Being out of form


Theo: In and out of form, often in the same match

As a sports fan I am well used to discussions of ‘form’. Football players can be on and off form at almost the drop of a hat; with cricket players we are often reminded that ‘form is temporary and class is permanent’.

The concept of ‘form’ has always interested me; it is in many ways a fleeting concept and yet given a lot of weight by those who comment on our nation’s favourite sports. It’s both a catch all term used to define whether someone is generally doing things right or doing things wrong but also a relative term balancing a performance in one moment of time with a performance once made or a potential or optimum performance. Thus, if I play football to my normal standard I am on form whilst if Theo Walcott plays like me he is off form.

Thus, form becomes relative to individual potential; something which tends to separate it, and the sporting world it inhabits, from the rest of us.

You see, whilst Theo Walcott (sorry for picking on you Theo) could be on or off form compared to his career heights we, the members of the local authority, are generally compared to our compatriots or our job specification. What’s more; even if we are compared to our past performance, and even if it is accepted that we are not performing as well as we have in the past it is usually put down to laziness, or people not trying as hard as they usually would. Theo Walcott can be on or off form; apparently the rest of us can’t.

Is that right?

After all, if it is possible for a sportsman to lose form then surely it also possible for a member of staff in a local authority to lose form?

If we view form in a more general sense then, divorced from its sporting basis, then surely form is just a reflection of the human condition, one that is not consistent and leads to differing performances at different times.

The reason I mention all of this is that if there is such a thing as form then I have lost it. I don’t know why but I just don’t feel on form.

In meetings I have found my arguments being less than crisp; my reports are not quite as accurate; my project documentation is not as well thought through and generally I feel like I’m lacking the edge that used to define my work.

Am I working any less hard than usual? Nope. Am I trying to perform poorly? Certainly not. Is there an obvious reason why my performance isn’t quite up to the standard I want it to be? Not that I can think of.

Indeed, I can’t even think of an obvious reason for why this is happening (although as always there are a number of possible factors; some serious, some really not).

If form exists as a concept then surely my current performance must be down to something akin to a lack of form. It’s not a good thing to be out of form and it’s certainly not an excuse for not performing at the top of my game but the concept of form can be applied to Theo and co then surely it can also work for those of us at work.

Over the course of a lifetime maybe we can’t always be at the top of our game. On a football field it is really noticeable but in the council it should still matter. Much like Kevin Pieterson (a comparison I never thought I’d make of myself) being out of form is not something I enjoy.

So what can I do about my lack of form?

Well, I can follow the instructions of my favourite sport stars: ‘stay consistent, work hard and give 110%’. In other words, I’m going to work a little harder, check and double check my work and keep trying until I get my mojo back.

Any thoughts on this much appreciated.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

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9 Comments on “Being out of form”

  1. localgov Says:

    As you said, if Theo played at your footballing level he would be deemed in poor form; if you operate at a lower than usual level then you may feel off form but are actually still at a higher level than most, just perhaps not up to your usual stellar standards.

    Id say keep trusting yourself and try not to second guess too much. And make it 120% effort and you’ll be back to normal 10% quicker than under your plans. ;-)

  2. lockhartl Says:

    Stay strong brother or sister. Collectively and generally we’re working in Stepford so I think it’s fantastic you’ve shared your experience here. You’re not alone in losing your mojo but you’ve recognised it and that’s the important part. It’s not possible for anyone to be on top form all the time and in fact I would argue it would be unhealthy if it was possible. How would you grow, learn or reflect in meaningful ways if you didn’t make mistakes or didn’t bring your A game from time to time? Don’t beat yourself up. I’m positive you’re doing a great job and when you learn from this experience you’ll be doing an even better job.


    • Thanks for the kind words; really very much appreciated and so nice of you to take the time to post them.

      As you may imagine writing the piece was quite cathartic and thinking about the idea of form was a really interesting way of addressing it.

  3. LGWorker Says:

    Tacking your argument further, there is also a difference between what others think in terms of your form and what you personally think of your form. So I have often found (warning, this makes me sound very big headed) that when I feel complexly out of form, no one else thinks this and indeed I end up (maybe because I’m annoyed at myself) getting some good results. Have to admit my way round this feeling (and I get it a lot) is to find ways to bluff may way through, making sure my colleagues never realise I’m not as good as they think I am. I’m not suggesting you should think you are rubbish (I know you are not, just look at the blog) but I do find this attitude keeps me realistic but also forces me to strive to be better.

  4. Running-With-Bulls Says:

    Underperformance is something that we all battle with in every area of our lives. It’s very easy to get annoyed, despondent and frustrated with our performance; however, recognising this as part of our emotional nature and mental structure goes along way in helping us embrace this side of out psyche.

    I often wake up on the wrong side of bed. My feet have not even hit the bedroom floor and I’m subjecting myself to a mental battering. Why can’t I speak Spanish?! Why did I waste my time watching Judge Judy last night?! Why do I not have the wit of Oscar Wilde?! . . . Why did I not choose superhero as a career?! Questions regarding our ability and skills plague our existence, but rather than seeing them as negative subliminal propaganda, I prefer to see them as opportunity.

    Performance is a subjective beast – it’s difficult to distinguish how ‘being our of form’ contrasts to ‘being in form’. Research tells us that the answer to this question is not much. Apparently there is generally only a slight % difference between being good and exceptional. If that’s the case then on your bad day you’re probably only performing a few % below your good day performance. If you understand this it becomes much easier to take the rough with the smooth.

    If we good operate at our peak all the time we would never need to push ourselves. I have come to a point where I enjoy my daily mental battering – it reminds me that there are still things in life I want to achieve! Do you want to know the best bit? I usually only need to put in a few more % of effort and I’m there! That’s the great thing about life; it only takes a little change to make a big difference.

    This is a lesson that the public sector should learn: It’s not about the negative; it’s how we approach the positive that matters.


    • Very wise words and really appreciated. If I take one thing away from this exercise (which was really interesting for me) it’d be this:

      ‘Do you want to know the best bit? I usually only need to put in a few more % of effort and I’m there! That’s the great thing about life; it only takes a little change to make a big difference.’

      Really well put!

      Thanks again!

  5. Tone Says:

    I speak from recent personal experience about being off-form:

    After years of good to excellent performance in my current job, when there was a filtering (reduction in numbers) of staff to fit a new Shared Service earlier this year, I was faced with my first selection panel in over 25 years.

    Despite working @ 110% on my presentations, having all the right qualifications & experience, I guess realisation struck me half-way through the process, that I wasn’t ‘on form!’

    So as a consequence of being ‘off-form’ I haven’t been successful in finding a permanent post with the new service – bit like a cup final – no second chances.

    • localgov Says:

      That’s bad news Tone, I’m really sorry to hear it. The restructure process being what it is, this is unfortunately getting more and more common.

      It’s easy to say ‘something will turn up’ but very difficult to believe; just remember that form is temporary and class is permanent, so sooner rather than later you’ll be back on form and on top of it all.

      Good luck!


  6. […] of my blogging colleagues wrote recently about the struggles they were having when they felt for a while as if they were off form. They raised a number of very interesting […]


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