my boss wants me to name my weaknesses at monthly meetings

A reader writes:

I have a new boss. Every month, we have an informal “catch-up” scheduled where I am supposed to:
* showcase an accomplishment
* name a weakness
* discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the boss (guess what’s never actually discussed)

We’ve had one catch-up, and when pressed for a weakness, I instead shifted the conversation to be about a longer-term goal. He told me this was a cop out. I asked him to name my weakness, and he said it was up to me to do it.

The boss has made it clear these monthly informal catch-ups will be used in my yearly evaluation.

I don’t particularly feel like playing this game on a monthly basis only to have my words thrown back and used against me. How do I handle the “name the weakness”?

It’s reasonable to regularly check in on questions like what’s going well and what could be going better. Taking the time to step back and have those conversations can spur useful reflection on your performance and where it might be worth spending a bit more attention, as well as ensure that accomplishments aren’t being overlooked.

But the framing your boss is using … well, it sucks. “Name a weakness” isn’t about how the work is going; it’s about you as a person. And there’s a place for that conversation, but it isn’t monthly.

And the whole “discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the boss” thing — again, there’s a place for that, but it’s not in a monthly conversation where you’re on the hot seat.

I’d say this to your manager: “I like the idea of regularly reflecting on how things are going. It would be useful to me to frame our conversation as what has been going well in my work and what I could do better. I’ve prepared thoughts on that for today and hoped we could try that format.”

If he refuses, I still think you could shoehorn this into his format. For example, let’s say that you reflect on the past month and conclude that you could have done a better job of prepping participants before strategy meetings. You therefore say something like this as your “weakness”: “I’ve realized that I need to do a better job of getting people material to read before meetings so that they’re not coming in without the background for a useful discussion. I’m going to pull together materials to send out a week before next month’s strategy session and see if that helps.”

If he tells you that’s not a sufficient weakness and you need to name broad categories like “initiative” or “writing” … well, I don’t think he’s going to do that, but if he does, I suppose at that point you need to play along.

Also, you might consider asking him to talk to you about the thinking behind this format. For example: “I’m willing to do this if you’re committed to it, but could you share with me a bit of your thinking about structuring our meetings this way, and what outcomes you’re looking for?”

I suspect he’s just misapplying advice to check in regularly with employees about how things are going, but it would be interesting to hear his answer.

{ 107 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed

    Discussion of weaknesses is for your therapist, not your boss or coworker. Discussion of WORK is for the workplace. It would be much, much better to frame this about the work, not the person. Framing it about the work makes it much more palateable. I mean, you may very well have a weakness that’s reflecting in the work, but focus on that.

    I think your boss is coming from the right place, but going about it a little wrong.

    1. The IT Manager

      I think it’s perfectly appropriate to discuss work weakness with your boss.

      Examples:
      I get nervous making presentations to large groups.
      I have trouble writing in the voice of the big boss and my documents end up needing lot of editing.
      I procrastinate and end up having to rush to deliver on time. (or I don’t deliver on time.)

      Although I do agree that for many of items like this a month is not a long enough time to make significant progress.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger

        It also feels rough to me to frame it as “what is your weakness.” More productive to frame it as goals, with a clear way to assess progress. Thinking about my weaknesses makes me feel down on myself – thinking about my goals makes me brainstorm steps I can take to improve. It’s much more of a growth mindset.

      2. Katie the Fed

        But you should focus it on the impact on work, not the personal weakness. It’s a difference between “nervous in front of large groups” vs “difficulty delivering presentations to large groups.” The first is a personality/anxiety issue. The second is the impact of that.

        1. Engineer Girl

          Exactly this. The first may be a flaw, and how do you fix that? It’s too generic. The second is something tangible that you can improve on and therefore is measurable for monitoring change.
          I’d also like to point out that “name your weakness” will never help anyone with blind spots as you can’t see your blind spots. That is why your manager should be evaluating you and helping you with blind spot issues. The manager is abdicating his duties because he’s not evaluating his employees for the good of the company. Working on weaknesses is something that BOTH manager and employee do.

    2. Graciosa

      My weakness is that I really struggle in environments where it feels like my boss wants to act like my therapist instead of my manager. I’m naturally very task-focused and care a lot about my work product. Unfortunately, the flip side of this trait is that I flounder a bit when work discussions stray away from core topics related to work – such as my work product, work processes, or how to improve service to our customers.

      I’ve noticed this as a trend in our discussions, and I would like to know if this – more than my actual work product – is going to be a factor in how my performance is evaluated. While my work product has always been outstanding, these types of conversations are not going to be where I will shine. If the persistent focus on these areas reflects a change in the company culture, I would like to understand that in order to get a better sense of my future with Company.

      I would love to be involved in discussions about my work product and how to improve the work we produce – that’s really one of my core strengths – but I am concerned that my weakness in not being comfortable discussing other areas will hold me back at Company. How do you think this will affect my future here?

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Ps – my weakness is not being able to assert myself when it comes to evaluating your weaknesses, Boss

  2. Hornswoggler

    This reminded me of a story about the England Cricket team, some years ago when it was going through a bad patch. Owing to the vagaries of the UK cricket national set-up, England actually means ‘England and Wales’. A Welsh player called Robert Croft, an excellent spin bowler, was part of the team at this stage. During a team exercise, the players were asked to list their three greatest weaknesses, and then to read them out to the rest of the team. After an abject display by his team-mates, Croft got up to read his list – in Welsh. Hi team-mates protested, but he made the perfectly reasonable reply, tot he effect that he didn’t want to discuss his weaknesses in public, though he was happy to work on them on his own.

    1. Cath in Canada

      Love it! And it explains a lot about England’s track record if the team literally isn’t speaking the same language sometimes :D

      I once saw a French Canadian grad student pretend to start giving her exit seminar in French. Canada is not universally bilingual, not by a long shot, and here on the west coast there just aren’t that many Francophones, so this is Just Not Done – but she made her point!

      I’ve also seen bilingual professors switch a grant application from English to French to avoid a particular uni-lingual reviewer… :D

    2. JTD

      That is wonderful. Particularly as I’ve spent part of this evening ranting to my husband about how the ECB treats Irish players in the county system. There was a big article about bullying and intimidation of Irish players to declare for England – most of the on-record comments came from their English team mates – and I noted that Ireland’s most talented spinner joined an English county (my husband’s county) at the age of 17. Just at the point where England needed to have a spinner in waiting.

      But Cthulhu help anyone trying to bully a teenager on the same team as the two Tres, both of whom are nearly old enough – if not actually old enough – to be his dad.

      (Sorry, this means nothing to anyone who’s not a cricket fan.)

  3. UKAnon

    This would make me so super-awkward, I hate the “what’s your worst habit/weakness/thing you hate most about yourself” questions. I am shuddering just thinking about having to do it monthly. And I know I would end up getting really snarky. “Well, I haven’t solved global warming yet, that’s been bugging me.” Probably my weakness right there. I guess “not knowing my own weaknesses” isn’t an answer either?

    I hope that you can bring him to a more reasonable frame of mind! Any chance you can start to tie it into the third part? “I’ve been finding it difficult to work alongside you because of X even though I really admire you because of Y and I wonder if that means I’m Z” type of thing?

    1. Florida

      I’m not sure what I would say, but I would be thinking, “My weakness is that I have an intolerance for power games that certain bosses like to play.”

      1. College Career Counselor

        I’d be inclined to say “I’d like to get better at managing up.” (not that I think this is a good one to use in this case, but the only skill this boss is developing by this tactic is potentially that one)

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Yeah, because if you name a different weakness even every month, by the end of the year you’d have a fireable-length list of weaknesses. It would feel like pounding a monthly nail into your own coffin.

  4. The IT Manager

    LW, I think you’re being too adversarial about this. Example: You’ve had one of these meetings yet say guess what’s never actually discussed. Also you say you expect your words to be thrown back at you.

    His agenda isn’t great for a monthly meeting; however, you had only one of these meetings with your new boss and you refused to discuss a weakness. Discussing an area you’d like to work on to not uncommon in annual or semi-annual reviews and isn’t outrageous for a discussion between a new manager and his employees.

    I’m not saying that this agenda is great, but you being so upset about it already and antagonizing your boss by refusing to answer his question does not bode well for a smooth relationship.

    1. BRR

      I think the part that’s not discussed is the weaknesses of the boss (and possibly the strengths).

      “* discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the boss (guess what’s never actually discussed)”

      1. Charlotte Collins

        Also, it sounds like this is the intended format for every meeting. I think it sounds terrible and like horrible management, but if I couldn’t get out of it, I’d go with the same weakness every time. I mean if you need a new weakness every time, you end up down to things like, “I sometimes have a hard time matching my shoes to my outfit.” or “Sometimes I carry a black purse with brown shoes.”

        I think I’d go with bad eyesight and being short. Let’s see if the boss can manage me out of those…

        And I used to work for a woman who I could see doing this, if she had bothered to have one-on-ones. It would have been used as a way of humiliating her staff.

        1. BRR

          I was specifically responding to The IT Manager’s post but yeah I also think overall it’s a lot of weaknesses you have to name. I have a negative opinion of myself but eventually even I would run out.

          1. Stranger than fiction

            Right! It’s 12/year and when it comes time for staff reduction who wants all that on record! Sure makes it easy for them to whack anyone they want.

      2. Dana

        Right, but I think the point being made is that LW only had one meeting so far. Saying something is never discussed because it wasn’t brought up in the one meeting that’s happened up to now is a bit of a stretch.
        If these meetings had been going on for six months and “discuss strengths and weaknesses of boss” was on every agenda and still hadn’t been brought up yet, that would warrant more of a guess what’s never actually discussed.

        1. Juli G.

          I agree. I’m kind of surprised by the agreement of the readers here because I think it’s normal to talk about development areas. “Weakness” is a bit of an inflammatory word but I would find it troubling if my boss never checked with me to see if we lined up on our opinions of my strengths and development areas.

      3. The IT Manager

        Yes. My point is that the boss’s strengths and weaknesses were never discussed in the one catch-up meeting that they had so far. It’s a weird way to say something that was not discussed once is never discussed, and it seems there’s some anger on the part of the LW.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          I kind of agree, but I also think the LW is seeing this one meeting as a roadmap for what to expect in future meetings. And it doesn’t sound like the boss is framing this as development areas (far less neutral and judgmental) but just trying to get the LW to badmouth herself.

          And if discussing the boss’ strengths and weaknesses is on the agenda for that first meeting, they should be discussed. (Weakness one: no ability to stick to an agenda.)

          1. Stranger than fiction

            Agreed. It’d be nice if they changed weakness to “area I could use some help” or something like that.

        2. LQ

          I’m confused why the bosses strengths and weaknesses would be discussed. Wouldn’t the boss be having that conversation with the boss’s boss? Yes. Your boss is your boss and sometimes that means they are the boss of you. This isn’t great. But I don’t feel like retorting with now it’s time for me to be the boss is useful… Am I missing something?

          1. Charlotte Collins

            I think it’s supposed to be like a 360 review. But much like the rest, it is poorly presented…

    2. neverjaunty

      LW expects her words to be thrown back at her because the boss explicitly told her they would be. “The boss has made it clear these monthly informal catch-ups will be used in my yearly evaluation.”

      And while LW sounds adversarial, I rather suspect that’s a reaction to the way the boss conducted this meeting. The whole thing comes across as a way to get LW to say things that can be used in a negative evaluation: framing check-in issues as a “weakness” (which as AAM notes, makes the situation personal, rather than about work per se); purporting to also talk about the boss’s strengths and weaknesses, which is kind of pointless since LW isn’t evaluating the boss, and smacks of ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ (and then really isn’t, since apparently Boss somehow manages to avoid discussing his weakness). And then, when LW doesn’t seem to be getting what Boss wants her to disclose, rather than guiding LW or giving her an example, Boss accuses her of a ‘cop-out’ and refuses to help.

      Absent finding a new job, LW absolutely has to find a way to work around this. But it sounds an awful lot to me like these check-ins are Boss trying to get LW to hand him ammunition, which is not surprising if Boss comes from, say, a company that relies on stack ranking or other dog-eat-dog evaluation methods that don’t focus on improving employee performance.

      1. Honeybee

        In addition, it feels like a lazy way to find things that will be used in an evaluation. The boss refuses to specify weaknesses her/himself and instead insists that the letter-writer come up with them. My first thought was also stack ranking, or at least one of those evaluation systems that requires every manager to say at least one thing negative about each employee.

      2. Elsajeni

        But I think there’s a big difference between “These monthly catch-ups will be used in my yearly evaluation” and “My words will be thrown back at me and used against me.” Knowing my manager — who is a reasonable, nice person and a good manager overall — I’d go into a meeting like this expecting that we’d discuss some kind of weakness and come up with a plan to address it, and that next month we’d talk about how that plan went and whether I felt like that was still a weakness, and that my yearly review could then reflect “Elsajeni has greatly improved her skills in X and Y this year, and plans to continue work on Z in the next year.” But the OP is going in assuming that any weaknesses she admits to will only be used to hurt her. Maybe the reason she’s assuming the worst is that she knows this boss is a jerk, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case — he’s brand new, they’ve been doing this for one month — so I’m with The IT Manager on this one: it’s not a great agenda or perfectly phrased, but it’s not as wildly unreasonable as the OP seems to think.

        1. neverjaunty

          Or maybe she’s assuming the worst because the boss claimed that they would be talking about a ‘weakness’ of his, and didn’t; and when the LW didn’t present something the boss thought of as a weakness, called her answer a “cop-out” – a very negative and disparaging term – and didn’t follow up with examples or guidance of what he meant.

    3. Honeybee

      Honestly, if my boss

      1) pressed me hard for a weakness
      2) rejected my attempt to name a task-related weakness and how I am working on it
      3) refused to name something he perceived as a weakness and wanted me to work on, and
      4) made it clear that the contents of our chats would go into my annual evaluation

      I, too, would assume that those words will be thrown back at me.The boss has made it clear these monthly informal catch-ups will be used in my yearly evaluation.

      1. JM in England

        I too have been in similar situations. As a result, you get into the habit of being very guarded in what you say to your boss (or any other coworker for that matter)…………………..

  5. BenAdminGeek

    As a boss, I often phrased it as “what’s working and what’s not” or “what’s going well and how can I support you better.” I found that less adversarial and a good way to cover the day-to-day things that were annoying my employees as well as bigger ticket items like “I’m not technically skilled enough”

    1. Charlotte Collins

      This makes sense, because you aren’t putting employees on the spot to come up with a real or imagined “weakness.” If there’s a problem it could be on the employee but there could be lots of other factors. Also, when people mention development areas, most minds don’t jump to weakness, since that could mean something as simple as needing additional training in a technical area.

    2. Stranger than fiction

      I’ve seen it that way before, don’t remember where, but that is a million times better.

    3. BenAdminGeek

      You sometimes find employees still too afraid to speak up, but that helps guide things. Because at that point they’re not saying they don’t want to speak to weakness, but that everything is perfect and nothing is not working right. That’s much easier to address with a raised eyebrow and an example issue I’ve noticed. “So I noticed Fergus was late getting us his report 4 months in a row- is that causing issues for your Teapot Design Review reports?”

    4. Cath in Canada

      That’s what my manager and I do in our weekly meetings. We also sometimes do a “7 day challenge”, where we both commit to trying to form a good habit (or fix a bad one) for a full week, and report back at our next meeting. Just little things – e.g. one of mine was to be better about remembering to sign out of IM when I’m not actually available.

    5. Mabel

      I have always found it helpful when my manager asks me how I think things are going and what I need to work on. Usually he and I are on the same page, and somehow it’s easier to hear his additions to the list after I was allowed to start the conversation. And there usually are things I can do better that he notices (and that I didn’t notice). He’s always very careful not to hurt my feelings (he really doesn’t need to be so careful because I know he’s trying to help me, but I appreciate it), and I’m really glad for the feedback so I can get better at my job. I’ve been really lucky in the boss department over the years. (I’m about to get a new manager, so I have my fingers crossed!)

  6. caro

    If it is a true weakness, like writing, wouldn’t it be the same in a month, even with work. It would take significant time to improve a weakness so much that it is no longer that.

  7. NickelandDime

    This sounds like the kind of thing that’s implemented here. Someone reads some article about “motivating employees” and implements something half-assed – like a weekly discussion on weaknesses. Here it was, “Hey employee, why don’t you tell me, your manager, in this face to face meeting, what I need to work on.” Tuh. I never answered it and I don’t think anyone else did and it stopped.

    No one, and I mean no one, is going to sit there and tell their manager all the things they think they are doing wrong and what they did to make them mad that week.

    1. Clever Name

      One of my managers actually asked me for this type of feedback once. He wanted me to tell him right then, but I asked if I could think about it and get back to him, and I did. To his credit, I can see that he actually is working on what I mentioned.

  8. Bee Eye LL

    I hate those “what’s your biggest weakness” questions in interviews because most people just spin the answer to make it sound like a strength. You could say “sometimes I wet the bed” and see how they respond. :)

    1. Florida

      And many interviewers don’t have interviewing skills, so they allow the candidate to say crap like, “I’m a perfectionist,” without probing for more detail. Few things are more dangerous to a company’s future than an unskilled interviewer with an ego armed with some questions they found on the internet.

      1. Windchime

        Yes. It’s so transparent; It’s like saying, “I just give and give and give without expecting anything in return.”

      1. BeenThere

        Cheese. I can’t help myself if there is cheese around.

        If you ever wanted to lay a trap to capture your very own BeenThere all it would require is a cheese platter as the lure.

        1. Bee Eye LL

          Like Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? “How much cheese is too much cheese?” Hahaha

  9. Allison

    This reminds me of the monthly “goals meetings” I had to do at firstjob. I had to fill out a form with my numbers for the previous month, my numbers from the month before that, and my target numbers for the next month, then I had to answer all these questions about what I did well, what I needed to improve, etc.

    And here’s the thing, I like touch-base meetings. I have weekly one-on-one meetings with my manager where we discuss what’s going on, what I should prioritize, how I can work through any current issues, etc. and they’re very helpful, not to mention reassuring at times! But they’re good because I don’t have to evaluate myself and I don’t feel like I’m being criticized.

  10. Amber Rose

    My government job had meetings structured like that. I eventually found that it gave me a bad habit in later jobs: during reviews I’d start apologizing for a bunch of failings that nobody else saw as a problem.

    You’re never going to be good at everything. Reasonable bosses only care that you’re good at your job, and that you aren’t struggling. This was a revelation of sorts for me, after I was told it’s ok to not be a salesy type, since I wasn’t hired for sales.

  11. Turanga Leela

    I would actually go straight to Alison’s script for if he refuses (“I’ve realized that I need to…”) without explaining to the boss what you’re doing. He’ll probably be happy with your naming a specific struggle or challenge, rather than something more general, and pushing back on his request for a “weakness” may just seem like you’re trying to fight him further. Act like you’re going along and just say something that’s been a struggle. If you’re not struggling with anything, say something that you’ve been working on, like streamlining your writing or being more responsive to emails.

  12. MaryMary

    In professional situations, I always like to use “areas for improvement” “developmental areas” instead of weaknesses. It might just be semantics, but it seems much more positive to me. I think it also helpls people narrow their focus when deciding where they want to improve. You might be a great sales person but feel that you could improve your follow up after a sales pitch. Or feel confident in your presentation skills but feel you’re a little too reliant on your powerpoint.

    1. sunny-dee

      A developmental area isn’t even (necessarily) a weakness. Like, I’ve never done any video editing, but if I learned that skill at a very basic level, I could take on some cool projects with my job.

      1. Charlotte Collins

        I agree. In my mind “development” is about improving or enhancing as opposed to correcting. (You correct weaknesses, but you develop skills.)

    2. Ad Astra

      My first thought about this letter is that the manager is simply using clumsy language. Someone (an article, his boss, whoever) has advised him to hold monthly check-in meetings and structure them by talking about both positives and negatives, and this is what he comes up with.

      I agree that changing the language to something like “areas for improvement” or “developmental areas” would make these discussions a lot more useful. Everyone has weaknesses, of course, but using the word “weakness” in the context of a performance evaluation signals to me that every answer will be another ding against the OP.

  13. AW

    The boss has made it clear these monthly informal catch-ups will be used in my yearly evaluation.

    If your responses count toward your yearly evaluation, then how is it an informal meeting?

    I can sympathize with the OP not wanting to do “Let’s talk about how much you suck” on a monthly basis, which is how it comes across regardless of the boss’ intent.

    1. fposte

      Maybe this is a corporate terminology thing, but I don’t see “informal” and “relevant to your overall performance” as contradictory. I don’t think any discussion with the boss is off the record.

  14. K5280

    I really think this whole process could be better improved by just changing the wording. I often ask my reports, “What can you/we do better or improve upon?” vs. asking them to tell me a weakness. “Weakness” can easily be interpreted as bad/flawed/wrong etc, especially by those prone to negativity. Asking what improvements can be made not only involves them in seeing how to improve their process but also lets them focus on the positive (how to make it better vs. something that is “wrong” with them).

    1. fposte

      Yes, with different wording this could be a perfectly fine check in. “What was the main obstacle you encountered or thing that you’d do differently? What ways did I help you, and what ways could I have done better at supporting you?”

      1. neverjaunty

        And if it were followed up with “I’m not sure I’m communicating this well. Let me give you an example so you see what I mean…” rather than accusations that LW was offering a ‘cop-out’ and not reading the boss’ mind correctly.

  15. Katie the Fed

    BTW, I also ask for feedback from my employees, but I frame it as “what could I do differently that would help you do your job even better?”

    That makes it a collaborative solution, and it depersonalizes it for me too (I also don’t like to hear how much I suck!)

    This is how I found out that the way I deliver tasks sometimes (bluntly) makes people nervous. I had to really soften my tone on that.

  16. ComputerGeek

    You have one data point. One. You logically cannot extrapolate meaning from one point. Yet, you’re making lots of assumptions and trying to do just that.

    Maybe a weakness to discuss at a future meeting is wanting to make assumptions and leap to conclusions before having valid data to back up your gut instincts?

    Granted, the phrasing ascribed to the manager could use some wordsmithing. I see nothing unprofessional with talking about strengths and weaknesses that will impact work. If anything, I believe the manager is making a mistake in not building up trust before launching into this. Past behavior doesn’t predict future behavior, but if the employee has experienced his words being used against him, then it isn’t an unreasonable assumption to fear the same might happen with an unproven boss with insufficient trust.

    That said, I’d suggest looking at Zenger Folkman. As long as your weakness isn’t a fatal flaw, they suggest ignoring your weakness and concentrating on making your strengths superior. That philosophy resonates with me, and that’s the path I’m taking.

    1. sunny-dee

      One data point can be very significant in certain instances. Especially since the thing you suggested — focusing on improving strengths — was explicitly rejected by the boss as a “cop out” when the OP attempted to focus on a long term goal.

      1. neverjaunty

        Exactly. There are plenty of times one CAN extrapolate from a data point, if the data point is strong and significant. And here the OP has a lot of data points.

    2. Honeybee

      Social interaction isn’t like doing statistical analysis, though. You absolutely can – and people do – extrapolate meaning from one particular interaction, and the first meeting often sets the tone for subsequent ones. Secondly, though, one meeting =/= one data point. There may have been many points of data within that meeting that made the LW feel this way, both overt and more unconsciously transmitted ones s/he picked up on.

  17. GlamNonprofitSquirrel

    So, “I’d have to say that my biggest weakness is working with tedious bureaucrats who apply the same formula to every project, meeting or relationship. My plan is to imagine myself doing something productive for the organization while participating in meetings and discussions that are pro forma rather than productive”, wouldn’t be appropriate? #sarcasmfont

  18. Random Commenter

    “My weakness, sir, is that I am unable to take a manager seriously when he asks bullshit questions like this. I will try to do better next month.”

  19. Ihmmy

    does the manager maybe mean to say “challenge” but is just framing it weirdly? I often talk about the current challenges at our various touch base meetings with my manager and/or team, but not so much weaknesses.

  20. Grey

    I wouldn’t even play that game. What are my weaknesses this week? I have none. I’d say that with confidence while implicitly asking him to tell me otherwise.

  21. anon3000

    “This month I’ve decided to name my weakness Fluffy. I think that this name will really help me get close to the weakness and develop a good relationship with it. Then we can go out for coffee together!”

  22. Mickey Q

    I’m rude to telemarketers.
    I can’t see without my glasses.
    Or the ever popular (Don’t ask me about the shape I’m in) I can’t sing I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin.

  23. Dynamic Beige

    Kryptonite.

    Or… take a problem you actually have and flip it around. “I have trouble focusing at work because the person I share a cube/office with is making personal phone calls in a loud voice all day long/plays nothing but ABBA.” “I have a very sensitive sense of smell and someone keeps using the microwave to heat up fish/is leaving vapour trails because of how much perfume they use. I find this very distracting.”

    1. Charlotte Collins

      “I get very tired and distracted in the late afternoon. A nap or some complimentary tea and cookies would really help keep me on point.”

  24. Slippy

    My biggest weaknesses:
    1. Sarcasm – No really
    2. Insomnia – Fortunately these meetings help with that.
    3. Anger management – *Stares really hard at the boss*
    4. Consistency and Tacos
    5. Megalomania – I’m trying to tell everyone I’m awesome in a more humble manner
    6. Lack of a British accent
    7. Lack of change for a $20
    8. Not quite (sit there for a few minutes) introspective enough

  25. MashaKasha

    What bothers me the most about the list is that it’s “showcase your accomplishment“, but “name a weakness“. At the end of the year, this will leave OP’s boss with twelve one-off things that OP managed to get right, and twelve character flaws of OP’s that stand in the way of OP getting their job done. This approach seems terribly imbalanced to me in that it downplays things OP does well in their job, and blows the mistakes out of proportion. I agree that it should’ve been worded rather like “things I’ve done this month that I could’ve done better”.

    1. neverjaunty

      This is a really good catch, and so true. “OP managed to do these things correctly, but admits she has these particular flaws, so I recommend that her bonus be reduced/that she be laid off from my team.”

  26. TootsNYC

    I would ask for examples of a weakness. Hypothetical weakness, of course.

    But, maybe not, because I’d be afraid he’d say, “maybe an employee might say, ‘I’m impatient.’ ” And I don’t want to go there, to personality traits.

    So maybe I’d say, “One weakness I have is that I don’t always remember to follow up with this person. So far it hasn’t been a problem, but when I forget, it makes me anxious about it.”

    So really it’s a performance thing.

    1. Dynamic Beige

      “My weakness is that sometimes I forget to think of others… which reminds me Wakeen that last week we never got to finish the final point of the meeting, which, if I remember correctly had to do with your strengths and weaknesses. So what do you think one of your weaknesses are?” Of course, that is the kind of thing that only works in my imagination and will do nothing if actually done in real life except perhaps get one in trouble with the boss.

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