denied performance evaluation

A reader writes:

I have a question on how to challenge a denial of work performance reviews on behalf of a co-worker. The position is an administrative assistant position which this person has been in 7 years. She has never had a yearly performance review and accordingly no raises! Her job duties have increased. She has spoken the matter to the HR and HR nicely told her that it was up to her boss, who is a director of a major department of our company. She has started to request yearly performance reviews in writing. The last one was 7 months ago and it was addressed to the director/boss. Nothing has happened.

This looks like the company is basically telling this person to leave. However, she is a single mother in her late 40s and she believes she cannot go elsewhere. She has asked me to help her write another letter and I need guidance on how to approach this letter.

So far this is the action plan I have:
1) address it to her boss but “cc” the HR. This formally brings in the HR who may do something.
2) bring up the employee handbook on yearly performance reviews and how it is provided to every employee
3) if this letter does not work, wait 3 months and then write another letter to the Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer since all avenues have been exhausted (boss and HR). The director/boss is under high scrutiny by the executive management so this may indirectly help.

Hmmm. Is the issue that she wants a performance review or that she wants a raise? Either way, I’m not sure this is the best plan.

If she genuinely wants the performance review for its own sake, she can’t “make” her boss give her one. Cc’ing HR doesn’t sound like it will do any good, since HR already told her that it’s up to her boss. And I definitely don’t recommend cc’ing the executive director or COO, since that’s inappropriately going over her boss’ head and likely to backfire — at a minimum, creating tension with her boss and possibly even irritating the higher-up. A better approach would be to explain to her boss that she wants to step back and have a conversation about her performance to get his feedback on where she’s doing well and where she could improve. At this point, since she has made this request previously and been ignored, she needs to be more direct and ask point-blank if this is possible or not. There’s no point in beating her head against the wall trying to make this happen if the boss simply isn’t going to do it. (Refusing to give your employees feedback on their performance is absurd, obviously, but there are plenty of bosses behaving absurdly out there.)

However, I suspect it’s more likely that what she wants is a raise, and she sees a performance evaluation as the route to get there. But why not just go directly after what she wants and ask for a raise? Skip the performance evaluation drama, since it’s clearly become an obstacle, and simply make the case for a raise. In other words, put together a case for how her value to the company has earned her more money and ask to be compensated accordingly.

Of course, she can’t make her boss give her a raise either. But she can make the case for it, and if it becomes clear it’s not going to happen, she can plan future decisions accordingly. You said she doesn’t believe she can go elsewhere, but there’s no harm in exploring her options — she may discover she has more options outside this company than she thinks.

One last thing: Make sure your involvement is behind the scenes. You shouldn’t be writing letters on her behalf, etc.; she should handle this herself.

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Wench*

    AAM knows what’s what, yo. Listen to her.

    In addition, I would also like to point out & suggest the following:

    1. The HR dept at this company sucks.

    2. Performance reviews are a waste of time. Giving meaningful feedback on a regular basis makes more sense.

    3. The admin could really benefit from an employee assistance program / health insurance paid counselor to gain more confidence, assertiveness and active feelings of self-worth. 7 YEARS w/o a raise is NOT acceptable so STOP accepting it!

  2. Anonymous*

    In what way is Cc’ing an executive director/COO inappropriate in this example? The low level manager fails to acknowledge communication. The HR team refuses to get involved.

    So, employees should shy away for fear of ‘irritating’ an executive?

  3. HR Wench*

    Anon – I think what AAM is saying is that the admin needs to have a “heart to heart” type conversation with her boss instead of continuing to write letters. Perhaps she has already attempted this – it isn’t clear from the OP. What is clear, however, is that her boss is NOT listening to the letters. Time to sit down and say “Look. I want a performance review and/or to discuss a raise in pay.”

    Many employees make the mistake of continually communicating with their boss in a way that simply doesn’t work (for whatever reason and it doesn’t matter who’s “fault” it is…message isn’t being received). If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. So grab the bull by the horns and speak it’s language.

    From there, if that doesn’t work, I suppose she could go above his head. However, if it were me I would probably just concentrate on getting OUT of there. It sounds like a nightmare place to work.

  4. Totally Consumed*

    Spont-on advice, Alison. Sounds to me like this employee is preparing to sue her employer.

    If she’s really interested in self-improvement and not a big settlement, she could easily schedule a 10 minute appointment with her boss and just ask him in a non-threatening way, “what are some areas I could improve on”; then listen and take what her boss says without getting defensive or demanding everything in writing.

    It’s called acting in ‘good faith’. With such an anti-management attitude I suspect this employee is on her way out the door and into the courtroom.

  5. Anonymous*

    Two main points here, one referencing Wenchie’s comment. Seven years without a raise?! You’ve GOT to be kidding me. I can’t imagine not speaking up, oh, about five years ago. I agree that the person should point blank, ask for a raise. Give market data, outlined the increasing responsibilities, etc.

    Sidenote is to the person who wrote this letter: it’s fine to have friends at work. I call them my work friends. I call them work friends because there is a line in the sand that I do not cross. That line includes in depth conversations about family/home life, money, and religion/politics. It’s entirely inappropriate for you to be involved in this process. I want to make that clear. While you can be supportive of your friend, SHE needs to take action. I am a person in HR (one that would actually approach the manager and look into the conversation) and I cannot be clearer: you need to step out of this equation.

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