Nonotes 11/8–23/8 — Feedback.

Writing notes even though I’ve been off

I’ve been away for a week and a bit of holiday, so there haven’t been any notes, but things still happen and life moves forward even when you’re on holiday.

And now it’s Sunday, I’ve got Sunday dreads. Things are pinging around my head so writing them down seems like a good plan.

Gif: Aggretsuko pulls a worried, then a confused then a death metal face.

I’ve been thinking a lot about feedback this week, how to give it, how to receive it, and how problematic it can be and feel.

I recently had to give feedback by way of an exit interview, where the interviewer and I wanted very different things from the conversation (concrete examples and things to fix now versus an intuitive and feeling response to the overall experience and direction). I found bridging that gap really hard, and also felt like I was the one building the bridge from one side.

A couple of weeks after that I completed the feedback module on the Stride leadership course which I am currently testing and really enjoying dipping in and out of (though not completing the tasks because I’m rarely in “work” mode when I’m listening to the modules).

Anyway, I realised how much can go wrong between the giver and receiver in these moments, and how our previous experiences, personal objectives and hangups can lead us to misunderstand one another, sometimes even deliberately.

Some screenshots from the Stride Leadership module on Feedback.

Over the past week and a bit I’ve had feedback from a few angles:

And these can broadly be categorised as feelings; defensiveness, resignation and well… maybe some more defensiveness. I guess that would be fight, in the fight or flight analogy. So why am I fighting?

To try and work that out I’m “sitting with those feelings” and writing about them here in the hopes that something becomes clearer, my brain is a bit of a muddle at the moment as I’m still suffering with migraine, so hopefully the act of forming this into a narrative will give me some structure to work with.

Gif: Aggretsko puts her head on the table and says “I wanna go home!”

1.DD role application

I’m probably the most comfortable with the feedback from the DD role application, in part because I knew that I’d need to stretch to get to that level, so I’m feeling less personally defensive but still slightly defensive about the opacity of the whole process. I had to take two tests, a numerical and verbal reasoning test (I scored in the 27th and 80th percentiles respectively).

In my last weeknote I wrote:

The issue that I’m hoping to raise here is that by obscuring the minimum standard pass mark, how that minimum standard may have changed based on results, and by giving no reference about whether it’s acceptable to be better at one test than the other, I’ve got no frame of reference for how far away I am and what kind of effort I would need to put in to get a pass.

So the hiring team sent additional feedback to everyone, and I learned that my application cover letter had shown moderate demonstration (out of limited, moderate and good categorisations) so I’m happy to be there in the middle in terms of making the sift, especially because it was above my current grade level and also because I have a tendency to believe that I do badly at the initial applications and making myself clear in cover letters.

However I also learned that:

In order to pass at the required standard, you needed to have performed at, or higher than, the following levels in each assessment:

Application sift — a score of ‘good’

Verbal reasoning score — 2nd percentile or higher (compared to the other SCS applicants)

Numerical reasoning score — 2nd percentile or higher (compared to the other SCS applicants)

Your score was lower than the required standard in one or more of these assessments, or you may not have completed all of the assessments. Therefore, you have not been selected to progress to the next stage.

This is badly written, but I can only assume that what they are trying to say is that they only took through people who performed the best in both tests and had an application sift of good, rather than suggesting that the bar for the tests was set at the 2nd percentile which would make the whole thing completely pointless?

However, again, I have no idea about what the usual required percentile is for applications at that level, which means that whether I could make it is still unclear to me.

It’s a weird one, because there were several of these roles, you would assume that you would have an increased chance of being successful; but then because of the number of people who applied, the bar has been set unrealistically high, making it — in actual fact — less likely for most people.


Gif: a character asks Aggretsuko “Do you see what I’m saying?” question marks appear and Aggretsko turns into her death metal persona and says “NO I DON’T! I DON’T SEE AT ALL! EVERYTHING YOU SAID WENT OVER MY HEAD!”

I’m mostly being defensive because I wonder how many people’s confidence this process has shredded; people better than me who I know are already working at that level, people from black or minority backgrounds, people from working class backgrounds, now all wondering if this is for them. It makes me a bit angry how easily processes can so easily dis-empower people. More on that later.

2. Grade 6 role feedback

I applied for a grade 6 role at another government department because it sounded interesting (though I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there). However, in the middle of the interview I had a migraine. So I was already resigned that I wouldn’t be successful. Honestly, I just got really confused and couldn’t get what I wanted to say out, I was vague and the feedback bears that out.

But I also realised that applying for the role was a weird kind of reassurance seeking for me. I’ve been doing a G6 role at the NLC so should know I can do it, but I felt like I needed something else to “prove” that I can (to who? to myself? to other people? I don’t know).

Aggretsko looks confused

It’s like something I noticed a while back after attending some training. At the end of the first day almost everyone I spoke to said;

“I’m glad I understood everything”

…so that first day wasn’t really a day for learning, it was for soothing people’s confidence, and reassuring them ahead of the following day’s work. I learned then that I was part of an exclusive group of people who do training for things they already know about because their confidence is shocking.

So maybe this interview was my brain trying to get a similar soothing and reassuring experience, but it didn’t work because I didn’t get an offer, and of course I’m disappointed because even though I wasn’t sure I wanted it, I definitely wanted to be offered it.

So then what? The migraine offers a useful excuse; a free pass not to dwell on that disappointment, and a useful lens through which to view it. It’s fair feedback because I had a migraine. Would it have been fair if I hadn’t had the migraine? Anyway, hello and welcome to my brain.

Gif: A filing cabinet marked “Excuses”

3. #OTGSP / #WSPD2020

Finally last Wednesday we held the first of our World Suicide Prevention Day events, a One Team Gov breakfast takeover. Over 123 people signed up and close to 100 attended from across government. I was on holiday, but spent a fair amount of my time away making sure that new sign ups received the invite, that we sent out relevant information to attendees etc. This is what doing work over and above your day job means, and I don’t care because I enjoy it and I enjoy it because I think it’s important.

On the morning I welcomed everyone, explained how things worked and what attendees could expect. It’s a role that requires a fair amount of extroversion. When I do these kinds of things I often suffer with a kind of extroversion and adrenaline hangover afterwards.

On top of this we had problems with attendees accessing the meetup because of the technology we were using, and some people were really frustrated. I did email with details and there was information in the meeting invite, but people were shocked, surprised and annoyed. Some people then had bandwidth issues or their mics didn’t work.

We sent a feedback form out on Thursday and 8 people have filled it out so far, perhaps I shouldn’t read too much into it as it’s only 8 people but in the anonymity of feedback forms people can be incredibly cruel.

Q: What did you enjoy about One Team Gov Breakfast — MHFAs takeover?

A: Nothing

Gif: One of the characters from Aggretsuko cries.

Rather than feeling defensive I’ve just been feeling sad about it to be honest.

Feeling sad that I tried. Feeling sad that people got a bad impression of the event, of One Team Gov, of the organising team who have worked so hard. Feeling as though I’ve failed the organising team. Feeling guilty that some members of the organising team have been beating themselves up too. Wondering what more I could have done.

I’m not averse to hearing honest feedback, but that doesn’t make it any easier, and I wonder if there are any times when I’ve given unnecessarily negative feedback… #BeGenerous.

I need to take that sadness and turn it into something else, not defensiveness, positive action. Something. I need to get over the sadness and turn it into resolve to make sure the next event is even better

I guess that’s it isn’t it? Like (some) people say, feedback is a gift. But it’s only a gift if you actually use it so I need to turn this into a toaster, not a fancy glass vase.

And what else?

I signed up for Lauren’s Upfront course, but because I’ve been busy and with holiday I haven’t had the opportunity to get going with it. Plus, and this is my hangup, I’m massively off-put by it being on Facebook and if I’m going to get anything out of it I need to get over that.

I’ve also not sent my newsletter out for a few weeks now, and I’m beating myself up about that too. It’s weird, my initial feeling was “just do it” and then as it’s gone on my confidence has dipped and dipped and dipped. Not sure if I should try and get over that and push on through, or admit defeat.

Finally, here’s my reading list this week:

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