What's your problem?

Q: Our managers have introduced 360-degree appraisals, where colleagues, managers and direct reports give feedback on a particular individual. A month ago, my manager told me I was up for promotion, and that I would hear after my appraisal. My problem is that I am not popular in the office.

by Jeremy Bullmore

I keep myself to myself and don't participate in the team's lunches and drinks culture. I'm concerned that colleagues will speak badly of me in my appraisal, and that this will affect my chances of promotion. I can't suddenly turn myself into the life and soul of the office. Can you advise?

A: The best advice I can give you - and the hardest you will find to follow - is to banish all thoughts of this peer-level appraisal from your mind completely.

You may well find that impossible. I know other people for whom the looming prospect of these 360-degree assessments has taken on a nightmarish quality - to the extent of affecting their work and their sleep.

They allow themselves to speculate - indeed, fantasise - about what others may say about them. And when they finally get the feedback, they become obsessed with the need to unmask the authors of the anonymous comments: particularly, of course, of those that fall short of absolute, unqualified admiration.

But there would be no point at all in suddenly trying to change your manner. Nothing is more embarrassing (and less likely to convince) than a person abruptly stepping out of character. So I'm sure, at least at a rational level, you must agree: there is nothing you can actually do - no modification of your everyday behaviour - that will influence your managers and your colleagues to give you more favourable ratings.

And it's here that I have to question your pessimism. These 360-degree appraisals are not popularity contests - as the forms that your colleagues have to complete make clear. Earning the professional approval of colleagues is never dependent on being a load of laughs down the pub. Indeed, when evaluating candidates for promotion, your management may very well see your slight aloofness as an advantage.

I'm sorry your manager tipped you off that you were in line for a hike.

That was wrong of him and it's caused you nothing but grief. But he must have been reasonably confident about it, and I think you should be, too.

You seem to have done well enough in life without being over-concerned about other people's opinions of you. Just keep it that way and I'm sure you'll be fine.

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group; he is a non-executive director of WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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