Saturday, March 10, 2007

I am the shooting star

Part of the downside of managing people is delivering the annual performance review, and the muddy bottom of the downside is delivering the review to low performers. The company I work for has suffered from the Lake Wobegon Effect for decades (if you work for Acme you are by definition an outstanding performer) and now the fortunes of those at the top depend on recognizing that we do have low performers and either bringing them up to standard or managing them out. Finally we have the opportunity to evaluate performance instead of participating in the usual love-fest.

However, no matter how hard I try to put a positive spin on the review the news doesn't sit well with the LPs. An actual exchange with a LP yesterday:

"I am a star! I have always been a star!"
"No, you are not a star."

You know how you sometimes get a song stuck in your head? Well, this little exchange got a poem stuck in my head and 24 hours later it's still playing. I will never be able to read this poem again without thinking how to incorporate these lines into a performance review.

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.
- Billy Collins


Blogger withneedle said...

Someone actually said that? It sounds remarkably like something out of the unskilled and unaware study.

I can't help but think of the end of Muriel's Wedding ("You can't say that to me! I'm beautiful!").

10 March, 2007 13:50  
Blogger withneedle said...

By the way, congratulations on your self-control. If someone told me that they were a star and always had been, I would feel obliged to respond, "I'll go tell Mr. DeMille you're ready for your closeup."

10 March, 2007 13:56  
Blogger Phoenixdoula said...

My goodness, this may seem totally bizarre...but I just saw your post on Julia's blog. (yes, I actually sat there and read all of the comments) and saw where you said 'five and six are the tic years....'. I've got a five year old who has developed several tics this year, they seem fairly transitory - but they've been worrying me. Your post was a total relief to read - but I'd love to know more if you have any info to share.


10 March, 2007 19:09  
Blogger Carol said...

I just got finished with performance reviews, too. It's a chore, and never easy to tell someone that they are not the big star they thought they were!

11 March, 2007 08:11  

Post a Comment

<< Home