unfair performance evaluation?

A reader writes:

I have worked in HR for seven and a half years, working my way up from an HR Assistant to a Senior HR Assistant and 3 years ago to a Recruiter. I hire employees for about 30 departmental managers.

I have always had excellent yearly performance reviews, most years being ranked 4 (very effective) and last year 5 (exceptionally effective). Imagine my surprise when in this year’s review, I was rated as 2 (minimally effective). When I asked how my ranking could have plunged so much without me being made aware of it over the course of the year, I received no response. I then asked what determined such a poor ranking and I was told that one manager thought that I lacked confidence in hiring nurse practitioners (which was absolutely true as I am not a nurse recruiter and was never adequately trained to be one). I then asked my boss if she spoke to any of the other 30 managers for whom I work and she said no.

I feel as though my being ranked a 2 is totally inconsistent with the positive feedback/comments I receive from those managers for whom I recruit. I feel as though in order for me to understand and accept my boss’s review of me, she should provide me with concrete examples of comments and instances that made her determination accurate. In addition, if I truly plunged as she claims I did, should she not have had me on a work plan to improve my performance?

Your boss is a bad manager, at least when it comes to feedback.

Nothing in a performance review should be a surprise. Your manager should have been giving you ongoing feedback throughout the year, and the performance review should be a summary of that feedback.

So she screwed up and didn’t give you adequate feedback throughout the year. Which makes it even more important that the feedback in your evaluation be specific and include examples and that you not be stonewalled when you ask for them.

I don’t know how much of your job centers around hiring nurse practitioners. If it’s a small part, and you’re doing the rest of it well, a rating of “minimally effective” seems out of whack. If that’s the case, then either your boss has other concerns she’s not sharing with you, she doesn’t know how to do an evaluation well, or she has a personal issue with you. Any of those three options is an indictment of her.

On the other hand, if hiring nurse practitioners is a key component of your job, then her rating may be reasonable and her fault lies in not having spoken to you about this until now. In that case, the problem is not the evaluation itself, but the fact that this information wasn’t conveyed to you earlier. This is also an indictment of her.

Either way, go back to her and tell her what you plan to do to work on the nurse practitioner issue, and tell her that you were mortified to learn that this has been a problem and that you hadn’t known until now. Ask if you can get more regular feedback throughout the year, and ask that she bring any concerns to your attention earlier on.

And if the rating is indeed off base, then you do also have the option of trying to get it changed, especially if it will impact your next raise. But if you go that route, proceed delicately. You don’t want to turn it into a fight between you and your manager; instead, you should approach it more as a question of whether this is something that should be revisited in the context of the rest of the excellent work you’re doing. Weigh this option carefully though: You might succeed in getting it changed, or at least demonstrate to your manager that you aren’t one to be messed with in this way. But on the other hand, you might poison the relationship permanently. So use your own knowledge of her, your company, etc. in figuring out whether that route makes sense.

I don’t like this manager though.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. John H

    I agree as well, and would be outraged in your position.

    What really bugs me this goes against some very basic principles of performance evaluation.

    Maybe if your company has a 360 degree review policy or something similar, your can cite this as a specific example of performance review mismanagement. Your boss could really use some coaching or training in this area.

  2. Wally Bock

    I agree with the responses so far on feedback, IF we’re getting the whole story. The consultant in me thinks there’s more going on that we haven’t heard. Here’s why.

    The writer has been working as a recruiter for three years. In the first two of those years the writer received ratings of 4 and 5. Nothing in the post indicates that the job changed. So something else must have.

    Is this a different supervisor than the first two years?

    Did something change about the poster’s behavior? The manager’s behavior?

    Did the company decide to toughen up performance evaluation standards, maybe move to a forced ranking system?

    I always get nervous in these “Dear HR” situations on the web because we usually have only one person’s story. In this case the implication is that the recruiter’s manager did pretty much everything wrong. In my experience that’s hardly ever the case.

    I’ll agree with the comments about how a boss should act. But, in real life, I’d want to do a little digging before accepted this as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  3. Ask a Manager

    Wally, good points. But what really rankled me was that she said that she asked her manager why her rating plunged and didn’t even get a response. The manager owed her some explanation, not only because of basic courtesy, but also because it’s good management.

    Of course, we’re always just hearing one side of the story with these situations, but assuming the basic facts here are correct, even if the poster’s performance had problems, the manager sounds like she really flubbed handling it. And I guess I don’t find that hard to believe, given what bad management is out there!

  4. Anonymous

    This is the first year I receieved a avg. to above average review. I am without a doubt a high performer and producer. I actually did the work of 2 FT ee’s this past year and my review didn’t reflect any of my accomplishments for the year. It focused on situations that are established in the culture of this org. and the boss’s bias. No raise this year. From what I am told, no one gets them ever. Except a few “high” performers. It sounded to me like favortism. I understand now why ee’s are so unmotivated here. Why work hard if they don’t receive anything for me? Not even a pat on the back.

    I’m in the same boat and can tell you it’s changed my whole idea of employment here.

  5. Jessica

    Has anyone ever dealth with a manager that lies during a performance review? in my case i had a review last week that a possible raise is riding on and my manager claims that certain people had complained about me and when i asked them they said it wasn’t true. They also told me she told them i complained about them and thats certainly not true. It seems she’s trying to pit everyone against one another.

  6. Anonymous

    In many companies, the employee evaluation process is in some manner tied to financial/payroll planning. Truth is…unfair evaluations happen for other reasons than just poor boss feedback (courage). Lastly, evaluations that mainly rely on subjective opinion as their means for grading, leave a wide door open for unfairness. I’ve even wondered if, to some extent, this also opens a door to legal action from employees (descrimination).

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Discrimination: only if pay is being based on race, sex, religion, or other protected class.

      It makes sense to tie raises to performance. Companies that don’t will find that their really great employees (who have options) go elsewhere.

  7. christy

    What if the examples are over embellishments, neglectful of circumstantial info or are just non truths?

  8. Anonymous

    Our small 20 person start up did only annual reviews each April. I received my first review 5 months after I started and it was 4’s and 5’s across the board- it was stellar, my boss was extremely complimentary! We are in the process of being acquired and just 3 months after my stellar review she announced that we were moving to bi annual reviews and had to complete them immediately (the announcement and rush to complete the new reviews seemed odd).

    I was reviewed again only this time it is shockingly unexpectedly bad (just 3 months after a stellar ‘annual’ review!) and I have been knocked down gradewise to 1’s and 2’s (on a ranking system of 1-5) with several complete untruths in the narrative, I’m literally shocked. Essentially it warns me that my performance must improve and implies ‘or else’ though it doesn’t formally warm me ‘yet’ when in fact I’ve had much more success in the last 3 months than I did in the 5 months prior to my first review. It seems clear to me that there is an agenda. I tried to speak with her about it and she flat out said she would not change the inaccuracies and that if I improve I could receive a stellar review again (it was an insane conversation). I’m livid and can only sum up that they are trying to get rid of my position (and stock options!) prior to the acquisition being finalized or as part of but why not just eliminate the job, what is the pupose of trying to set me up to be fired or look so bad?

    I KNOW I don’t deserve this bad review which includes blatant lies and she has since become impossible to speak to about anything. It’s clear that I need to get out of here fast as this is a major red flag but I want my payout on my options as the acquisition is to be complete within 2-3 months. We don’t have a formal HR department. What would you do?

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