you had a performance review recently? You might want to schedule a one-on-one with your boss and talk about your job performance. Any good boss would take it as a sign that you care about your job and the company that you want to improve.
    – Tyzoid
    Aug 14, 2014 at 0:42

6 Answers 6

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First question: are you actually underperforming? As you mentioned in your other question, you're not getting any structured feedback, so what's your basis for this belief?

If you are underperforming, the answer is actually neither of "resign" or "move to another project" - instead, you need to find out how to improve at what you're currently doing. If there are mistakes you're making at the moment, they won't be fixed by moving to another team or even another company. You've been promoted in the past, so it's clear that management recognise that you have some value to the company, and that hopefully means that they'll be prepared to cut you a little bit of slack if you're currently underperforming, particularly if you're being proactive about trying to fix that. At this point, it comes down to your other question - you need to get better feedback on what you're doing.

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    In all fairness, a promotion comes with a change in responsibilities. It does happen that a promotion does not work out for an employee and it's nearly impossible for a company to approach someone to demote them without them making some big mistakes. So the assertion that just focusing on finding current mistakes will solve the issue might be right, but is not necessarily so. Aug 13, 2014 at 14:43
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Unfortunately, I have had some first hand experience of this issue which was only rectified by the intervention of a third party. (I'll try to keep this objective but I have strong opinions, so some of them may bleed through.)

This is going to be quite a long post I'm afraid but the summation is simple:

  • Who says things are going badly? Speak to your boss. If they're the person judging you, they must have criteria.

  • Are you being judged fairly. Not just within your team but within the company as a whole.

  • How badly are things going, really? Is this a minor problem or something that you really need to deal with immediately.

  • Speak to someone. Not a co-worker but someone who understands your environment and will be honest with you. I would recommend someone senior in another area of the business. It's critical, absolutely critical that you make the conversation objective. It cannot be seen as criticism of your current boss, or an attempt to go over his/her head. That would be Very Bad.

Now the long version...

You need to initially determine:

  • Where things are going wrong
  • How badly they're going
  • What can be done, in the short term, to get things back on track

..then:

  • Why things are going wrong
  • How you can resolve the situation permanently

It's important to bear in mind the fact that people don't change all that drastically, over time. Whilst you can make a huge change very quickly, this change will be hard to maintain. You need to be realistic about the situation and your ability to resolve it whilst also being aware that -you- haven't changed much from the person that was previously doing so well.

Where things are going wrong

Are you failing to meet objectives?
If so, are the objectives realistic? Unrealistic goals and deadlines are common and very divisive.

Are you being expected to work in a way that doesn't suit you or are you working in a way that is not supported by your colleagues and/or boss?

How badly are things going

Everyone has ups and downs. When things are going badly, it can become self-perpetuating and you can make additional bad decisions due to poor morale or by the inclination to over-reach in an attempt to salvage things.

It may be that things aren't as bad as you fear.

What can be done in the short term

It's useful to start performing adequately, quickly. It takes the heat off you and will give you the time and space needed to make long term changes. It's horrible to work in an environment where it feels that you're not doing your job correctly.

Speak to your boss. Agree (and document) an approach for the next month or two. Keep it simple, don't admit to every small sin you think you've committed. Get your boss to say "If this is done, I'm happy". Stick to that formula, get some time to clear your head.

Why things are going wrong

This is the hardest issue to resolve but often the simplest to diagnose.

Is the work too hard?
Is there too much of it?
Do you and your boss have different methods of working? (that was my problem) Have you lost motivation?
Are you slacking off?

How you can resolve the situation permanently

This, obviously, depends on the problem. Remember, you've not become useless overnight. Leaving the company is the ultimate last resort, so don't look at that until things become intolerable.

With a bit of luck, you will be able to address and resolve the problem by having an objective discussion with your boss. It's also worth considering whether you need to bring in an intermediary. The company I worked for had a system of Personal Managers who handled the pastoral care of their employees, something which I initially was dubious of. In the end, it saved my career. :)

Address the problem directly, assuming that the fault may or my not be with you. If you're a professional, you owe it to your company to provide them with the service that they're paying for but making yourself miserable doing it is a false economy.

Good luck!

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Negative self talk kills the excellent work we could produce by demotivating us. You could focus on how you could improve from where you are and to what you want to be. If you believe you cannot deliver, then you would not. It is right time to I suggest the following

  1. Believe you can deliver the best quality work your company expects

  2. Self-evaluation - Break down your work into to sub-task(based on difficulty level) and assign deadlines and your own measurement of quality. Say A - 1 day, 2 bugs ; B - 2 days - 1bug C - 3 days bug free. Try completing from easiest to hardest. Doing one thing at a time helps.

  3. Ask for feedback from your manager- Because you might be thinking you are doing bad, but you might be doing OK according to your manager. You can learn the gap between delivery and expectation. This is being proactive. Your manager would think "This man wants to deliver but he is going through a rough patch, I should help him by giving good feedback and ways to improve"

  4. Identifying work values: a) What you value the most in your work? List down the things what you expect you to get from the job and assess if the work is meeting your expectations.

  5. If the answer to 4. is No and your manager consistently gives you negative feedback despite your effort -ask for a change or look out for the change that could get you back to the state of "the most efficient employee".

Hope it helps!

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what can I do to part gracefully rather than getting fired?

I won't get into the feelings of underperformance, or lack of feedback implied in your question. Rather, I'll answer the specific question being asked.

You part gracefully, by seeking and gaining employment elsewhere.

You might seek an internal transfer. That could be difficult to achieve if you are truly underperforming in your current role, as few new managers want to take on a demonstrated underperformer.

You would first need to understand the reason for your underperformance. There are many possible reasons from poor technology fit, to a clash between your learning style and the training available to you, all the way to something like depression. Regardless, you would need to understand the reason, and be on the path to curing it, before an internal manager would likely want you to join their team.

Or you could seek employment elsewhere. In that case, a new company won't have direct exposure to your underperformance. You still should examine your reasons for underperforming, and seek a company where you can become a steady performer once again.

Either way, that is how you part gracefully, rather than getting fired.

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I feel I am no longer delivering an excellent work, despite having previously been one of the most dedicated employees who was promoted also very quickly.

Regardless of whether you are a strong performer or not, the fact that you're thinking about yourself in this manner is a problem. Either you aren't happy with your job, or someone in your chain-of-supervision isn't. In both cases, you're not succeeding.

To leave gracefully, first get another job. Once you have that, give written 2 weeks notice (or whatever amount is normal for your company and situation). Then, during your final time with the company, be gracious, perform a knowledge transfer for the tasks you are responsible, and don't talk loosely about any issues you may have.

We've all been at jobs that made us feel how you describe. If you make real attempts to improve but aren't successful, the only real option is to leave. Your quality of life shouldn't be sacrificed for a job you're not even doing that well.

William Edward Hickson, an 18th century songwriter once wrote "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again." However, the reality is, if you try something enough times and still aren't successful, maybe its time to try something different.

Good luck!

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I receive no exact feedback on what I need to improve on.

Did you actually discuss this with anyone in position to give you feedback, or are you acting based solely on your feelings?

Thinking about leaving makes you look at things from a very negative perspective, which is likely to worsen the impression that you're underperforming. You have to ask people around you if there really is an issue with your work. If there isn't, keep on doing what you're doing, because you're doing fine. Good work delivered on time is valuable, and what looks like an amazing improvement to you may be noticed (if at all!) as something good but not exactly necessary by your higher ups.

Meet expectations, sometimes exceed them, but don't strive too far beyond that, otherwise you'll just bring yourself to a dead end.

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