Reflecting On My Sabbatical

Last week I returned to work at Automattic following a paid three month sabbatical. Yep, you heard that right. Everyone at our company is entitled to take a two to three month period off following their five year anniversary (which I hit at the end of November).

It’s an amazing benefit that I must admit I felt a bit guilty about taking. No one in my life has ever experienced or been offered such an opportunity.

At first I felt a bit lost about how to use the time. I’d arranged it to be at the holidays so sure, I had plenty of things on my to do list to keep me busy. But I felt like I should use the time to give back to others in some way because I was so fortunate to have the time. While I did find ways to help others where I could, I never ended up doing substantial volunteering like I thought I might. The time passed quickly due to the holidays, my son staying home sick a few times, work on our house we had planned, and a few small trips.

While I felt guilty about this at first, I realized I accomplished something far more needed at the time.

I put myself first for once.

Performance Improvement Plans Are Not A Punishment

Recently I was in London for our Happiness Leadership meetup. It was an amazing opportunity for us to both teach and learn from each other, as well as connect with each other in a way we honestly don’t have time or opportunity to do regularly. It was a really helpful and productive four days together and I left with lots of ideas, takeaways, and book recommendations I’m sure I’ll blog about in the near future.

During our meetup I gave a presentation to the group called “A Guide to Performance Improvement Plans”, an overview of how the process works at Automattic as well as things I’ve learned in my own experience. During my first experience with this process I found it a bit overwhelming because I was learning as I went, which added unnecessary stress that I hoped to save my fellow leads from.

Overall I received a lot of positive feedback about my presentation afterwards and it seemed to go well! At the end of the talk when I asked if anyone had questions, there was one in particular I felt would be great to share my response to in a blog post. The question was essentially:

Performance Improvement Plans are not intended as a punishment, but they still feel that way to many. Why do you feel they aren’t a punishment and how do we present it to team members that way?