we can’t get the highest performance rating 2 years in a row, holding a retreat at a coworker’s house, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Our performance rating can’t be “exceeding expectations” for two years in a row

I joined my current company a little over two years ago, where I work on a team of five people within a larger department of about 100. At the end of the year, everyone is given a performance rating of exceeding expectations (top 10% of the department), missing expectations (bottom 5% of the department), or meeting expectations (everyone else). People in the “exceeding expectations” category receive a larger bonus than the rest of the department. There is no differentiation among the 85% of people who are meeting expectations, and the financial implications of missing expectations are minimal.

Last year, at the end of my first full year with the company, I was rated as “exceeding expectations,” and I was thrilled. Throughout this year, my manager has been telling me that I’m the highest performer on our team, I’m one of the highest performers in the department, and my performance has been even better this year than last year due to some additional leadership roles I’ve taken on. However, he just informed me that my rating this year will be “meeting expectations,” not exceeding, because although he wanted to put me in the “exceeding expectations” category, the other team leaders in the department wouldn’t let him because I had already been in the “exceeding” category last year. He acquiesced, acknowledging that it’s basically impossible for someone to be in the “exceeding expectations” category for two years in a row.

This is frustrating to me. I feel like I’m being penalized this year for my high performance last year. Had I known I had no chance at exceeding expectations, I might have chosen not to work as hard all year! I’ve talked to my manager about non-financial rewards for high performance, like being selected to work on high-impact projects, but I’m not sure where that will go.

Is it standard practice for a high performance rating one year to essentially disqualify an employee from receiving a high performance rating the following year, or is my (large, worldwide) company in the minority here?

Nope, that is bullshit.

“Exceeding expectations” isn’t like a toy to be passed around, where you want to make sure everyone gets a turn with it. It’s supposed to an objective assessment of your performance.

They’re incentivizing you to only work hard every other year, and you might point that out.

2. I don’t want to hold our retreat at a coworker’s house

Is it appropriate for a coworker to volunteer their home for a one-and-a-half day work planning day if the organization won’t pay to host it off-site?

I work in tertiary education, government funded, in a small team. Because of budget issues, we have been denied funding for our plans to have an away day off-site — something we usually do to ensure people don’t wander away to their desks to check emails and not return to the meeting. A colleague offered their home, with the words “I have a large dining table” and several of the team were keen to accept the offer. The colleague has some boundary issues in the past, has their family living with them, and always wants to be everyone’s friend. I don’t want to spend a day and half in someone else’s house, and feel this is awkward. We can book a classroom or conference room in another building on campus. I am neurodivergent so find change challenging and also have sensory issues (ASC) and would like the opportunity to take a bathroom break or grab a coffee/drink without being in someone’s house and needing to ask permission. Am I being too sensitive or is going to someone’s house for work reasons not weird?

It’s not outrageous levels of weird, but it’s fairly unusual and generally most people would prefer a more professional setting. You could try saying, “I’d prefer to book a classroom or conference room on campus instead, which I think will be more comfortable than meeting in someone’s home.” If pressed for reasons, you could say meeting in someone’s home sounds more distracting and you’d find it easier to focus on work in a work setting.

If not inappropriate for your role, you also could offer to take the lead on setting that up, to increase the chances that it shakes out that way.

3. We’re interviewing someone I know has lied on their resume … because I used to manage him

I’m currently involved in hiring for a new position on my team. I’ve not reviewed applicants but will be part of the interviewing panel. I’ve just had the resumes of those who have had interviews arranged for next week given to me to go through ahead of meeting with them.

One is from a previous employee of mine from quite recently (the past year). I only joined my current company four months ago.

Not only is he claiming on his resume that he still works there after actually leaving in February, he’s listed his start date as 13 months earlier than he actually started. I know for certain he has not returned. So that’s a total of 20 extra months he’s claiming on a position he was in for 11. Alone I may have considered it a typo, but that’s before we get to the fact that the hyperbole he’s used to describe his role and achievements has him taking ownership of projects and results (that are also inaccurate) that he was only peripherally involved with. Think calling himself the “project lead” when he was only involved in a couple of hours of research support during a months-long project. I know this, I was the manager overseeing it all.

I don’t know how to handle this, both to protect my professionalism at my new company and in a way that gets him to stop. I was his direct lead, and I’m still listed as one of his references! I’m dreading the calls I might start getting during his job search. Is a simple “There are discrepancies on this candidate’s resume and I think he should be withdrawn from consideration” to the hiring manager enough? I don’t want to get drawn into anything remotely resembling gossip!

The saddest part is that he would have been a suitable candidate with the experience he truly has. I don’t want to be unkind; he left due to some pretty harrowing personal circumstances rather than work itself and, knowing him, may be in panic mode to get his life back on track. But I feel like my integrity and reputation matters here too. What should I do, both in the immediate with the interview pending, and for other potential situations that may arise?

That language isn’t sufficient to communicate the extent of the issue. Be more explicit — “I managed one of the candidates, Barnaby Mackelberry, at my last job and unfortunately what he’s put on his resume is significantly inaccurate. He was only there for half of the time he says he was, and he left nearly early this year despite saying he’s still there now. He also didn’t have the role or achievements he listed — he was only peripherally involved in projects he’s claiming he led. Because of those significant discrepancies, I think we should remove him from consideration.” That’s not gossip — that’s factual information that it would be strange for you to withhold as part of the hiring committee.

As for Barnaby himself … give him a call (after your company handles this, not before) and ask about it. Explain you’re part of the hiring committee for a job he applied for and saw what he listed, and say, “I can’t be a reference for you if you’re not reporting your dates and role accurately.” Frankly, though, even if he fixes it and starts sending out an accurate resume, I think your ability to give him a great reference has to be affected by this. This is more than a little puffing up! Talk to him and see what he says, but clear and obvious lies — even in a panic — would be a hard thing to overlook, especially when you’re putting your own professional reputation on the line to vouch for him.

4. Gracefully ending conversations with customers

I run a small residential painting company with two super employees. Many times, the client will hem them up with small talk, especially at the start of each day. I encourage my team to be cordial but be mindful that we have a job to do and the clock is ticking. How can I gracefully handle any rifts that might arise from not wanting to “visit” every time we show up for work? I’m not against my guys spending five minutes at the start and end of each day. I encourage it but many times the customer overdoes it.

Can you arm them with some warm-sounding phrases to use? For example, “Well, I better get started so we can get a lot done today.” You could also tell them to throw you under the bus with, “Well, I know Alex wants me to get started right away. Nice chatting with you.”

{ 411 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – the only way your professional reputation with your new company is at risk is if you DON’T speak up. You should be flagging to the hiring manager and the HR/Recruitment Manager that you know the candidate is lying about their experience and the dates of their employment. Don’t sugar coat it!

    I’d be annoyed if you didn’t bring this up and warn me, if I were the hiring manager. I mean, you were his team leader AND you’re listed as a reference. If you don’t say something, everyone is going to assume you endorse him.

    1. Heidi*

      What’s striking to me about this letter is that the OP just happens to know this candidate and is reviewing his application. If the OP didn’t work there, he might have gotten this job. It’s possible that the employer would check his dates of employment, but I think it’s harder to verify the level of involvement on individual projects unless you were working on them, like the OP was. There must be so many resumes floating around there with similar lies.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I’d be really curious to see what accurate statistics on that would be. I was talking to someone who is hiring for a coding position, and they said that more than half of the resumes they were picking for interviews had lied outright about knowing languages (ie, “proficient in R” meant that they had heard of the language, but couldn’t write a correct if/then/else statement).

        What gets me is that the applicant is listing the LW as one of their references. It would be a much better lie if they hadn’t, particularly given they’re claiming to still be at that employer, which generally means they won’t expect references there. They could then fairly safely exaggerate their current job, and list accurate dates and duties for older ones.

        1. R2-D2*

          I had a colleague at another institution call me when she got a candidate who listed ours on the resume. The person had lied about the dates of employment, listed job duties that were that position’s duties but this person never did them, and lied about reason for leaving. They were fired. I don’t expect someone would admit that, but it was interesting to see what bull they came up with. It’s unfortunately a field where everyone knows everyone and even if we aren’t listed as references, we collaborate all the time. Well, unfortunate for someone who’s trying to lie to get another job in the field. This person was fired for something bad, too. It wasn’t just that they were a bad fit.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            Yeah, I’m surprised at how many times I get called for a reference check and the information they want me to confirm is wildly inaccurate. And sometimes for people I personally worked with and who I thought were pretty straight shooters.
            Even just the basic “Was this their role?, Were these the years they worked there?”

            Slight rounding up, rounding down on dates I won’t quibble about, like if they started in Feb 21 and left in Nov 21, but just listed “2021”. But the people who give out dates of employment Jan 2018-May 2022 if the last time you worked here was in 2008 just baffle me.

        2. ferrina*

          I hired someone that lied about knowing Powerpoint! Honestly, that’s such a basic skill that I don’t mind if someone exaggerates their experience then is able to figure out/Google a lot of it (which plenty of people do anyways), but he couldn’t even make a chart without someone talking him through step-by-step.
          He was fired in less than a month.

          1. Lacey*

            The bigger problem is almost his unwillingness to fill the gap in what he knew and what he claimed he knew!

            I’ve had occasions where an interviewer or new boss said, “And of course you know how to do X in program A” and I actually didn’t know it was possible to do X at all.
            I just said, “Of course” and googled it immediately afterward.

            It wasn’t hard & pretending I already knew never hurt me, but if I’d insisted on making people walk me through it I think that would have been a problem.

          2. That'sNotMyName*

            I got hired after some was fired 2 weeks into working there. They were fired because they refused to put documents in network folders, which was necessary for our work. She insisted on having all documents save directly to her desktop so she could see everything. My mental image of her desktop makes me twitch, not to mention the fact that you would a wall-sized monitor to see it all. She flat out refused to learn.

            This meant that I had to answer questions along the lines of “tell us about a time when you shared documents in a network folder” and other stuff that apparently led to me looking appalled and confused until they explained.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              The weird questions/requirements that get added when trying to replace a problem employee are always very revealing.

              “We’re looking for a salesperson who won’t ignore customers while playing Candy Crush on their iPhone” is too specific to be hypothetical.

              1. Capybarely*

                That’s getting into the same specificity as product safety warnings where you just think “wait, did someone DO that??? HOW?!”

                Professional takeaway, that I’ve actually told people in my own career: make choices that minimize the chances of your story being used as a law and ethics case study.

              2. Lily C*

                I’ve recently had to ask candidates for a legal assistant position, “Do you know how to turn a .docx into a .pdf, without using a scanner?”

              3. Sleeve+McQueen*

                A bit like the people I’ve mentally put into a folder called “because of you, we now have a rule”

              1. Hannah Lee*

                I can just imagine!

                “Well, when I first get a new system, the first thing I do is change my Explorer View defaults to Large Icon. I know some people like Details but I prefer seeing as many files as possible without scrolling.

                At prior job, two of my coworkers preferred a shared file design of separate folders for each Month, containing files named by project and file number. But it was really better to organize things in Project folders, with file names in the format of YYYYMMDD-Owner-Contents. I was able to make a case for why that was best, and convinced them to adopt that standard. There was one time that co-worker who started naming files using MMDDYY instead of YYYYMMDD as the leading characters and boy howdy did that create some chaos.”

                I nearly fell asleep with boredom just typing that.

                1. EdgarAllanCat*

                  “I nearly fell asleep…” Love it!!! I am on medical leave and had to create documentation for file naming protocol and omg did I bore myself.

                  It took so long to write a user manual for click here, then there, right click, choose this button, save to local folder, convert to google sheet, save to Drive folder by clicking 17 times, delete csv file…

                2. Nina*

                  you jest, but YYYYMMDD has caused serious issues at my workplace (we have about half the company in the US, and about half in a country with sane date formatting, and there is a lot of intensive collaboration between halves)

                  US staff were merrily filing things as MMDDYYYY (sometimes with other information included, sometimes not), other staff who had come from other international companies were filing as YYYYMMDD, other staff who had only ever worked within the second country were filing as DDMMYYYY…

                  it took an email from the CEO with an attachment of the ISO date standard to sort it out, and we had teething troubles for months afterwards.

            2. JustaTech*

              I worked for a very senior, very respected (if also feared) scientist who did the same thing. When he couldn’t make the icons on his desktop any smaller he would (have his assistant) buy him a bigger Mac. Not a bigger monitor, but a whole new, *very* expensive Mac.
              He ran 3 labs and went on to be the founder of a very successful biotech startup, but it sure wasn’t based on his computer skills!

            3. Curmudgeon in California*

              One temp gig I had to do a test of Excel proficiency because of how many people said they could but couldn’t even handle the basics, much less the level of macro development they needed. The only question I had a problem with was a programming one (if-then-else) – I answered it with the syntax of the language I was working on learning, rather than the Excel version. But I blew all the other candidates out of the water, the situation was that bad (most people didn’t even know anything about if-then, much less if-then-else.)

              1. DJ Abbott*

                When I was temping in the 90s – 2000s and again last year, those skills tests were routine. What surprised me in the 90s was they also tested the ability to file alphabetically. Apparently some people can’t do that!
                I noticed a difference last year though – most agencies didn’t test unless the client for a specific job wanted the tests. One of the agencies gave me a full battery of Excel/accounting tests and it was a little strenuous, but then they started giving me jobs right away.

                1. Mid*

                  I almost failed a “file alphabetically” test in person because they considered Mc a separate letter from M. So Ma Mb, Md, Me, etc all went into the M file but Mc was a separate file. Not the most unusual thing, but I wasn’t aware there was a Mc file separate from the other Ms because it was stored at the end of the alphabet.

              2. Quake*

                I will happily admit I’m pretty obtuse when it comes to Excel. I think the most advanced thing I know about is how to freeze the first column, or that if you need to you can type in B4 + C6 =, etc. And I think in general that’s all that “laypeople” know about it so then they think “Yeah, I’m good with Excel,” and then put it on their resumé lol.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            Honestly I spent so much time “learning” powerpoint in school but I did not know how to make a chart in powerpoint until like a year ago. None of the dozens of powerpoint presentations I’d ever done over the years involved charts. I think it’s actually reasonable and probably very common that a lot of people would think and say that they know powerpoint pretty well but have never made a chart…

        3. GlowCloud*

          I overheard my husband while WFH, interviewing a candidate who couldn’t even answer which part of the computer handles working memory. Even I know that the answer is RAM, and I learned that in an ICT lesson at primary school. On his resume he’s a qualified programmer! These candidates crumble like chalk during skills-based interviews.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            LOL! I am 20+ years into my career, and I now bust out laughing at the basic screening questions in my field. Little things like “Describe the Linux boot-up process”, “What is an inode”, “Walk me through what happens when you type http://www.google.com into your browser.” and other really basic stuff in my field.

            I at least try to gauge my questions based on their level of seniority. EG: “init.d or systemd, which do you prefer and why?”, “If you are designing a package that does X, would you put the main executable in /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, /usr/local/bin or something else, and why?”, or “What is your most proficient monitoring tool, and what are its pros and cons?” The idea is to just how much they have thought about things. Anyone can regurgitate definitions and FizzBuzz, but I want to know how they think about advanced fundamental stuff.

        4. DJ Abbott*

          Back in 1999 I had a temp job helping a floor of programmers. Several times they hired programmers who were then fired in a couple of days because they had lied about knowing how to code.
          I’m curious, how does your friend determine they lied on their resumes? Is it from interview questions?

      2. JSPA*


        1. Its possible other candidates are padding similarly– clearly the first screening didn’t include contacting even the most obvious references

        2. Worth checking if the materials came directly from the candidate, or from an external recruiter who decided to puff up the resumé. In fact that would be my first focus: ” I would like to flag that we are not adequately contacting references, such that these resumes could be false in anumber of ways. I know in one case that [facts]; If that can slip through the preliminary screening, then we can’t assume that any of the preliminary screening has been done adequately.”

        3. Worth checking if the job description is written to include unnecessary minimum experience, and some tool– automated or human–is screening too strictly for that. Not because it excuses padding the resumé, but becas it is screening out people who would be otherwise qualified.

          1. Gatomon*

            Yes typically those are checked last. It’s a lot of work put in for candidates you haven’t even interviewed yet.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              For everyone involved! The references don’t want to be bothered that often, the candidate doesn’t want to have to locate new references because of all the overuse, etc.

          2. Mangled Metaphor*

            But even a cursory glance and… Hmm that name seems familiar? If it’s the same person surely that would be a small ethical breach to have them be part of the interview process? It feels… icky. A bit like interviewing externally when you already have an internal candidate in mind – there’s a connection the other applicants don’t have. (Although in this case it’s a point *against* the candidate)

            A bit different if the references aren’t listed. OP just says they are a reference, which I take to mean the candidate asked for permission to use them in the future.

            1. ecnaseener*

              I would assume the candidate does NOT have reference names listed on his actual resume, if he’s like 99% of other candidates.

            2. Allonge*

              Not sure I get your point about ethics – if someone is a family member or close friend, there is an ethical issue, yes. If someone worked with a person, well, that is just good/bad luck depending on the situation – nobody is guaranteed an interview panel of perfect strangers.

              I mean, yes, OP should say they know the person in any case.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                Why is that automatically an ethical issue? My former boss and I are close personal friends and she wrote a recommendation for me to go to grad school. Is that unethical? What if you worked for a family business and your mom is the only one who has managed you before? Is putting her as a reference unethical?

                1. Allonge*

                  The ethical issue is if your friend/mother would be in the position to hire you and would not say ‘by the way I know Michelle’, not that you became friends with your former boss in the meanwhile or worked for your mother.

                  If I am hiring, at my current workplace I am asked to say I have no such conflict for the list of people I would be interviewing. I know this is not the case for every company – it cannot be, but it’s a thing to consider.

              2. ferrina*

                I don’t think it’s unethical to interview a former coworker/colleague at all, and it’s an advantage to the company that’s doing the hiring. I’ve been on both sides of this, and it saves everyone a lot of time to be able to say “I’ve worked with them, and here’s the pros/cons”.

                A family member/close friend gets a little murkier for me, but isn’t totally out of bounds (depending on the relationship, the role, etc). I have hired a friend that wasn’t a coworker, but it was for a low-level temporary assignment, and it was as a favor to me, not him (I knew he was very, very capable of the work, could start right away, and it saved me having to go through getting a series of wishy-washy temps)

            3. MCMonkeyBean*

              Wait are you saying OP should not be included in the interview panel because they’ve worked together before? That makes no sense, the fact that they have worked together before makes OP’s opinion on the candidate *extra* valuable. Lies on the resume aside, they are the one person in the company most able to judge how well the candidate would fit the role.

      3. MK*

        Must there be? I don’t get the logic of “there is one instance of X, ergo X must be happening a lot”. Do people lie on their resume? I am sure some do, but I doubt it’s that widespread, and also that it’s particularly successful.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Yeah, I think a lot of people may embellish a bit, but outright lie? Not as much as we may think.

      4. Miette*

        I w0uld think Lesson 1 of “How to Cheat on Your Resume” would include making sure you don’t send the most egregiously false one to your former manager’s current company :/

          1. linger*

            The only way it might make sense is if the applicant is under some misconception that OP’s status as reference precludes OP from otherwise participating in the hiring process. In which case, they’ll find out the misconception is a misconception.

      5. Curmudgeon in California*

        We had a guy who lied about his last two positions – as in they didn’t exist – and it was only discovered during the background check when he tried to go permanent.

    2. Artemesia*

      It is the audacious flat out lying across the board. If he neglected to say he had left early in the year — well lots of people panic that the gap will be a deal breaker and it is understandable if not ethical to fudge the end date. But it isn’t just that one falsehood —

      I am confused about why the OP doesn’t immediately see that she has critical information here that goes to the committee or the chair of the committee to remove this person from consideration. This would be appropriate with a lot less concern; in this case if she were my employee and I learned she knew all this and withheld it, it would seriously make me question her future at the company. I certainly would not think her promotion material.

      1. Quinalla*

        Agreed, I was confused too. This isn’t something to tiptoe around, just tell the hiring manager the facts – resume says these dates, actually these dates are accurate. Resume says candidate was lead on this project, candidate was barely involved.

        I think most people put a rosy view on their resume and even occasionally embellish (well I quit here 2 weeks ago, but I’m not putting an end date on the resume or sure I have good excel skills meaning I’ve opened it once or twice and played around in it), but these are way, way across the line, just outright lies. If the dates were they only thing wrong, yes I might question it as maybe a typo, but with the rest, its pretty clear the resume is intentionally fabricated.

        I also think it is rare that people lie like this on their resumes, it does happen and it is memorable when it does so it tends to stick in our memories, but it is rare. I’ve run across it once in my time where someone listed a degree they didn’t have. It wasn’t checked immediately (honestly it isn’t something everyone regularly checks), but it was checked I dunno 6 months in or something and dude was immediately fired.

        1. LW3*

          I have updated below but I want to say I totally agree. I actually had to deal with it quite quickly in the end.

          I think my initial concern came from me switching into ‘regular human’ mode rather than professional. Because I have contextual information that I can’t share with my now place of work I felt like I needed to handle it really sympathetically. As soon as I was in the situation where I could simply give my professional knowledge, I did.

          And yet they still want to meet with him!

            1. LW3*

              We’ve got excellent candidates. I don’t know why they still want to interview him, I feel that I’ve done what I needed to by explaining clearly why he should be withdrawn from consideration. The decision to keep him in the running is not mine, I’ve essentially been outvoted.

                1. Aggretsuko*

                  That’s ridiculous bad. Can’t believe they are still going for him.

                  At one point in my job I found out that some guy was applying for a job and hadn’t finished his degree. That wasn’t the issue, per se, but the potential employer forwarded me a transcript he forwarded her (this is a no-no) and I saw that the “not in good academic standing” line was removed. I was NOT ALLOWED to directly say this, or to say that he lied or doctored it, ONLY was permitted to say “this is not an official transcript.” They still wanted to interview him anyway, apparently. The hell?

                  On another related note, my mom started Googling for my relatives and found a cousin’s Linked In and then told me to look for it via Duck Duck Go. This cousin has been known to make up shit periodically and apparently Mom thinks she’s possibly lying or at least definitely hyping herself up on the resume. I only know so much of my cousin’s various jobs over the years but the ones I knew about looked fine to me. Mom said she claimed she went to Oxford for some program but didn’t actually go to said program. I was all, “just don’t go there, nothing but bad will happen if you go there with a relative.” Not our business, we couldn’t confirm/deny anything, and it’s just drama you don’t need with relatives.

          1. Generic Name*

            Yikes. Them wanting to meet with such an unethical candidate and you feeling like you can’t be a normal human at your workplace is making me wonder about the culture of your new company. But maybe I’m reading too much into your comment.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I read ‘normal human’ as ‘using social norms, not professional norms’. Like, if my friend tells a story as though it happened to him and I know he actually got it off reddit, I might not call him out on it. Who’s it hurt for him to tell that story? He’s honest in the important things in his life, he just puffs things up a little when he’s in story-telling mode. OP was thinking like that, and not in her professional norms mode, where this kind of integrity matters.

              Totally agreed on it being weird that the company wants to bring the guy in, though.

    3. Momma Bear*

      Absolutely. I’d be concerned about what else you were covering up if I found out someone knew all this relevant information about a candidate and didn’t speak up.

    4. L'étrangère*

      As an aside, it’s interesting to see what current co-workers list as their duties in their LinkedIn profiles. Thinking of the one who titled himself Manager of (his one-person department) and claimed all kinds of fictitious accomplishments, before he was canned for basically not doing the job. Wishing good luck to the poor people who subsequently inherited him..

  2. CarlDean*

    #1 – my spouse hit a different but similar roadblock – boss knocked her down in one category bc “can’t get a perfect score.” When she asked what she needed to do differently in that category, boss was like “oh, nothing, just couldn’t give a perfect score.” Affects bonus. Total BS.

    1. MerBearStare*

      In my department at work, there’s a shared inbox that four of us are responsible for. We all manage different programs, so it’s pretty easy to tell what emails are for which person. My colleague and I are pretty diligent about answering the emails that are for us, but the other two people aren’t at all. During my review this year, I saw that my direct supervisor marked me as the highest score for customer care, but the CEO knocked it down a point because of complaints he’s received about the inbox. It doesn’t affect raises or bonuses, but it still really pisses me off that I’m penalized for other people not doing their jobs.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        Your manager should have corrected the record with the CEO for you. There’s no way in the world I’d let one of my direct reports take the hit for something I know for a fact wasn’t their responsibility.

    2. Sometimes supervisor*

      Ugh. Appraisal scores are the worst.

      I remember one appraisal where I have reason to believe I was knocked down to 3 (which would have been our equivalent of average) from a 2 (which was above average) and basically gaslit through the entire appraisal meeting. (It’s a long story but it hinged on a major project I was working on being a 2, but I KNEW I’d been given a 1 – which would have been far exceeds expectations – on it and the whole meeting was about half an hour of telling me I hadn’t met objective markers on it I absolutely had).

      It later transpired this is because they were promoting everybody at my grade who was given a 1 or 2. I couldn’t be promoted because I didn’t meet one of the experience criteria, knew this and was 100% ok with it. But I was left feeling really salty I’d basically sat through a meeting where I was told the people who I worked most with didn’t actually value me as much as I thought I did for what was essentially a “computer says everybody with a 1 or 2 against their name changes job title” issue.

      Heck, the actual score didn’t bother me and I wouldn’t have even really minded if they’d turned around and said “Look, appreciate your work on this major project has been great but, in order to get a 2 or above overall, you needed to do that-thing-you-couldn’t-do-due-to-illness – so, as much as we appreciate everything else you’ve done, it’s a 3 this year”. But instead I got 30 minutes of being made to feel very unappreciated.

      This was a decade ago. I’ve long since left the company. It still stings a bit.

    3. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      This is such a pet peeve of mine. I knew someone once who said they never gave uber riders five stars because ‘no ride is perfect’.

      Just…NO, NO!

      Listen up, pedants of the world, the point of a rating system is not for you to theorize about the possibilities of human achievement. You are not a film critic, this is not a philsophy paper. Pragmatically speaking, is there anything this person could do to improve their performance? No? Then give them the five-star rating.

      1. Napkin Thief*

        Oh, you knew my former coworker? I had this discussion with him nearly word-for-word. He exhibited…interesting logic in a lot of other areas as well.

      2. Artemesia*

        The real world consequences for people in customer service who don’t get 5s is huge in many companies. To give an Uber driver anything but a 5 is monstrous unless they actually did something clear to deserve it. They showed up, they wore a mask if you asked them to, they got you there; it’s a 5.

        Same with on line/phone support people. Don’t give them low ratings because you are mad at their company.

        1. Antilles*

          Bingo. Every company takes the weird line that they expect “10/10 amazing service every time!” and “excellence only” and etc…so anything less than the top rating as a failure.

          In most realities, being a 7/10 is totally fine. “C’s equal degrees” or “what do you call the guy who graduates med school at the bottom of his class? doctor” or etc. But that’s not how companies treat it; your Principled Stand of giving a 7/10 isn’t doing anything except for hurting the individual employee.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            What really drives me crazy is what they do with the math. For many companies, 5/5 gets 100% satisfaction, but 4/5 gets 0% satisfaction, then they take the numerical average.

            Worse, I know someone who worked at a store location that corporate threatened to close due to low scores. The reason? They decided to count “N/A” as zero as well, so every person who didn’t use the bathrooms was counted as complaining about the bathrooms.

            1. coffee*

              Imagine telling your customers that, in order to keep the store open, they have to at least pretend to have used the bathrooms!

        2. Not Roger Ebert*

          I completely disagree. A five star rating is not something that everybody should get by default — otherwise it is nothing more than a participation trophy.

          If Uber really just wants a thumbs up or thumbs down, that’s what it should ask for.

          1. Casey*

            They should ask for a thumbs up or thumbs down, but they don’t, and it’s the individual workers who pay the consequence for that, not the company. If you think that’s a bad thing, you should take that up with the company, not get workers into trouble for something that they have no control over.

          2. Antilles*

            Sure, on a theoretical level. But practically speaking, how exactly is you giving your driver a three-star rating because “my default is three stars” (or whatever) actually changing that?

            Uber isn’t modifying their business practices or stated expectation of “our service should always be five-stars” because of your vote. They aren’t going to suddenly junk the star system and go to a simpler thumbs up/down system.

            The only actual effect you’re having is making it harder for *that* specific driver to meet their required metrics.

          3. Sharon*

            I agree. Or at least explain that 5 stars = “it was fine” and anything less than 5 stars = unsatisfactory and will negatively impact the driver so everybody is working with the same scale.

            That’s a big dissatisfier with corporate ratings systems as well. They go to great lengths to provide objective criteria and behaviors that should generate a specific rating, and then they actually assign ratings based on something else entirely.

        3. Raw Flour*

          No, just “getting me there” is not sufficient for me to give an uber driver 5 stars. I give uber drivers fewer than 5 stars if I feel they are driving dangerously. I can only think of 3 instances where that was the case out of 100+ trips I’ve taken, so it’s not as though I’m going around ruining lives for fun, but dangerous drivers should not get a free pass.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think if a driver is driving dangerously, “they actually did something clear to deserve” a lower rating.

      3. UKDancer*

        I think it’s particularly important to give good ratings to people performing services. I’m asked to rate my cleaner from 1 (poor) to 6 (perfect) each time. I know if I rate her 6 she gets a bonus. I know if I rate her less she gets told off. So I always rate her as 6. Is she perfect? No she’s not, but I know the bonus makes a difference to her salary so I always mark her as 6.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          And I guarantee you that a person who knows you rate 6 is going to give better service than to someone who won’t rate 6 no matter what.

      4. Nicosloanica*

        this is a thing in the book world with reviews. A LOT of people will gush about love, love, loving a book but never give a five star because that’s reserved for only a mythical perfect book, not a mere earthly one. I wouldn’t mind except average score on goodreads and amazon is the topline info buyers see about a book.

        1. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Yes, I struggle with this on Goodreads. It means that people are basically rating books on a scale between 2 – 4, which limits the usefulness of reviews.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            On my book review site I spell out that a 5 star review means it’s a particularly large/epic/mindblowing one, and good reviews are normally 4 or 4.5 stars. Like five stars is “mind blown” territory.

            I wish five star reviews weren’t mandatory on services or else the person gets punished, though. That shit just makes me mad.

          2. Person from the Resume*

            Eh, I rate between 1-5 because zero is not an option. I wish zero was an option.

            But I do rate a some books 5 stars every year.

      5. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

        F*** Mt. Uber Reviewer SO HARD. These people always think they’re “mentally superior” to the rest of humankind as well.

        I actually found myself unconsciously using a situation like this to test out new personal relationships. At some point, I realized I’d usually tell a (true) story about a time someone went above and beyond for me, stressing that they really did everything they could. I’d say something like, “If I were on a rating site, I’d totally give them 5 out of 5 stars! How about you?” Then I further realized that if the other person ranked the superstar of my story lower, usually nitpicking little unnecessary details, I was immediately wary of them.

        These vibes always bear out: either they turn out to be total jerks, or kind of entitled–not always totally awful people, but not the kind of person I want to spend any more social capital on than I have to.

      6. Ssssssssssssssssssss*

        It just hit me how classist and ableist and potentially racist that attitude could be. Ooof.

      7. Thegreatprevaricator*

        I hate the inflation rating though I will comply. It makes rating services meaningless. And yep I am the 4 star book reviewer :D. I do assessments for a job and I have never given an outstanding because I have never reviewed an outstanding application. They exist, I’ve read some but I’m not making a rating system useless unnecessarily. I get why on the bonus linked reviews but I don’t like it.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          This makes no sense to me. If a rating system is 1 to 5, shouldn’t there be 20% in each column, give or take? What’s the point of rating on such a strict curve besides being a stodgy pendant?

          1. Pescadero*

            No… I would expect it like most things in nature to be a normal/Gaussian distribution.

            You’d expect something vaguely like

            1 – 5%
            2 – 20%
            3 -50%
            4- 20%
            5 – 5%

            1. linger*

              But even if the underlying ability distribution is Gaussian, a scaling system can be engineered and calibrated to convert that to a rectangular distribution (with roughly equal probabilities in each category); or, as we’ve seen above, essentially a binary-output Heaviside function. It all depends on the purpose of scaling, and it only works if evaluators agree about that purpose.

            2. coffee*

              But you’re not reading an unbiased selection of books, surely? I would expect people’s review scores to skew towards the higher end, because you would avoid books you don’t like, or look poorly written.

              I don’t think a Gaussian distribution should be assumed.

        2. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          But that’s the thing, I don’t think this is inflation rating. At least not in many cases.

          I just got an email asking me to rate a delivery service that I recently used. They asked ‘how happy I was with the service’ on a scale of 1-5. The thing is, this email isn’t in the context of my philosophical definition of happiness. It’s in reference to a specific service. With jobs, we generally want actionable feedback or to know if there is anything that is offputting, that might mean someone doesn’t return as a customer.

          Can I imagine any number of hypothetical things that would have made me more delighted? Probably. But none of the things I can come up with are actionable or practical…so it’s really outside the scope of what they’re asking.

          (It’s also worth noting that sometimes those ratings are less about learning about the individual serviceperson and more about marketing for the company and so the point of the email is to make you think the company cares, etc….but the point is never to ascertain a random customer’s ideas about what a hypothetically perfect delivery would be. I promise they don’t care.)

          With book ratings, I feel similarly. Did you race through the book? Was it memorable and engaging? Would you read it again? Would you recommend it to others? Then it’s probably a five. If you never rank any books a five based purely on principle, that makes the reviews less meaningful, you’re just taking a 5-star system and turning it into a 4-star system.

          1. Pescadero*

            For me – it depends on the purpose of the ranking.

            Am I ranking a service, intending that rating to signal something to other people? Then I agree you’re just turning a 5 star system into a 4 star system.

            Am I ranking it for MYSELF so in the future *I* can use the rating to compare objects? That is different. Then it isn’t “would I recommend this book”, it is “is book X better than book Y in my opinion”

          2. Jackalope*

            The thing is that it’s a perfectly reasonable system IF each star rating has a different effect. It is NOT reasonable if anything under perfection (1-4 stars) is treated as abject failure and only perfection is considered good.

            1. Sharon*

              Exactly, Jackalope! To ensure meaningful ratings data, everybody needs to be using the scale in the same way, so unless you explicitly tell rater how you want them to use the system, the average rating isn’t going to be useful data. Do you want me to assign a 5 to every interaction that doesn’t have significant problems, or only to exceptional interactions where the employee goes above and beyond?

      8. CJ*

        That’s honestly the reason I’ve stopped Kindle/Goodreads-rating books that I don’t perfectly love. If I can’t give them an honest five stars, I don’t complete the review, because the algorithmic damage is too much otherwise.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I am the same way with Uber. Basically you get a 5 or a 1. Great driver? 5 stars. Meh driver, but you were rude or did something that didn’t impact my safety but that I really didn’t think was okay? Probably not going to rate you at all. The guy that got pulled over by the cops during the ride and got like 3 tickets because of his reckless driving, who then loudly and vulgarly commented about it for the rest of the ride while driving like a maniac? The guy who crashed into another car (his fault) and wasted 3 hours of my life because I was stuck on a highway with police completely unconcerned about responding + him being completely unwilling to move the car to a safe location? The driver who did literally nothing when my Uber Pool co-rider assaulted me in the backseat? Yeah, they all got 1 star.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            I have stopped giving a fair number of reviews when asked for because if I don’t want to five star it, they are likely to harass me and/or someone gets in trouble. I’d rather just not say anything.

      9. Corgis rock*

        There’s a convenience store I go to on a regular basis and they will send out surveys based on a specific visit. There are two questions I almost always lie on: did the cashier smile and did they make eye contact? I don’t give a rats @$$ if they do those things and I don’t really notice so I just say “yes” because it’s clearly important to management. Now back when everyone was masked I did point out in the comment section that I had no way to know if they were smiling since they were all complying with the mask mandates.

      10. Too Many Tabs Open*

        I am that pedant, and I still give five stars when asked to rate my Lyft driver/Amazon delivery person/any person who provided adequate service.

        Because there’s my personal philosophy — four stars still means it was great! three stars means average, which is all I want out of my everyday retail transactions! if anything less than five stars is bad, do a binary system “excellent? Y/N” instead of pushing this idea that three stars is dismal!

        And then there’s the reality that if I try to push my philosophy, the company doesn’t get the message; the service worker gets harmed. I’m not going to harm service workers in the short term just so I can virtue signal my opinion of the fake five-star system.

      11. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes especially in customer service; unless you had an actual issue always always give 5 stars. You may think 3 stars is “average” and should be the default, but many companies will penalize people for receiving anything less than 5 stars!

    4. Sit down John, sit down!*

      It’s odd to me that a certain percentage of people must end up in each category. Instead, the worker’s performance should be rated using a rubric. If the person exceeds expectations, then they exceed! And if they are not meeting expectations, then give specific feedback on h how to improve. But 5% are automatically placed in that category? The whole approach to this system is flawed and will result in unhealthy competition to our dovone another and ruining work-life balance.

      1. Jasper*

        Microsoft rather famously used a similar stack ranking system where the bottom 10 percent performers were not only rated as bad, but were automatically fired. This is great if you want to encourage deeply toxic competitiveness and atmosphere.

        1. Antilles*

          Back around the early 2010’s, Vanity Fair did a really detailed insider breakdown on how Microsoft basically wasted the entire decade of the 2000’s – being way behind on adapting, missing tons of growth opportunities, and so forth. Even a decade later, it’s still a very interesting read about just everything that went wrong.

          They had plenty of on the record and anonymous interviews from current and former employees at varying levels of the company and basically every single person they talked to cited the stack ranking system as a major reason why the company lost its’ way.

        2. Beth*

          Stack rankings: the Microsoft solution to having high-perfiorming employees who accomplish great things.

          I have ex-MSFT friends. The stack rankings not only meant that the company systematically fired excellent employees every year, it turned every team into a cesspit of toxic competition. You could work together and support each other and someone would get fired, or you could undermine each other and try to make sure the person who got fired wasn’t you. Guess which scenario happened?

          A lot of tech companies got a LOT of talented employees as a result of Microsoft gutting its workforce every year, year after year.

          1. Observer*

            Microsoft was the not the first to employ stack ranking. And they weren’t the worst, either. As far as I know they didn’t automatically fire the bottom 10% . That was Jack Welch of GE. There was a reason they called him Neutron Jack.

            1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

              Correct that the bottom 10% we not automatically fired. However, it still didn’t bode well for them, and whether someone is pushed out vs being fired, it’s the same end result :( Very glad Microsoft moved away from the stack ranking system! However, it’s still used. and in fact, I think it might still be used in a well-known aerospace company.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            Other companies do the “rank and yank” thing too – Amazon does it, Yahoo did it on a quarterly basis under Mayer. If Every year or even every quarter they fire 5% to 10% of their employees, they are rank and yank, avoid them as toxic pits of siloing and intra-team competition.

          3. JustaTech*

            I once went on a trip with a friend who worked for Microsoft the day after their annual reviews. He was an incredibly solid worker, not brilliant, but the kind of person who keeps everything moving along and creates no drama. Most years he got a 3 (average) but this year a couple of people on his team had done well so he ended up with a 2.

            So he ranted, the whole dang 4 hour drive. And none of us (me, my husband an ex-Softie, or his wife) had the heart to ask him to stop talking, because he was *so* upset and it was *so* unfair.

            Now I work for a company that has a stack-ranked system (new overlords who aren’t interested in learning from Microsoft’s mistakes) and it is tediously demoralizing and frankly just dumb. Once you learn that you get the same rating if you go above and beyond or if you just do a good job, well, it’s harder to work up the energy to be awesome.

        3. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Ah, yes, top table gets flavor, bottom table gets fried. Great management lesson from the Empire.

        4. MigraineMonth*

          I’m pretty sure this is was what was happening at my old Toxic!Job. Among ex-employees, it’s considered bragging to say I lasted more than 5 years before being fired for poor performance.

      2. Robin*

        This is extremely normal at any large company where your rating is tied to your level of bonus payout.

        1. Observer*

          This is extremely normal at any large company where your rating is tied to your level of bonus payout.

          Actually, it’s not “normal” anymore. Because it was never a good way to manage, and as the results have begun to show up, more and more companies have scrapped it.

          1. Rain's Small Hands*

            Oh, I so hope you are right. I dealt with it for about 30 years of my career and its still the case in my husbands (I semi-retired and now run my own business – if I did reviews, I’d give myself 5s – but then, I only get raises if we make more money so the whole thing is sort of moot). Its so…..mathematically illiterate and psychologically unaware of how your employees think. But since I’ve dealt with it for thirty years, I don’t think the results have just started to show up now – we knew about the bad side of this back in the 1990s – I think if things have changed its just that the last few years have shifted things to the employees favor, and companies are realizing that giving good performers mediocre scores means you spend time hiring.

            We got rid of it briefly in the late 90s for the same reason – it was too hard to hire if your employees left because you weren’t giving them enough positive feedback (and money) – but it came back once the dot com bubble burst – and with a vengence – Microsoft, Netflix and Amazon weren’t the only “and we just fire or manage out anyone who is at the bottom” companies in the 2000s.

            1. Fishsticks*

              It’s similar to the Open Office Disaster Time – it’s not that people couldn’t IMMEDIATELY see how absolutely, cartoonishly awful the open office plan was right away as it became the trendy thing to do, it’s that management and often ownership of businesses refused to admit they had done anything wrong and kept turning the snowball into an avalanche and calling it a snowflake.

              Now we’re seeing open office becoming less popular again, because more or less a generation of management who made those original decisions has moved on, letting others make the changes. Stack ranking is finally starting to peter out, too, DECADES after it was exposed as doing absolutely nothing of use, because a generation of people who implemented it are no longer in charge and those who took over for them aren’t willing to just keep steamrolling something so clearly awful.

      3. KRM*

        I worked at CurrentCompany 15 years ago as a contractor, when I was starting out. At the time they had a ‘bell curve’ system where someone HAD to be the highest and someone else HAD to be the lowest. In a group where everyone did their jobs and met their goals, this sucks because someone is forced artificially higher/lower. Luckily as a contractor this didn’t apply to me (so I didn’t worry about it that much). Now I’m back as a FT employee and they’ve completely changed the system. No ratings. You’re evaluated on hitting your goals/stretch goals, with a component for you being a good colleague as well. No rankings or ratings. They *want* everyone to be minimum of 100%, with extra compensation above your stated for those who went above (think: goal was to develop 2 assays to support project X, and they developed 3 because they got together with project Y and made the 3rd one to benefit both. No later hours or overwork required). Setting up beforehand that someone MUST exceed and someone MUST fail, and it’s “unfair” to exceed multiple years in a row–that’ll just discourage high performers and have them look for other jobs.

    5. Lilo*

      Especially if the ratings affect advancement. Here, this is costing a bonus, it’s really bad business practice. I would actually leave a company that undermined workers like this.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Its encourages mediocrity or even phoning it in. OP said does not meet expectations is only a minor financial hit. Meets still gets a bonus. I am willing to bet that the big bonus you get for exceeding when divided by 2 is about the same as the meets bonus you would get for those same two years. So why bother going above and beyond.

        Also OP your manager sucks. “Other leads talking him out of it.” He’s a manager, he needs to manager whether others like it or not. But at least now you know he won’t go to bat for you and stand up to others. Feel free to do your job accordingly.

    6. Miette*

      I’ve heard this before, but it came from the top of the company. No one at the org was allowed to get too many “exceeds expectations” because then they’d have to promote you. It was a load of BS.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        My work doesn’t give anyone exceeds, ever, on policy. You can only get an exceeds on any one thing if they mark you as “needs improvement” in something else so you always average out to just “meets.”

        I am long since not motivated to give my all because why.

    7. Overit*

      Had same thing happen, ehich was a top reason why I left. My supervisor did “not believe anyone exceeds expectations”…even after telling me I HAD in fact greatly exceeded expectations.
      It was especially egregious because people doing similar work with a different supervisor got that rating. HR insisted there was nothing they could do about it.
      The ratings affected not only your annual increase but ability to qualify for bonuses. Over time, a coworker who started the same day as me with a different supervisor ended up making 30% more than me. Chief reason why I left.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yep – my boss told me I’d exceeded expectations … but she expected that from me so I was getting a cumulative “meets expectations” on my review (to avoid giving me a raise, but she didn’t say that part).

        1. MigraineMonth*

          The whole “you exceeded expectations for the role, yes, but not the personal expectations I had for you” thing is such BS. If you want to encourage an employee at the top of their role to continue to improve, give them actionable feedback and promote them.

      2. ferrina*

        I’ve worked for this person too. Wouldn’t give me a 5 on a 5-point scale because “we all have something to work on”. A coworker who worked alongside me and did the exact same work with the exact same productivity and reputation but a different supervisor got quite a few 5s (each one of them deserved!). We compared scores afterwards, and she was stunned.

        Later I had a different boss who would routinely forget what I did, then give me an average rating on my performance reviews. During the year that I single-handedly ran a 4-person department when she refused to fill the other 3 open slots, (meeting 80% of the goals that were supposed to take 4 people to accomplish) she marked me as average. She cost me a bonus several times.

    8. Quinalla*

      Similar things have happened to my husband in the past, thankfully I don’t work at a place with force ranking – our review process needs improvement too though for sure. He was similar to OP where he should really get exceeds every year, but his boss would get pressure to not have too many exceeds so occasionally he’d get meets in a category even though boss would be like look, you are really still exceeds. They were also careful to give him a big bonus anyway though as they could still do that, so it wasn’t as annoying, but still really, really obnoxious.

    9. Humble Schoolmarm*

      My school system used to evaluate teachers out of 4, 4 being excellent, 3 good, 2 needs improvement etc. There are no bonuses in public school, so it didn’t matter much, but people still cared. One year, after about 6 years teaching and all 3s and 4s, I got two 2s for fairly random stuff that didn’t make sense (participating in committees for the good of the school when I was the union rep was one). After some quiet conversations with distressed colleagues, it turned out that just about everyone that year had 2-3 2s on their evaluation. We concluded that some higher-ups somewhere in the district told the principals that everyone needed to have something to improve. The end result was pandemonium. We had teachers refusing to sign their evals and demanding detailed accounts of where they were going wrong (which the principals couldn’t give, backing up the impression that they were picking random, minor stuff to placate their bosses). Next year, just as quietly, we were all back to 3s and 4s.

    10. Momma Bear*

      Some companies have only so many “points” to give out so someone has to have the poor rating and someone the good one. If someone else also did “outstanding” then they won’t give an outstanding to someone else. My spouse had to fight for a better rating because it came with a bonus and they earned it, but then eventually left that role when it was clear that the manager was salty about it and retaliating.

    11. Anon Water*

      This must more common than I thought. At my employer, you can’t give an employee “exceeds expectations” in every category because of the same reason- no one’s “perfect”. So I took it down a notch but still do a good job and get high marks.

    12. Rage*

      A friend of mine had something similar at her Old Job. It was tech support, so phones. They had certain criteria you had to meet (customer satisfaction ratings, call time, etc.) and you would be rated quarterly on those results. But in order to receive an “exceeds expectations” rating, you had to actually IMPROVE from the previous quarter. So one quarter she had hit 100% customer satisfaction, she could no longer improve, so the next quarter she was rated at “needs improvement”. She deliberately tanked her ratings the next quarter and then cautiously raised them each quarter to maximize her “exceeds expectations” ratings.

      She kept trying to tell me to leave my (famously toxic) job and come work for her. I was like WTF no. At least I didn’t have any insane metrics to deal with.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I went to school during the era of “No Child Left Behind” public school ratings, and the law was written so that any school that didn’t improve year-over-year got a “Poor” rating.

        My school landed in the 99th percentile every year, so in the first year they were “Excellent”, the second year they couldn’t improve so received “Poor”, the third year they did better than “Poor” so they went back up to “Excellent”, and so on. It was an early lesson in the importance of mathematical literacy.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            At least the school had to be at “Poor” for several years in a row before they took away the school’s funding and sent it to private religious schools which are allowed to discriminate against children with disabilities.

    13. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Same for my org. The top ranking is impossible to attain…I’d have to negotiate world peace. These are the instructions from HR and top leadership.

      I hate that anyone outside of my direct supervisor is allowed to change anything, but performance evaluations go up the chain of command 3 layers, and people I might see once a year can fiddle with the scores and goals for next year. My last eval my supervisor and I agreed on 3 goals that followed the SMART rule: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. His boss came in and deleted all of those and added in 5 goals that weren’t in my authority to complete, have no end date, and no metrics to achieve the goal.

    14. Ben*

      Even worse are the places that require a certain proportion of people to be in the lowest evaluations with the understanding that they will be fired. Amazon had some HR policies leaked that show they do this.

      What does it say about your company when you think it’s inevitable that 5% of your workforce will always be performing at fireable levels?

      1. Observer*

        What does it say about your company when you think it’s inevitable that 5% of your workforce will always be performing at fireable levels?

        They actually don’t think that. In some cases they actually have not thought through the implications, as unbelievable as that sounds.

        In other cases, they seem to think that this will “motivate” people to always do their very best (which it doesn’t) and will also lead to REALLY top teams because you’re constantly raising the floor on what your baseline is. Except that it actually doesn’t work that way, which is why companies that actually measure those metrics don’t use these systems anymore.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It definitely motivates people to backstab and sabotage each others’ work. I’m still unlearning paranoia from my first full-time job, which was metrics-driven and hyper-competitive.

    15. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      I was moved by the organization head from one role to another (same group, change in duties) and despite being a top performer and putting in 60+ hour weeks in the role for the first 9 months there, I was given an average rating because the direct boss claimed that “no one can exceed expectations their first year in a role.” In a company where it’s standard to move laterally every 1.5-3 years. The boss was a friend but was basically too nice which translated into him not fighting hard enough for his team’s ratings.

      I started looking for my next lateral and stopped putting in extra effort. If I’m average anyway, then it’s obviously a waste of time to work late. Left that group very quickly after and the new one had no issue rewarding hard work with an above average rating.

    16. Ann Ominous*

      That is infuriating. They tried to do that at my previous job, “No one can get a perfect score.”

      I went to bat for the people I supervised: I told the high-level VP that at the start of the appraisal cycle I had written out very clear expectations and standards for ‘meets expectations’, ‘exceeds expectations’, and ‘outstanding’, and the time for changing them was when I sent them to her for review and approval a year ago.

      Now that my employee had accomplished (and even exceeded) the very high outstanding standards, I was not going to go back and tell him he didn’t get a perfect score for some arbitrary reason. If she wanted to have that conversation with my employee I would be glad to set aside time in his schedule for a meeting.

      She backed down. He got the perfect score and a large cash and PTO bonus, as well as a glowing recommendation for me when he applied for (and got!) a higher-paying job at an agency that didn’t pull our bullshit.

    17. Rain's Small Hands*

      Forced stacked ranking is REALLY common – as a manager you can only give out so many 5s on a 5 point scale, for instance, and so many 4s, and if your team is large enough, you NEED to allocate a few 1s – even if your entire team in high performing. My husband looses a team member on a high performing team that its HARD to hire for every year because of this. Its like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”

      What is strange here is that management has decided – probably in the interest of “fairness” – to spread the “exceeding expectations” around by not giving them to any one employee two years in a row. And if your team is high performing and you want to keep everyone, but are under this restriction without means to change it – it might be the best compromise you can come up with.

      And its impossible to deal with when you are talking about a bunch of people who all were A students throughout their schooling, always got high scores and are all working hard.

      The system sucks and I wish it would go away. Plus its statistically BS – they are trying to force a bell curve for normal – but they are forcing a height bell curve for the general population on a bunch of NBA players in a lot of cases. But unless the company is small, managers don’t have any control over it.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Completely agree. It’s only in hindsight that I realize ToxicCompany targeted new grads who were insecure overachievers, knowing that every “average” ranking would make them work harder. Insane hours and crying at your desk were completely normal there.

    18. That'sNotMyName*

      There are whole educational systems that operate on this premise and feel that “middle of the scale” grades mean that your grades are satisfactory, rather than the precipice of failing. It is *exhausting* applying to US universities from one.

    19. Kate*

      20 years ago I was an outside hire into a company. At the end of the fiscal year, I was the top performer across every single metric that my company measured for my role. This wasn’t a year end surprise – every month these statistics were published, and every month I was at the top.

      So I went in for my year end review, which involved my boss rating me on a scale of 1-5 in all of these different categories, where 5 was exceeds expectations.

      The guy gave me 4s across the board, and when I asked why, he said that if he gave me 5s than I wouldn’t have anything to keep shooting for. When I pointed out that both he and the national headquarters had set my targets, and the actual spreadsheet in his hand showed that I was substantially beating every metric…he shrugged.

      And then I was given much higher targets than my category level peers. I was told that it was because it was “easier” for me than all the guys that had been there for 10+ years.

      I was the only woman in my role. It was enraging.

    20. Mrs. Bond*

      Similar story to many others – one year I pushed hard to get a “greatly exceeds expectations” rating or whatever it was called (4.5/5). My boss & her boss finally agreed but I was told that it wouldn’t happen again.

      Another year (different department, same org), our department was told that too many people were getting “exceeds expectations” (4/5) and from now on most people were going to have to get “meets expectations”.

      These stories point out that a lot of organizations don’t actually want to pay people to exceed expectations, so you might as well not. I wonder if a lot of the people I worked with in the first job knew that. Some of them might have already been towards the top of the pay range for their position too.

    21. Sundari*

      I have gotten Exceeds Expectations on all of my yearly work reviews until the last review. Someone decided that supposedly no one can get that rating now, so all of my categories were marked Meets Expectations.

    22. Chickaletta*

      Similar at my company too. Every year I get great feedback, no comments about areas for improvement, just that I’m doing everything extremely well. But, I always fall in the “meets expectations” category instead of “exceeds expectations”, and also lose a percentage point of a raise because of it. When I asked my boss (who’s an SVP and very much has a say in how employees are rated) his answer was similar that “exceeds expectations” is meant to be rare and they are not to give those out except in special circumstances. It is total BS. They just don’t want to pay that 1% extra raise because god-forbid they spend an extra $500/yr on a working-class employee when that money can go toward branded keyrings to express their appreciation! (:

      1. Summer*

        Ugh all of these stories are so depressing. How is it that so many of these companies are run by toxic tyrants who always seem to do the exact opposite of what makes sense? How are so many of these people in charge? Oh, right, because it’s practically a prerequisite for a CEO to be a sociopath. This is truly the worst timeline.

    23. Pippin*

      My organization switched to the “Jack Welch” model about 10 years ago, but many departments ignored it and still gave 5’s across the board so the employees could get their measly less-than-the-COL increase each year. Now they are trying to tell us that 3s are great! We should love getting 3s!!! When you are used to getting 5s for doing your job well, trying to convince us that 3s are great isn’t working very well. Luckily, I’m retiring in May and will never have another performance evaluation in my life!!!!!

  3. Sandgroper*

    LW3 The drama llama in me would be so tempted to say nothing, and interview and watch his face when he realises. But that’s just a waste of everyone’s time. I think Alison is being generous suggesting you ring him and explain why he’s knocked out – but it’s a kindness you can extend. I’m not sure if I would go do that, unless I thought he’d a) change his resume and be accurate (and not just dump me as a reference and avoid me in future but keep lying), and b) he was a good hire in the previous role and this is something you know is out of character for him. If this is in character, and he’s highly likely to lie again I’d just let him walk and burn him later. Is he a ‘gumption’ character? Youthful/immature? Problematic? Previous work dodger and liar?

    If you don’t want to talk to him verbally you could also look him up on LinkedIn and say “Hrm, this isn’t how I recall our interactions mate” via a message, and if he responds then point out you were/are part of hte hiring committee at ABC Corp and if people are going to contact you regarding his being there you want to make sure what you say matches what he does (and you won’t lie).

    And yes. Knock him out explicitly where you are. If he’s lied about his work with you has he lied about his work elsewhere? The work he showed you at your previous role was it at the level you want him at your current place? Once a liar, often a liar? “Betty, I just wanted to raise the resume from Larry Liar, as you can see he says he worked with me on a previous project at my last place of work. Only problem was he was a data analyst who worked on one subset of data, and certainly not hte project lead. He also only worked there 11 of the 23 months he’s stated, and left in Feb. I really think we should focus on other candidates and this experience listed here is inaccurate.”

    1. ecnaseener*

      I didn’t see the call as a kindness to the candidate, so much as LW looking out for their own reputation by refusing to be a reference. One call now vs. several future calls from reference-checkers.

    2. Artemesia*

      The big danger of letting him interview is that some joker at your company will fall in love with him during the interview and want to hire him even though you object. Many a terrible employee has charmed a hiring committee.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        This! Never put anyone in the finalist pool that you wouldn’t actually hire, because someone at the top might make you hire them.

        This happened at a university department I worked in, where the committee only had two good finalists, but for some reason they thought it would look better to bring three people for campus interview visits. They thought that the next best person was so far below the other two that they would never be considered, but when the departmental committee made their case for hiring their preferred candidate, someone at the upper university level made them hire the unwanted placeholder candidate instead.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes this is precisely how they keep getting hired, for their charisma.
        OP says the guy left because of some family trouble, but that may not have been the case even, he may have just said so and HR didn’t advertise the real reason.

  4. My dear Wormwood*

    #1 the grading system is also BS. “Exceeding” or “meeting” expectations should be based on whether you actually meet or exceed your goals, not whether you were excellent but 10 other people happened to be even more excellent than you!

    Grading to the curve was stupid in school and it’s stupid in the workplace too.

    1. Phryne*

      This! And the bottom part is even worse, 5% gets a bad score. Maybe in a very large company there will be 5% genuinely underperforming but in a smaller one it will mean people get a bad score even when they do their job to expected levels just because 5% has to be graded that way and John-with-equal-performance gets the team coffee more often and Jane-idem says good morning more often.

      (I’ve also never understood grading to the curve in education, it is certainly not a thing in my country… Wondering if this is common in many countries?)

      1. londonedit*

        In England I know that for GCSE/A level (national exams at 16/18) the grade boundaries are adjusted each year based on how people have actually done – so if the papers turn out to be particularly difficult and everyone’s marks are lower than they ‘should’ be, the boundary for an A*/A/B etc will be lowered to compensate. And the other way round – if everyone gets really high marks then the grade boundaries will be raised to compensate.

        1. Jasper*

          For exams, it actually makes sense, though. In a given school year, there are so many students graduating over the whole UK that it is vanishingly unlikely that there is a statistically significant difference in their intelligence or capabilities from one year to the next — while at the same time it is also vanishingly unlikely that the exams, which are of necessity fairly different each year, and not just the same questions with different numbers plugged in, have the same level of difficulty from year to year.

          Basically, at some point you transition from individual assessments to statistics.

          1. londonedit*

            Definitely, especially when you take into account the fact that there are several exam boards with different papers for the same subject. Wouldn’t be fair if the kids sitting one board’s exam all ended up doing worse than everyone who sat a different set of papers.

          2. Phryne*

            Yes, very good point and I’m sure we do it for national final exams as well in the Netherlands. But not as far as I know at the level of a single test in college… If a test was made unusually badly, it will be analysed and possibly some question that was unclear or too ambiguous might be discarded, which would influence the grades. But there would never be an aim of a minimum percentage of passes, or top marks.

            1. Gnome*

              Reminds me of a college final. It was so hard, that the average grade was below a 50 percent. It was curved, meaning that the “A” wasn’t 90% but more like 70%. It was ridiculously hard (twice the problems of a regular exam, same amount of time).

              1. I am Emily's failing memory*

                I had a professor in college who would add the same number of points to everyone’s test score as it required to get the highest score up to 100. Since the one highest score determined the curve for the entire class, all it took was one really good student to “ruin” the curve for everyone else!

              2. SarahKay*

                My first year at university, one of the end-of-year exams was insanely tough; we were allowed to leave after 30 minutes and about 20% of people got up and left there and then. By then end of the three hours I reckon only about 20% of us were still sitting there. It was a maths exam, so one can estimate pretty accurately what marks one got; by my most generous estimate I got at most 25%.
                The pass mark was 40%, and I passed.
                Goodness only knows how much they must have moved the curve up to get whatever the uni thought was an acceptable level of passes.
                (We heard afterwards that the first two exams the lecturer submitted were rejected as too easy, so for the third one he basically went “right then, this one won’t get called too easy!”)

          3. bamcheeks*

            Well, except that teachers are also supposed to be constantly getting better at teaching, though, ao actually there SHOULF be measurable improvement in students’ abilities each year.

            The exam system in the UK is consistently confused about whether the objective is “rank students to make it easy to pick out the cleverest” or “mark everyone on an objective scale so we know what they’re capable of” or (my personal favourite) “rank the schools so the ones with the wealthiest students look best”.

            1. londonedit*

              Yes, I do enjoy the yearly dance of the tabloids twisting themselves in knots trying to work out whether they should be outraged at the ‘dumbing down’ of exams if it turns out more kids have got the top grades, or outraged at the shocking state of the education system if it happens to turn out that grades have dipped a bit.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              “Well, except that teachers are also supposed to be constantly getting better at teaching, though, ao actually there SHOULF be measurable improvement in students’ abilities each year.”

              That’s…. not how any job works.

              Less for teaching. because there are multiple metrics. There’s the years and experience of that teacher personally, the temperament of the class or classes as a whole (every teacher I know has had weird clusters of especially smart, especially disruptive, especially cooperative, or especially hard to teach, or especially *something* classrooms), the overall experience levels of the surrounding teachers, the funding level fluctuating year by year, which programs outside the core were added, or cut, the PTA or equivalent level of support and action, the size of the school… plus stuff like Covid and burnout.

              So no, a teacher who was really good one year with an especially cooperative class might not get the same metric the next year even if she has personally improved her techniques, because the kids are different and less focused, and the teacher who covers several other classes has changed, and and and….

        2. Snow Globe*

          This makes sense when you are rating thousands upon thousands of people. With large populations, things typically do fall into a bell curve. It doesn’t make sense when you have a team of 10 people.

          1. Grammar Penguin*

            And also those 10 people were selected in the first place for potential excellence in specific but different areas.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            There’s also self-selection bias. A math exam for all middle school students probably has a bell curve, but a math exam for math majors isn’t random selection. It’s more likely that the latter will resemble the top 10% of the former.

            Not to mention, groups that are discouraged from becoming math majors (e.g. women or black people) will probably be the top 5%, since they had to overcome additional barriers.

        3. Artemesia*

          Things like SATs and GREs do this too. The score is adjusted slightly based on the overall pool performance on the version being taken.

        4. That'sNotMyName*

          This makes total sense to me. You have a huge population and are essentially comparing year over year to have a similar distribution. It is nearly impossible to have completely new exams each year with all of their questions the exact same level of difficulty. I took the IB exams and there was a difference in difficulty between the practice exams (from previous years) and the actual exams. Some harder and some easier for me. Also, I believe the adjustments are not huge so an A won’t turn into a C but borderline scores will shift.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        In Ireland, we don’t exactly grade to a curve, but the marking gets adjusted to ensure grading is similar across subjects. So you won’t have exactly 10% As, 20% Bs, etc in every subject, but if one subject or one year is coming out very different, they will probably adjust so that students are marked a little harder or easier, for example by giving full marks if the candidate makes three points about the topic when usually four would be required. That sort of thing.

        The reasoning (and this is specifically an issue in Ireland) is that entry to college is based on your results in your 6 best subjects in the Leaving Cert., so say the Geography exam was way easier than the other subjects, then people who did Geography would be getting in to college ahead of people who had higher ability than them but who had a harder exam. Or if the Geography exam this year was way harder than last year’s exam, then people who took a year out would have an unfair advantage.

        Actually, there is a huge issue arising here due to covid. The exam was cancelled during covid and instead teachers gave sort of predicted grades. So on average, the results were way higher than normal. That means that if the exams were now corrected the normal way, students from those years could apply and get in ahead of this year’s candidates, even if their ability is similar. Last year, there were adjustments made to the paper and so on to ensure similar results and a level playing field, but this can’t continue. There were so many people getting top points that I think some colleges had to result to lotteries as more people were getting the top points than they had places for.

        But people at work aren’t directly competing like that. One major point of the Leaving Cert. is to compare people and it is a direct list – the applications office basically lists the applications in order of how many points they got and the top however many there are places for get them. That isn’t the point of work.

      3. Spencer Hastings*

        I’m in the US and this kind of curving (no matter how well/badly everyone does, the number of people who get grade X is predetermined) seems very old-fashioned to my Millennial eye. In grade school, my grades were generally based on percentages (if you get 88% of the points, that’s a B+, and so on). In college, and starting a bit in high school, some classes would have very difficult exams that were curved *up* (the worst math test I ever bombed, I got about a third of the points, and that ended up being a C!). But curving down/predetermined numbers of F grades was something I only read about in books.

        1. londonedit*

          That’s how it was at my (UK) university – the boundaries between grades (or classifications, really – at uni everything is either a First, 2:1, 2:2 or Third) were fixed and there was no adjustment. If no one got a First on a particular essay, no one got a First.

        2. Rock Prof*

          The only place I’ve actually encountered professors grading on a set curve were in intro biology classes specifically geared to premeds, which was at my previous university. I’ve adjusted scores up if my tests ended up being tough, but I’ve definitely taught classes where everyone got As and Bs. If they get the content, they get the content!
          All that said, my previous department did totally ridiculous merit scores. They were on a scale of 1-5, and they basically would rig it so that when you were on the tenure track and doing fine your score went up every year to show progress but wasn’t actually tied to any specific metrics. So, my first year I actually had the most papers published (we only had undergrads, so research often took a back seat) because they were holdovers from my PhD/post-doc, but I still had the lowest score of my entire time there!

      4. EPLawyer*

        Law schools do this. In a place where scholarships are based on your GPA. The grades must be on a curve no matter how well a student does. Schools give a TON of scholarships to the first year students. To maintain it, you have to stay in the top 25% which because of the curve is really hard to do unless you outshine EVERYONE in EVERY single class.

        My torts prof was actually told to lower grades because he had graded everyone too high. I went from an A- to B. Thannnnnnnnksssss school.

      5. New Jack Karyn*

        The social science department at my old college (25 years ago and more) had a sort of modified curve. The top grade for a particular paper or exam was the benchmark–say it was a 94. Then the instructor marked at steps 10% from there: Anything 84% or above was an A, 74% and above was a B, etc. This process helped students if that assessment was especially difficult, and hard for many students to get an absolute top mark. And it didn’t soften things up too much if nailing it was feasible.

    2. Lilo*

      The other thing that needs to be clear is “meets” or “exceeds” expectations is the expectations for a person in that role, NOT based in individual performance. Meaning you can’t play gotcha and go “oh she’s amazing so our expectations were very high”. Sounds insane, I know, but I’ve heard of bad companies pulling that.

      It’s an excellent way to drive off your top performers.

      1. Jasper*

        I have been told that since the second year I worked for my company. Although not on a personal basis, just because Id been an employee for a while. And while I could see that being a factor for the first so many months, it makes for an exceedingly unmotivating environment in that respect when you hear that in year 2 or 3 or 10.

      2. ferrina*

        I had a boss that played that game. It was awful, and she would retroactively adjust her expectations based on how well you did.

      3. Ben*

        Cynically, I think this is something bad managers do to protect themselves from competition. They’re actually threatened when their reports perform too well so they encourage everyone to regress to the mean.

    3. Teapot Translator*

      Maybe it’s a money thing? If we have 9 exceeding expectations, we can give them X, but if we have 12, we have to adjust the amount per person.
      Rumour has it, that’s how it works in my office. If they want to give X% to A, a high performer, they need to give less to the others.

    4. kassa*

      On Andor (the latest Star Wars show), the main character is in a terrifying prison labor camp where the most productive team each day gets rewarded with flavor in their tasteless food paste and the least productive team gets electroshocked. If it’s a good system in a fictional fascist prison, it’s probably not a good system in a functional company.

    5. LizB*

      Yeah, the only way those labels make sense is if the only expectation is “outperform between 5% and 95% of your coworkers”. Then, yes, if you’re in the bottom 5% you’ve missed the expectation, and if you’re in the top 5% you’ve exceeded it. It’s a very very stupid way to measure performance.

    6. Kate*

      As the parent of a 12th grader, this is also my huge issue with class rank when applying to colleges. My kid goes to an excellent school, and all the kids in his class are ready for college and would thrive. But because of class rank, some of them are going to be told they’re at the bottom of the class, and that’s going to be reported on their college applications as well. It doesn’t matter that those kids are doing great work at all, they’re in the bottom 10% of their excellent class.

      (This isn’t person: my kid isn’t affected, they’re 4th in their class, I just find the system appalling and irrelevant to an individual’s performance.)

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Looking from Ireland, where our government was pushing to get teachers to grade part of their own students’ junior cert exams (and when teachers pushed back against it, misrepresented this as teachers objecting to continuous assessment rather than teachers wanting continuous assessment marked externally), which thankfully aren’t really required for anything anyway, this is my biggest concern about the possibility that if they get their way, they’ll also try it with the Leaving Cert. (which determines entry to college).

        People say “oh, we should trust teachers. They’re not going to deliberately mark down the students they dislike.” And I agree with this, but schools DO differ. Some schools have a reputation for good facilities for students with special educational needs for example and therefore tend to get a lot of them, whereas the Gaelscoileanna…well, most people aren’t going to send a child who is stuggling to do his or her learning through a second language, so they tend to attract the more able students. And if you are teaching in a school for a long time, you begin to assume your students are the norm. If you are teaching in a school where 60% of students are reading 3-7 years below their chronological age, you start to think the kid who is reading at grade level is above average whereas if you are teaching in a school where 70% of kids are reading above grade level, you are likely to see that kid as below average.

        There are strict protocols on our current system to ensure everybody marks to the exact same standard. And given that, unlike many other countries, nothing other than Leaving Cert. results are taken into account for most college applications (well, OK, there are minimum age limits for most) and even a 5% difference in any one subject can mean the difference between being accepted into the course of your choice…yeah, I think we need to retain the national standard rather than school standard situation (there are problems with the current system too as not everybody has the same advantages, but still).

      2. Liz*

        If it helps, admissions staff know which are the good schools and generally don’t care about class rank because relatively few schools use it now.

    7. Iroqdemic*

      At my Big Multinational Corp. they do stacked rankings every year for annual evaluations, and it comes down to how small down they want the “perfect spread” to go. If your entire dept of 200 employees has to have 1-2% in “needs improvement”, the chances that there are 2 people that legitimately fall in that range. But if you have to have 1-2% in “needs improvement” on your team of 10 people, suddenly you are making up the justification for the score you have to give out. I hated evaluations when I was a manager because of that. Every year it was more justifying the scores I was forced to give because of my 10 employees, I had to have 1 “needs improvement” and 1 “exceeds expectations” and everybody else was ranked “meets expectations” in between. It’s bullcrap and dumb.

  5. AcademiaNut*

    For LW2, another practical reason not to do this is ergonomics. A booked conference/meeting room generally comes with chairs that are suitable to sit in all day. I can sit on my dining room chairs for the length of a dinner, but after about two hours or so they become really uncomfortable when I’m working (also, I can’t adjust the height for to be able to type comfortably). Also, does your coworker have a projector, screen and whiteboard (if those are things you’d use during the meeting)?

    1. SwiftSunrise*

      Ooooh, yes, I hadn’t even thought of this. My dining table has the best strategical placement for a Zoom background, but by the end of a 90-minute book club, I am dying to go sit ANYWHERE ELSE.

    2. Phryne*

      ‘A booked conference/meeting room generally comes with chairs that are suitable to sit in all day.’

      OP works in education… if their facilities are like ours, that means conference room is currently unbooked classroom, and furniture is wooden school chairs… I have to seriously consider underwear on those days or I will have seams permanently embedded on my anatomy.

      The screen etc. is very valid though. And although I doubt going to the toilet needs permission every time when in someone’s home that long, it would probably feel weird to just get up and help yourself to coffee in someone’s kitchen

      1. Jane*

        It’s a really minor point but someone who offers their house and has boundary issues is probably going to point out the bathroom and give you a big “help yourself!” to the kitchen, so while you might feel weird about it, they are not going to see asking permission as necessary or an issue.

        I would bring up chairs explicitly as a lot of people will see a home as more comfortable than a conference room. Just thinking of the concrete breeze block rooms of my university days.

        1. Jasper*

          … I’m sorry what? Asking *permission* to use the toilet?

          Maybe it’s my undiagnosed ND coming out, or maybe it’s different countries, but… that’s not really a thing I’ve ever considered to be a Thing.

          1. Lisa*

            I’d guess asking permission would be more like an indirect way of asking /where/ the bathroom is. “Can I use your bathroom?” “Sure, it’s just down the hall.” And then that would be it, no further asking needed for the rest of the day.

          2. Esmeralda*

            Where’s the bathroom?
            or more politely,
            Could you point me towards the bathroom?

            I don’t know anyone who asks permission to use a bathroom when a guest in a home. Not even the most polite people. It’s assumed you have permission, unless the host says, “Plumbing problem in that one, please use the upstairs” or “Fluffy is locked up in the upstairs bathroom, so don’t use that one please”

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              Interesting! Where I’m from (Canada) a “Do you mind if I use your washroom?” Is expected if a) it’s your first visit. b) you aren’t particularly close. c) it’s a short visit to the house (ie under 30 min).
              Now I’m wondering how this correlates to places where you take off your shoes when entering (a must here unless your host gives you explicit permission to leave them on)

              1. londonedit*

                British and yep, you absolutely would say ‘Could I use the loo?’ or ‘Could you tell me where the loo is?’. Unless it was a very close friend, I’d probably still say ‘Excuse me, just popping to the loo’ if I was visiting someone, even if I’d been to their house before. It would be a bit odd to just get up and leave the room.

                1. The Prettiest Curse*

                  I’m British too, and it must have been drilled into my 80-year-old mother to always ask … because she asks if she can use the toilet whenever she’s at my house. She’s my mother – what am I going to do, say no??

                2. Happy meal with extra happy*

                  One of the inside jokes I have with my mom is asking “can I use the bathroom” and her going “I don’t need to give you permission!” It’s especially funny because for the last several years, it’s been at my house, and she’s been visiting. (I may find it funnier than her…lol.)

                3. UKDancer*

                  Yes I’d ask “may I use the loo” but it’s a question expecting the answer yes almost all of the time. You’re mainly asking so they point you in the correct direction and know where you’re going. I’ve never had anyone say “no you can’t” it’s just a social nicety and a way of putting it.

              2. As Per Elaine*

                Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised to be asked if someone was just stopping by, or if, say, we we outside so the guest had to go into the house to use it. I would probably ask under those circumstances, too. But if someone is here for several hours, I’d just expect an “excuse me” or a “where’s your bathroom?” although I wouldn’t be surprised by the latter being phrased as a “may I,” especially on the first visit.

                I think asking is more likely since COVID hit, since people may feel less comfortable with such things.

                I also feel like the boundaries get a little stronger if it’s a professional interaction rather than a guest — I would absolutely expect the guy fixing my dishwasher to ask if he wanted to use my bathroom (though maybe not the plumber who just replaced the toilet). And if I have people painting the porch or whatever I try to explicitly mention that there’s a bathroom in the basement (accessible from the yard) that they’re welcome to use, since I know they don’t necessarily have access to another one, and it’s a weird thing to assume.

              3. That'sNotMyName*

                I don’t think it correlates. However, there’s definitely an inverse correlation with how long the visit is. Less than a few hours? Yup. More than that? Probably not. More than a day? Just go. I think it might also come from the fact that a quick visit is more likely to be direct socializing so just walking out of the room, which is totally fine in a work setting, is noticeable and kinda rude in a social one.

              4. Zorak*

                Agree, it’s a very normal polite way to ask where the bathroom is in someone’s house. “Do you mind if I just your bathroom?” And then they say yes and tell you where it is.

            2. I am Emily's failing memory*

              About 10 years ago I remember reading an article about some horrid politician who was being criticized for some obvious racial bias that had leaked from something he wrote, and in defending himself to the newspaper seeking a quote from him, he assured the reporter that he had no problem with black people – “I even let them use my bathroom when I have workers at the house!”

              Ok dude, thanks for clearing up that you’re not monstrous enough to deny humans access to the only on site bathroom for a full day, but that you are monstrous enough to think doing so is a virtue worth bragging about.

          3. Beth*

            Of more concern is the number of bathrooms available. Most houses have two at most. How many people will be attending this meeting?

        2. ferrina*

          It also sounds like they have other people living in the household, and those people may or may not be around. I would weird about having to navigate bathroom usage with a coworker’s child/parent/spouse. Even worse if I had some sort of health thing going on that day.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Ergonomics and confidentiality– other people live there, and you may need to discuss specific students. “Oh they’re gone all day” doesn’t cut it if spouse gets sick.
      And there’s a third reason– if host gets sick are you left scrambling? Or would you be holding retreat at the home of someone who should be on sick leave thus greatly increasing exposure to a contagious illness?

      1. Lisa*

        I side-eyed that “The colleague (…) has their family living with them.” very hard. Not that having a family is wrong in any way but what is the size of that family, will they all be home; if this colleague has trouble with boundaries, is that a family trait?

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yeah, a person’s home isn’t going to have the same technology and capacity for a meeting as a room in a building that is already used for that purpose. A change of scenery can be good for generating some creative thinking. However, people need workplace furniture and access to office machines and supplies for a business meeting. Never mind the interpersonal awkwardness of navigating someone’s family home to find the bathroom — think also about the time wasted while everybody tries to get their computer on the WiFi, oops Coworker A was supposed to bring the flip chart and markers but they forgot, we’ve got 7 attendees but only a 6-seat dining table, etc., etc.

    5. Malarkey01*

      Like everything LW needs to decide how much capital they want to burn. Some colleagues are excited about this, it’s academia, people get very excited about off sites which can be viewed as a relaxed way to get out of the office.

      Bringing up things like chairs, possibility of a family being sick, not wanting to use someone’s bathroom, preferring to sit in an unused classroom may come across odd in this office. It’s not that it’s not valid to not like this setup, but it’s also a temporary 1-2 day thing that people sound excited about so just take that into consideration whether it’s worth raising them.

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Please, please don’t do this. If it’s a work event, people can’t just excuse themselves as they might for a social occasion, and what if they’re allergic to the host’s pets, or have accessibility needs that most homes aren’t set up to handle? And if the event is held at Esmeralda’s house this year, it becomes “the way we’ve always done things” and gets hard to change.

      1. Kate*

        Accessibility was where my brain went. So many things are built into a professional or commercial space that aren’t in homes.

      2. KKfrog*

        Another good point – there is a dog and maybe a cat, and while I don’t mind meeting a friendly cute animal my hay fever -allergies goes ballistic if I spend more than a few minutes with an animal.

    7. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Also you have to consider parking. If the coworker lives on a busy street I doubt their neighbors are going to be happy with all the extra cars. OP just says its a small team. That could be 5 people or it could be 20 because other teams are much larger.

      You also have to consider if anyone relies on public transit. It sounds like they work at a campus so the bus or train probably stops on or near campus. But in many cities the bus is less reliable or does not stop as often in some residential areas. If the coworker lives farther out or in an area where it would be several blocks to get to the nearst stop and some people rely on transit it could make it so people are not able to go to the retreat,

    8. to varying degrees*

      See and I was thinking the exact opposite. Most meeting rooms/conference rooms that I’ve seen available for booking have pretty crappy chairs (especially if it’s a hotel or something). My poor back would much prefer dining room chairs as they tend to have more padding and cushion.

    9. HotSauce*

      Ergonomics, accommodations for people with disabilities, people with allergies (if the home has pets, smokers, mold, etc.), comfort level, parking availability, liability in case of accident… there are many reasons why this is not a good idea.

    10. KKfrog*

      Good point, I am the OP, this is my question that is being answered, good call in observing dining chairs are not ergonomic. There was a question from other staff about the internet quality, they said it was good, I need to raise the question about a projector and screen and also A3 printing. Often we print out large versions of programs and timetables to work on as a group and we usually look at timetables and other info projected on a screen. Thanks and also for other replies below

  6. Aimless and Abstract*

    My employer also has a policy similar to the one in letter 1. Not that the top ratings get passed around, but that supervisors are *not allowed* to give anyone the top rating in more than one category/year. Ever.
    Because they are supposed to be ending a message that there is always “room to improve”
    But why bother trying to improve if company policy means you never can be rated well? If I can only ever be rated mediocre, fine. I’ll BE mediocre for ya.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My company used to say only 1 person can exceed expectations in a department in a year– which was pure bs in years when we ALL scrambled to rework an product line due to regulatory changes and other departments did not deliver their pieces on schedule.

      If I recall correctly that was why I first searched out AAM. If personal life had been less chaotic I’d have been job hunting.
      Thankfully a new layer of upper management canned that idea.

    2. Me (I think)*

      Oh god this is triggering. Had a director one year who gave me all 5’s down the line – the highest score – then gave my overall rating as a 4. They said, “I can’t give you a 5 because then there is no room for improvement year.”

      OK, so next year I work even harder, and you’ll give me a 5? “Well, no, because then there is no room for improvement the following year.”

      Mind you, our evaluation ratings had nothing to do with our raises, we all got the same 0.0, or 0.5, or maybe, if they were being particularly generous, 2% raises.

    3. Qwerty*

      Do they not realize that you can still give improvement notes to someone with top marks? I think we renamed ours to something like “professional growth” because even a top performer is still going to be learning. It just might be “hey, this conference/class would be helpful” rather than “you need to do better than X”.

      I liked one company I was at that basically did a campaign to explain “meets expectations” was an “A” and came with raises and stuff. Higher marks were to indicate someone growing out of their role. So while it was unusual to get top marks every year, that’s because you’d get promoted and need to grow into the new role. That level setting was more for managers though, because so many of our managers wanted to default everyone to a top score which made it hard for high performers to get recognized.

      1. 2 Cents*

        Nope, they don’t. The best professor I had in college marked up assignments so much, it could be hard to read the original. You could still end up with an A, but his philosophy was the biggest travesty in education (or life) was receiving work back with NO feedback. He’s right. My writing improved so much.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        This is similar to how its handled in my company. I think in part the intention is to avoid bosses playing favorites or being too soft but the explanation is that “exceeds expectations” means that you probably should have already been promoted/given additional roles/responsibilities.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I worked for a job where, in order to get promoted, you had to prove that you’d already been doing work for the higher-level job for several months.

          It was nuts. I have no idea how that was expected to work well. I’d hate to manage someone at step 3 who was trying to do step 4 work even though I hadn’t cleared them for it because I didn’t think they were ready.

    4. Double A*

      At our organization the standard is that meets expectations is good and normal, and that is where most people will fall. No one exceeds expectations on all categories because there’s not enough time in the day to. You’re considered a high performer if you exceed expectations in one or two categories.

      Our ratings aren’t tied to bonuses or anything though, nor are they arbitrarily limited. I feel like they’re fair and accurate. I would side eye someone at my company who complained about not being rated exceeds expectations across the board.

      1. Aimless and Abstract*

        At some level that makes sense, but to limit it to ONE “exceeds expectations” isn’t good, either. ESPECIALLY since some of the items being evaluated were hard numbers. If the target score on one item for all employees in my role is 37 and I consistently was in the 50s, I *am* exceeding expectations every year on that one. And when there are 23 metrics, and I’m significantly above the target on 14 of them, why should be supervisor be told NOT to reflect that on my review? Especially since reviews ARE tied to raises here!
        We aren’t talking about soft skills where a manager could play favorites. We’re talking about hard numbers that are rated DOWN by policy, impacting everyone’s morale and earning power.
        People who do work that exceeds expectations should be able to have that reflected on their reviews.
        I’d side eye anyone who won’t understand that.

  7. A Pound of Obscure*

    #1 – that’s very, very common in large companies. I worked for one of the largest defense contractors in its IT division about 15 years ago, and that’s exactly how it worked. In theory, they are hiring good, talented people and applying measurable performance criteria to weed out poor performers, so — and this is something you either missed or didn’t comment on because it didn’t affect you — there might not actually be a “bottom 5%” of hires, yet the quota system demands that 5% be arbitrarily placed in that tier. I was a team lead for a time and actually went back to an individual contributor role due to my distaste for this. Also, and I mean this in the kindest way: You should never expect to receive an “exceeds” rating. Meeting expectations is a good thing. It’s great that you were rewarded with that rating in your first year and I have no doubt that you earned it, but it is really not the norm, for all the reasons you are now seeing. Essentially, there’s a quota at both ends. Falling within that wide middle is the happy zone. Just work hard and do the best job you can. I found that in those companies there are often other rewards, such as peer-nominated annual awards for being a valuable part of a team, etc. etc. that mean far more than being slotted into the top 15% or (shudder) the bottom 5% because management is required to divvy things up that way for budgetary reasons.

    1. A Pound of Obscure*

      … and by “my distaste for this” I mean that in the supervisory role I had rank my staff according to those percentages, although I didn’t feel anyone on my team was in the “needs improvement” category.

      1. CarlDean*

        My point being – I get that there’s a quota. Not everyone can be top 15%. But for those that are, there are likely at least a few that are top 15% year in, year out. Top performers tend to be that way, not alternate annually. Top 5% is probably pretty constant.

      2. Sharon*

        In that case, the employees should be told that to get a top rating, they have to be better than 85% of their coworkers, not that they have to achieve XYZ and exhibit behaviors ABC. It’s the disconnect between the ratings system communicated and how the ratings are actually assigned that really irks people.

    2. Clobberin’ Time*

      When it affects bonuses and promotions, there’s no reason to be content with this nonsense.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        As long as the company is clear on how the rankings and raises work, I don’t know about being content but at least not wasting any emotion being mad about the score. People say “but it affects bonuses and promotions” as if that means if employees could just get the managers to give everyone higher scores, everyone would get more money and everyone would get promoted, but that’s just not how budgets or org charts work. Payroll can’t just keep getting bigger and bigger every year if revenue isn’t increasing enough to sustain it, and org charts can’t accommodate everyone who never leaves the company ending up in senior management – there aren’t enough roles to go around.

        So by all means, if you realize you’re not going to get rewarded in any way you find valuable for going above and beyond, absolutely it’s your prerogative to stop going above and beyond, or to look for another job. I don’t think it’s useful framing though to imagine that the scoring system is holding people back – you can revamp the scoring system all you want and give everyone top marks every year, but doing that still wouldn’t lead to any more raises or promotions than are currently being awarded, because changing the rating system doesn’t change the supply of jobs or money available in the budget.

    3. JustSomeone*

      My spouse also works at a behemoth company with international reach, and things are similar there. Each manager is given a certain allotment of each rating that they are allowed to give their direct reports, based on a similar allotment given to they person’s own manager by their grand boss, and on up/down the line. It’s ridiculous and one of the reasons I would abhor working for my spouse’s company (although they are very happy there.)

      1. Phryne*

        My workplace tried this once. It is education, college, but some reorganisation was needed and they brought in some people who had previously handled reorganisations in banks. Except a government funded educational institution is not a commercial bank, and the people working there are generally not motivated by the same incentives.
        About half the managers complied, the other half point blank refused to comply. Several years onwards, there are far more of the second group still around. Guess making yourself very impopulair with your reports makes managing them hard in the long term.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “I found that in those companies there are often other rewards, such as peer-nominated annual awards for being a valuable part of a team, etc. etc.”
      My company does this. It has value. The value is that peer recognition gets counted into my annual review which then improves my scores and increases my merit raise.

      1. ferrina*

        That’s tricky though. Folks that have more public-facing roles and peers/managers that advocate for them will more naturally get more awards and praise. I worked one place where a colleague and I had a major project that affected the whole company; we worked a ton of overtime, were wildly unqualified but got it done in a big way (they fired the guy that was supposed to lead it, and didn’t get a replacement), and then….nothing. The few people that knew what we did just didn’t care and didn’t nominate us for anything. We were both very much underpaid, and the $200 recognition would have gone a long way.
        My current company has a way to give praise that gets taken into consideration on the Annual Review, but has no monetary value attached. (so no one is left out when their manager/peers don’t nominate them)

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Oh, I’m not advocating this as good thing at all. I am using it to illustrate that peer reviews are at MOST a nice, but just an additional factor in one’s review, not that they should replace a good review because arbitrary reasons like OP’s.
          That you did not receive the monetary reward that you were owed proves that management needs to be more responsible for rewarding/acknowledging individual contributors. Pawning it off on peers to recognize each other is crap management.

    5. CurrentlyBill*

      I’ve always hated systems that make my success and compensation contingent on my colleagues failure.

    6. Bilateralrope*

      An I wrong for comparing that quota system to the prison in Star Wars: Andor ?

      Because the only differences I’m seeing are the specific rewards and that Andor wants us to see it as a cruel system.

    7. Observer*

      There is a good reason that many companies have dropped this kind of nonsense. When you have teams with problematic member, this can work. But this kind of thing works against creating collaborative teams. And it also causes unnecessary and disruptive churn as well as a real morale hit.

      And in fact, your advice is a perfect example of how this kind of system drags down performance. Because in this kind of system the OP “can’t” get consistently rewarded for top of the line performance due to “reasons”, so they shouldn’t even try to perform at a consistently really high level. Just do OK and stay somewhere in the middle.

      Do some research on Stack Ranking. Also read up on Jack Welch.

      1. gsa*

        I was thinking Jack Welch too.

        Promote the top 10% and fire the bottom 10%.

        It only works if your best performer and your worst performer are miles apart. It does not work if everybody is balled up together and meeting or exceeding expectations.

      2. ferrina*

        Yeah, it also means that you are keeping low performers around until you get to Annual Reviews. That’s just bad management. If I know in March that someone isn’t going to work out, should I keep them around until December so they’ll be in the bottom 5% and I don’t need to fire someone else?

    8. ecnaseener*

      “Just do the best job you can,” when you know for a fact you’re not eligible to be recognized for going above and beyond? No. Do a good job, meet the expectations of your job, and leave it there.

      I hate this idea that you should never expect to be rated “exceeds expectations” even when you’ve objectively exceeded the expectations of your job, because they don’t want to give the top rank to too many people. Call it something else that makes an ounce of sense sense, like “exceptional.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Or better yet, just give “exceeds expectations” to everyone who did a great job/falls in that category on the rubric/met all their stretch goals. If someone is the best you’ve ever had and would break the curve, don’t give them a different score, *promote them*.

    9. Lilo*

      It’s also a massive inefficient system. I’m a trainer at work and we don’t try to push out people who aren’t making it, we try to salvage them. Some accountant once mentioned every new hire costs us a surprisingly large amount of money when you add up the hours for hiring and training (not counting their salary). We have a strong financial incentive to save a hire that can be saved.

      1. ferrina*

        This. I’m peripherally involved in our training system, and we’re constantly evolving the process to try to get all of our performers out of the bottom 5%. Either we’re training the individuals to get their skills improved as fast as possible, or we’re training their managers on how to recognize and address performance issues. If they’re salvagable, let’s get them on level. If they’re not, let’s get them out so we’re not wasting salary dollars.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          If you succeed, doesn’t that just mean there’s a new bottom 5%? That’s like trying to make everyone in your company above average for your company.

    10. Workerbee*

      I’ve gone through enough versions of that nonsense to be very grateful I’m now in an org that does none of that. They actually value my contributions, and reflect that accordingly each year.

      No matter the rhetoric used to try to make it make sense or, worse, “good for you!”, being told you’ll never be considered as exceeding when there is a damn exceeding block or line item just sitting there, is demoralizing.

  8. The Prettiest Curse*

    LW2 – it sounds like your colleague wouldn’t be a good host for this event for the reasons you mentioned.

    Hosting retreats at people’s houses did happen once or twice during my time working at a large national nonprofit. I did go to one of these – my colleague who hosted had a really lovely house and basically approached it like it was any other professional event. We had a flipchart and comfortable seating and it was fine. However, we were a small group and her family wasn’t there.

    As an event planner, I wouldn’t ever want to plan an event at someone’s house because of the potential for damage, breakage and theft (or the host losing something and assuming it was theft.) I would ask around local nonprofits to ses if they have a board room you can use – we used to loan out out board room to another nonprofit. You may also be able to find low-cost or free meeting space through your local government (parks and recreation) or by searching for “nonprofit meeting space”, “free meeting space” or “low-cost meeting space” plus your city name. Good luck!

    1. Tinkerbell*

      LW2, I get why you’re not happy about the situation, but don’t be surprised if nobody else shares your alarm. I’ve had this happen a few times over the years, and usually the worst part was a bit of snark afterwards about how nice it would be to have such a huge, perfect, well-decorated home (i.e. it accentuated how much more the host was making than the rest of the group was). Every time it’s happened for me, though, it was in more of a non-profit setting and there really was a disparity between the board member hosting and us underpaid peons who worked/volunteered there.

      If it really really bothers you, you can certainly try to delicately suggest an alternative… but you might end up using up a lot of capital that you might have wanted to spend later :-\

      1. JSPA*

        Not strange in academics, per my experience, but things like pet allergies are a problem.

        And no, you don’t need to ask to use the bathroom each time! The host will say, “this is the closest bathroom, there’s another one at the top of the stairs, and if they’re both full, knock on Jeremy’s door and tell him you need to use his.”

        The host wanting to be helpful is… not a bad thing. The host wanting to be friendly to everyone is… not a bad thing. The host lacking boundaries is a bit of a bad thing, but: you being in their house does not give them access to your life (or your house). It only gives you access to their house. It’s OK to accept this sort of broad offer from someone who’s trying to be helpful and liked, whether or not you individually / personally like them. You’re allowed to be grateful to someone, or to thank them for being helpful, and still leave them in the column of “person I don’t plan to hang out with.”

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          The bathroom thing really wasn’t an issue at the retreat I attended. There was one downstairs bathroom and we were just asked to use that and we could take a bathroom break whenever we wanted. We were asked not to go upstairs, though, which was fine because I didn’t want to accidentally walk into a bedroom.

        2. KKfrog*

          This is a great insight – i can appreciate their offer without moving them mentally to bestie status,

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        My colleague who hosted us didn’t have a super well-paid job, but her husband was a lawyer, so that explained the nice house. It’s definitely in poor taste to make low-paid colleagues come around to your place if it’s big and really nice, though. Her house wasn’t huge, but was just very well decorated and furnished.

        1. Over It*

          Yeah this. It’s not necessarily egregious to host a retreat at a colleague’s house, but if you go that route, hosting duties should fall on someone senior. Even if a lower-level staff has the largest/nicest house due to their family situation, hosting is a burden and other lower-level staff may feel pressured to volunteer to do the same in the future. The optics are just bad.

          We had a one-day staff retreat at Big Boss’ house last year and it worked out nicely and was drama-free. We work in government, so unless a venue is 100% free, it would have been a huge headache to get approval to book something else, and we wanted a different scene than our own conference rooms. Luckily I work on the type of team where either Boss or Big Boss always pick up the tab on infrequent events like this.

        2. Happy meal with extra happy*

          I find this really odd, thinking it’s in poor taste, because it leads to the question of “how shitty must one’s house be until it’s appropriate to invite coworkers?”

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            If you know that your colleagues are vastly underpaid compared and you live in a mansion or something – yeah, it’s extremely tacky to have a mandatory work event at your house. (Hosting an event that’s optional would be a different scenario.) Though like I said, this whole issue of having retreats at someone’s house is a minefield for many other reasons too, so is best avoided.

      1. Sparkle Llama*

        Another option is seeing if a partner organization could let you use their space. I attended a retreat at the offices of a different local government from where I worked. It was a nice change of pace to be somewhere physically different and I think we just paid for it by being willing to do the same for them.

  9. DyneinWalking*

    #3: So many people struggle to differentiate between gossip/tattling and rightfully speaking up. And it’s actually understandable – they’re two extremes of a range and the middle is full of tricky situations where most couldn’t agree on what’s the right thing to do.

    But. At the ends of the range, people can agree, and this is one of those situations. Spreading what you know is “gossip” if neither you nor the people you talk to are affected (pinning down the “affected” is what makes this so tricky). But here, both you and the coworkers you should talk to are very, very much affected! The company has a reasonable wish to avoid employing people who lied about their achievements on their resume (not just because of the lies, but also because they want people who actually have the necessary skills for the job, which this applicant apparently doesn’t), and as a result you are expected to speak up if you know about something like this – so not doing so can, and likely will, affect your reputation.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, I think the OP is getting her confidentiality habit as a manager mixed up with the basic professional responsibility to speak up when people are being lied to, (especially when in connection with their name). The OP is not the one who made this the business of (potentially) many people. As soon as the employee decided to broadcast a bunch of lies, they are the ones who made this widespread. Also it’s not like the OP is taking this to the market square, or social media; they are only correcting the record with relevant people. Honestly, I’d feel comfortable adding additional context, he did name you as a reference!

      1. DyneinWalking*

        As soon as the employee decided to broadcast a bunch of lies, they are the ones who made this widespread.

        That’s not conclusive, though, plenty of people tell white lies to avoid talking about personal issues and sometimes those lies reach a lot of people. But despite that broadcasting that doesn’t entitle other people to correct the record.
        What matters is how much the other people are affected (balanced against how much the lying person would be affected if the lies are revealed) and which party has a better claim to your confidentiality (as well as whose displeasure has more effect on your own life in the long run).

        But all those points put LW3 very much in the clear. Sure, the applicant’s life might be affected badly if he doesn’t get the job – but that could be true for all applicants, most of which presumably haven’t lied this blatantly on their resume. And you can only put a limited pool of applicants into closer consideration, only interview some, and only hire one – so if you are “nice” to this applicant by not removing them from consideration, that might push another applicant without such a known fault out of the hiring process. And that isn’t being “nice” either, is it?
        Also, employing someone who can’t meet the expectations of the job is not just bad for the company at large, but also for the coworkers who will have to deal with that person everyday. So all in all that’s quite a lot of people potentially affected by this.

  10. Observer*

    # 2 – The retreat

    You say that “The colleague has some boundary issues in the past, has their family living with them, and always wants to be everyone’s friend.” Which seems to imply that there is something problematic with his family living with him.

    I realize that that’s probably not what you meant, but when talking about the issue, you want to make sure that you don’t give someone the impression that that’s what you think. I do sympathize with your discomfort. But I think that Alison’s response is probably more likely to get you what you want. I know that I would be tempted to point out that it would be really uncomfortable to intrude into people’s personal space to do perfectly normal things like use the restroom. I would still try to stick to Alison’s script, because it really is better.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I took it to mean they will be home during the meeting and might overhear something or make noise that interrupts the meeting.

      1. Allonge*

        Exactly, or inconvenienced by the meeting at the very least – having an extra dozen people in a house smaller than a country manor is a huge impact on everyone.

    2. Turingtested*

      The sentence you italicized got my hackles up but I think I’m being too hard on the LW. “Trying to be everyone’s friend” could be typical cordial behavior or overbearing intrusiveness. Similarly, I read living with family as evidence of boundary issues but realized LW probably means that people will be there.

      Without knowing more details it’s hard to say how bad the offer is.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes there’s no indication that family will be home while they are still meeting. It’s a weird situation but OP isn’t helping themselves by assuming the same worst of everything.

    3. KKfrog*

      Thanks for picking up on my ambiguity, family isn’t a problem (my family live with me and I believe in supporting kin) -but as a team we often discuss students who are not doing well, and share what we know (students share personal info with us as explanation for poor performance or poor attendance) – I worry about that information being overheard, or misunderstood, or how the location may change how we can easily talk. It’s easy in a office to do a closed door meeting -less easy in a home where the acoustics are unknown. Their partner is a health worker so often on shift work and may be there, the adult child lives with them also – extra ears to listen in with.

  11. Observer*

    #4- Resume lies

    I think one thing that you need to get clear in your head is what actually is gossip and what’s not. Talking to random people about this guy’s history is gossip. Giving your manager the clear, specific and unambiguous facts so they cat take them appropriately into account before hiring is NOT gossip and it doesn’t “remotely resemble it” either.

    Ironically, your suggested “a simple “There are discrepancies on this candidate’s resume and I think he should be withdrawn from consideration” is far more gossip like than Alison’s approach. Because you’re not really explaining what the discrepancies look like and, at best, just provide fodder for speculation.

  12. Observer*

    #4 – Chatty clients

    Sometimes what helps is saying to the client “Well, I won’t keep you any more.” and then turning to the work. It implies respect for the client’s time rather than “I can’t be bothered with you”.

    1. ferrina*

      Good advice! This works so well. Crucial to this is Observer’s note that you must immediately turn away and start doing the work. If you wait for them to walk away, they may never do that.

      1. Esprit de l'escalier*

        +100! A chatty client with nothing else to do will take that as just a polite remark, ignore its implication (“please leave me alone now!”) and keep chatting away. Many people are oblivious to nuance and pragmatics.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          In which case you just carry on working, and say “hmm” in response to any further remarks, and then maybe simulate the need to go and find something in the supplies cupboard. Apparently working with your tongue between your teeth as you frown in concentration is the most off-putting.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      And they are painters! Which gives the perfect excuse of “I need to open this can and mix it, and I don’t want to splatter your.”

  13. Che Boludo!*

    My group had a really weak and not-too-bright sales manager. We were a contracted sales organization so with contracts in the air performance evaluation was super important to us. This was our top client as well.

    Our sales manager gave us a meets expectations review but docked us two points on what he felt was the least important criterion, which was something about dressing professionally if I remember correctly.

    First, that’s embarrassing as everybody was always dressed professionally and our clientele were national hardware stores, hardly a formal work environment, but we always dressed appropriately and it looks really bad to be graded as doing something that could be considered the easiest bare minimum thing like putting on the correct clothes in the morning. That was potentially extremely embarrassing and just a strange thing you don’t want on a review, especially when not true.

    Second, is just the obvious, it wasn’t fair, he dropped that particular score on his whim, for,….reasons??????? he wasn’t playing any passive aggressive games or anything, he just explained that he had to dock everybody for SOMETHING so he didn’t just look like he was handing out good scores. He got fired for something stupid later.

    I just remembered his replacement doing something similar. She didn’t want us calling her cell phone or sending emails when she traveled and she didn’t like email because she claimed it was part of a CYA culture. I dunno, putting things in writing is what I call diligence. She got fired later too. This company was a leading, world-class consumer brand manufacturer. Go figure,

  14. John Smith*

    #5. I find that a smile, a little laugh (depending on the context – a concerned grimace and an “oh dear” is also suitable) while saying “Anyways, lovely talking to you but I must get started /must go. I’ll see you at X time.” whilst at the same time physically start getting ready to do the job – don’t just stand/sit there as that invites further conversation. If that fails, a more direct “I don’t mean to be rude but I must get started or I won’t get the work done”. Chuck in a consequence if needed – ” if this goes past x o clock you have to pay double time which I’m sure you’d rather not”, for example. Alternatively, if possible/desirable, invite the other person to chat whilst the work is being done.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: we had forced ranking at this firm for a long time for performance reviews. So you could have 5 people on the team be excellent performers but the company (basically HR) would demand that your team show a bell curve distribution and therefore you couldn’t have more than say 1 person be exceptional.

    It, predictably, tanked morale and a lot of people just ‘worked to rule’ as a result because truly it didn’t matter what your boss thought – you’d be assigned a grade by HR based on statistics.

    We had this for 8 years. In the end it took action by our unions to stop it, which was very dramatic.

    So no advice, only sympathy I’m afraid.

  16. TreatBonusesLikeBonuses*

    I once had a boss who refused to give me written goals then gave me an average performance rating because I didn’t exceed any goals. This resulted in a many thousand dollar decrease in my annual bonus even though by any objective standard I had a better year. I’ve had other bosses at other companies tell me they weren’t allowed to give the highest ranking in any category. Even though it’s common to put 10% of the pay portion of compensation into base bonus that gets adjusted based on individual and company performance, I treat it as a true bonus because it’s truly out of your control (I’ve gotten $0 when the company declined to give anyone a bonus or as much as 260% with good personal or company miltipliers). Basically, the company decides what they want to pay and makes sure ratings match that.

  17. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (exceeding expectations, or not!) – why are the other team leaders, who are presumably peers of that manager, having influence over the reviews of people not in their reporting line?

    If there’s anywhere for your comments I would ensure you get your say in writing – I’ve seen situations where previous performance reviews were used in deciding who to keep and who to lay off in a redundancy situation (when there were e.g. 10 widget assemblers and they could only keep 6).

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      Alison pretty much explained it…

      [“Exceeding expectations” isn’t like a toy to be passed around, where you want to make sure everyone gets a turn with it.]/b>

      This company clearly treats the “Exceeding expectations” rating as a toy to be passed around. It’s severely rationed and the other managers clearly want their turn to use it for their teams.

    2. My 2 cents*

      It isn’t uncommon in companies where ratings effect raises to get together to have a calibration meeting. Since there is often collaboration between departments, it gives an opportunity to get an outside perspective on someone’s rating. It also allows for adjustments due to rater difficulty. I worked a a company where it was super easy to get a 5 in customer service, but in legal you practically had to walk on water to even get a 4. So they had to adjust those in calibration every year.

  18. bamcheeks*

    They’re incentivizing you to only work hard every other year, and you might point that out

    Maybe that IS what they’re incentivising and that’s ok! I think it’s so bizarre that companies are supposed to be incentivising “exceeding expectations” all the time. I would much rather set clear (high!) expectations and have staff who meet them than manage a team of people who are all trying to exceed expectations because it’ll get them more money. That sounds like a recipe for chaos.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, I was also thinking that if I take my rosiest-coloured glasses on, this makes sense! How on earth can someone sustainably exceed expectations every year (reasonably placed expectations I mean)?

      In a good system there should be place to say: you kicked it out of the park this year, next year aim for the middle – what do we do to make that happen.

      But – I have my doubts.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, to me “Exceeding Expectations” means, “you worked outside the boundaries of your job this year, that either happened because of unforeseen circumstances like picking up extra work because of a vacant post / a sudden change in working conditions we couldn’t have foreseen, or because you’ve grown out of this role. We’re grateful, but this shouldn’t be the norm.”

        If it’s happening two years in a row, either your workplace is chaotic, your expectations are wrong, or your employee is in the wrong job.

        1. Lilo*

          Except that’s apparently not the way the bonuses are structured at this company. If they want an “extraordinary circumstance” bonus, they should have that. But a standard annual bonus should not be dependent in a major problem in the company or factors outside of the employee’s control.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Yeah OK, that was a broader comment about the category “exceeds expectations”. But the top was about what the company is incentivising. The assumption is that OF COURSE they want everyone to be striving to be in that top 10% every year and if the incentive structure isn’t facilitating that it’s broken. But I think if you’ve set your expectations well then that isn’t actually what you want.

      2. Bit o' Brit*

        If we’re talking about expectation of the role, surely it’s quite easy to imagine. If the expectation is to make 6 widgets per month and a “rockstar” widget-maker can consistently make 10-14 per month, they’re consistently exceeding expectations. What’s to be gained by telling them to rein it in?

        1. Lilo*

          Yep, I have a very standard performance plan, where if I make say, 100 teapots a year I get rated as successful, 200 teapots is exceeds expectations and 300 teapots is outstanding. (There are other metrics and this is a massive oversimplification).

        2. bamcheeks*

          Not burning out; not creating bottlenecks in other parts of the organisation; not having a situation where the employer discovers that they have to hire two people to replace you and widgets are significantly more expensive to make than previous outgoings had suggested– I can think of all sorts of reasons. An individual who is doing twice as much as other people in their role can be just as disruptive as someone doing half as much.

          1. Bit o' Brit*

            Those reasons all carry assumptions that may or may not be true. None applied in the (real) example I was referencing, but I concede that one or more could apply elsewhere.

        3. Allonge*

          For me this is a case for creating a ‘rock-star’ expectation level of 13 widget/month, so resetting the expectations (and setting up an appropropriate pay grade).

          1. bamcheeks*

            yes, I think this is the bit that I find weird– for me the “expectations” part is a key part of your planning process, and should be as close to what is actually expected as possible– and your expectations should be high if their performance is high! Someone regularly exceeding expectations means the expectations aren’t actually a useful part of your planning process.

            I guess some people see “expectations” as equivalent to the basic requirements of the role, and you’d expect a significant proportion of your employees to be regularly exceeding that, but to me that sounds like a very difficult way to run a team.

        4. BethDH*

          This is why positions like “senior widget maker” exist and should be based on performance rather than just being there a while. If an employee is consistently performing at that level, give them a title and a salary — not a whim-dependent bonus — to match. And the company can know that they need 3 widget makers to match the capacity of 2 senior widget makers and plan accordingly.

      3. Kate*

        In companies where you have solid metrics (like sales) there are targets that are set every year (or every quarter) and they are set based on current conditions and past performance.

        For example, an employee may have a a gross sales target, a net sales target, a margin target, a “shrink” target, sales per labor hour target, sales per square foot target…

        All those are measurable, and if you’re exceeding your targets, some of them may very well be adjusted upwards the following year, or they remain static because it’s a good yardstick for comparing performance.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      They’re not really incentivizing working hard every other year though. They’re making it clear they goalposts move, always. That’s the primary message. If someone takes from that “only try every other year” that’s one interpretation. But usually when companies try to justify the “you can’t two years in a row” thing, it’s because they’re basically saying: last year you exceeded expectations, so now this year, expectations have increased to what you did before. So now you have to beat your last year self. (and really high performers do, but then their bosses get frustrated arguing with HR that it’s really true)

      But in my opinion the real takeaway is: we won’t review you based on the expectations of this role. We’ll review you based on what we expect of you personally, which is not a logical way to do reviews.

  19. Colleen*

    The away day at someone’s house can work, with the right set of people. My colleague hosted a Strategy Day at their house in my Old Job, it worked really well to be completely away from the corporate setting, also helped she was a great host and didn’t overstep boundaries. It really depends on the person though. I don’t recall any of us asking permission to go to the bathroom – she told us where it was when we arrived and that was that.

    1. Anomie*

      Yes. The bathroom thing is strange. It’s only 12 hours over two days. Doesn’t seem like such a hardship.

        1. KKfrog*

          And if you use the bathroom as an excuse to decompress, as ASC my social battery is drained by social interaction and change or new environments add to the load. It’s easier to take a bathroom break to recover than explain to peers I need some non-interaction time. If i say I need a walk they decide to join me, i also use refilling my water bottle or getting a coffee the same way – as a quick recoup space. A all day meeting is draining – monitoring social subtext and communication is hard work. (ASC = autism), and some as work know I am ASC – most know I am an introvert.

        2. virago*

          Very good point. I can speak from experience when I say that adjusting to new medications means navigating side effects that include the gastrointestinal. Enough said.

          I’m also imagining being pointed toward a coworker’s en suite bathroom and having to step over or around children’s toys, pet beds, laundry, and other personal clutter in order to reach the toilet.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I have IBS-D. If I eat the wrong thing I can end up in the bathroom off and on for hours. At a hotel or something this is doable, but not at someone’s house.

  20. Ann*

    #1, that was the rule at IBM when I was there in the early 2000s. I actually got the exceeds rating 2 years in a row but was told there was NO WAY it would happen a third year. Other things they did: automatic lowest score your first year at the company, and any year you changed jobs within the company or got promoted.

    1. Lyudie*

      My husband had the same thing happen when he was there. He was told part of the reason for the “no exceeds two years in a row” was because you should be taking on more responsibility (not necessarily more work, but higher level work) and would not exceed expectations in the first year with new responsibilities. Whether or not that was the REAL reason is up for debate I suppose.

    2. Polly Hedron*

      Yes and IBM soon got much worse, as employees who did not “exceed expectations” had targets on their backs: IBM ramped up its offshoring and massively laid off American employees who only “met expectations” (while collecting stimulus money that was supposed to be creating American jobs).

    3. AnotherBlueSuit*

      Can confirm. I was with IBM for 6 years. I transferred multiple times to multiple teams so my “Exceeding Expectations” was intact for 5 years. On the 6th year when I quit, having done exemplary work, the minute my manager know I wasnt sticking around he gave me the least rating. Such BS.

  21. Robert Watkins*

    LW 1: If you’re consistently exceeding expectations, what they _should_ do is give you a pay raise and reset your baseline expectation at the new level.

    If you’re always exceeding expectations, then there’s something wrong with how they are setting the baselines in the first place.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, when I get the top score at my company, I usually take that to mean that I’m ready for a promotion and start looking for open positions at the next level. Actually I’m usually already thinking about that before I get the performance review.

  22. Luna*

    LW1 – The heck kind of infantile school thinking is this? No, you can’t have it twice in a row, it’s not fair to the others and you need to let the others have their share. If they won’t give proper acknowledgement, and compensation, for excellent work and exceeding expectations to those that earn it, they shouldn’t have it to begin with.
    I’m almost tempted to tell you to just stop exceeding expectations and do what is required of your job, nothing more. And any question about that will be answered with ‘I’m not getting anything from busting my butt extra hard, so I ain’t doing it’.

  23. abca*

    I’m in a large US/international company and we have the same idioticness with “exceeds expectations”. Here there are rules that in order to get a promotion, you need some “exceed expectations”. Usually there is not one stellar person in a team, maybe one person is great at making the sale, but the other person is awesome at building relationships, etc. Both are doing great work, want to be promoted, and the manager agrees, but then they both need this “exceed expectations” review in their file.

    1. Duke Flapjack*

      That’s a *really* good way of driving off your reasonable talent in favor of super stars that probably don’t exist.

  24. Gnome*

    OP3- The one place I disagree with Alison is that the end date might not be worth mentioning. If it just says ‘Present’ or something, the resume may be dated rather than inaccurate. if there is even a chance that the resume was submitted while he still worked there (say, for a different position even) then that wasn’t the candidate doing anything wrong. I mention this since OP is new there and might not know if HR keeps resumes for similar later openings. My company gave me a resume once that was over three years old!

    The rest of it, of course, is problematic. I my mind, it warrants reflection. Is it possible that they really did contribute closer to the way described? Sometimes managers can be wildly out of touch with how the work is really getting done. I assume that isn’t the case, but these sort of things are always a good opportunity to reflect.

    1. Anomie*

      I agree. It’s enough to let current job know that parts of the resume appear inaccurate. A personal call to the guy calling him out is not warranted and can lead to trouble.

    2. Aimless and Abstract*

      Dated or not, it IS inaccurate to say he’s still employed there. Resumes should be updated prior to job searching!

  25. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    I must second Alison’s comment: “They’re incentivizing you to only work hard every other year, and you might point that out.”

    You should also start looking for a new job with an employer who IS willing to recognize (and reward) consistent high performance. Make sure to ask specifically about the performance evaluation system in every interview.

    1. Anomie*

      Or just show up, do what’s expected of you proficiently, and collect your paycheck. Know that jumping through hoops is meaningless unless it can lead to a promotion.

      1. 2 Cents*

        And this is where the inaccurate term “quiet quitting” comes from, performance review bull like this.

  26. Duke Flapjack*

    01.) There’s also the whole nonsense about having a percentage being “exceeding expectations.” If your expectations are that you can tie your own shoes all by yourself and nine-out-of-ten of you can then 90% of you are meeting expectations. If four of them can tie OTHER people’s shoes then 40% of you are exceeding expectations.

  27. Llama Llama*

    As a manager of others, I hate performance reviews. My company does it as a group for our location (by career level) and puts them into each ranking group. It gets heated. We have no qualms about ranking the same person high each year. I am well prepared for my people, however, if you have a not so great manager, it highly effects your ability to get the good raise/bonuses (it’s a significant difference).
    2020 was the worst of all and a letter all on it’s own of my anger about that year.

  28. southernfried*

    Check with your public library. Many of them have meeting space that you can book either for free or for a very nominal fee. Also the Chamber of Commerce might have a meeting room, as well as the bank your company uses. I’ve been to company meetings in all of these locations.

  29. Chilipepper Attitude*

    For OP#4:
    Can you spell out expectations with the customers ahead of time?

    When you complete a sale, tell them the painters will be there on x date and time to start. They will get started right away each day, if you have questions about anything, please call or text me so that they can get to work right away. Or so that we can get your job done in a timely way or whatever works for you.

  30. dear liza dear liza*

    LW #2 has gotten good advice from Alison and in previous comments as to alternative spaces. I would just add that meeting in each other’s homes is not uncommon in higher education; I’ve probably done it half a dozen times in the past decade. Alison’s advice showed it to be out of the norm for other industries but as usual higher ed is odd. So when pushing back, focus on logistics and avoid any “it’s unprofessional to suggest it” vibes.

    1. squid*

      Yes, I just came here to say that this is normal/common in higher ed!

      Before covid, we always prioritized homes for social gatherings, especially for PhD student recruitment events (to help build personal-feeling connections) or when hosting events for faculty, because…. people are wayyy more likely to show up if they don’t have to be in a classroom or in the building. We don’t have the funding for an external venue of some kind. Usually the hosts would be older professors with nicer/larger houses and no young children, such as deans and program directors. But for student recruitment, we do often also have them visit apartments of existing students for casual breakfasts. Even now we still do this, but focusing on outdoor settings, depending on the time of year.

      We’ll get 60 people to show up to someone’s backyard bbq or a dinner party at an emeritus professor’s house and maybe 10 will show up if we hold the same event in our conference center.

      That said, it would be a little more unusual for a staff member to host a small team, but that’s primarily because we don’t get paid so well so we generally don’t have the house space to accommodate large groups (and most of my colleagues have young children) (and living near campus is extremely expensive so most of my colleagues commute from small towns a good 30 miles away) (and staff tend to not attend or plan events outside work hours).

  31. Turingtested*

    LW #4, I’d encourage you to think of chatting with customers as part of the job and give your employees some leeway to do it. I’d also recommend telling your employees to make you the ‘bad guy’ and instruct them to say something like “Mrs Smith, it’s been great chatting but my boss needs me on the job.”

    1. Anomie*

      Customers expect to be wooed at least a little bit. They are not going to like being blown off every time. LW is being too stringent on this.

      1. lyonite*

        Sure, but there’s a difference between some convivial chit chat and a conversation that goes on for twenty minutes or more when you have work to do. (We all know that person!) I think the OP is right to want to give their employees a graceful out so they can get back to their job.

      2. Grammar Penguin*

        Customers like even less when contractors take more time to finish a job than they’ve estimated.

    2. Robbie*

      My colleague and I sometimes have a system for our really chatty folks (socializing is a part of the job, but they can go on for a really long time), where we may knock on the door and remind them of “the very important meeting” we have to get to. It takes communication and isn’t perfect, but has helped gently pry us out of the stickiest of meetings

  32. I should really pick a name*

    That system sounds pretty messed up. You get “missing expectations” for being in the bottom 5%? Does that mean in a team of high performers, someone’s still going to get “missing expectations”? The exceeds/meets/missed expectation formats gets misused so often it’s a joke.
    It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t tied to salaries.

    If the meeting happens on site, people leave and don’t come back? I think there are some larger issues going on.

    1. Delta Delta*

      #2 – I read it that if they use their own in-department space, someone is apt to step out of the meeting to use the restroom, and then maybe wander back to their desk for a bit and end up pulled back into work. I used to ghost meetings all the time at a toxic job by doing exactly this.

      1. Antilles*

        This, but I’ll add that it’s not limited to toxic jobs. This same thing can happen simply from employees being conscientious and losing track of time – you want to answer “just one critical email” but then while you’re at your desk you see one more quick email and suddenly the 5 minute run to the restroom becomes 30 minutes.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    Years ago my team had a strategy day at my boss’ house..it was totally fine and tbh a welcome break from being in the office all the time. When someone had to use the bathroom they just went, no big deal.

    But on the other hand it sounds like LW doesn’t really like the hosting colleague so I’m sure that’s playing a role.

    1. Anomie*

      It’s a day and a half. If it’s mandatory I’d just go and suck it up. I agree OP does not like the host. And no one needs to ask to use the restroom. Just go.

  34. Tim C.*

    #1 – No wonder why some people exercise “quiet quitting”.
    A similar and inaccurate performance assessment was the final nail in the coffin for old toxic job I had.

  35. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#2: Business meetings shouldn’t be held at private homes. As someone paid to be a worst-case scenario thinker, I would consider the liability/insurance issues if someone suffered an injury at the home. Also, there can be issues around preserving confidentiality when the meeting environment can’t be controlled to exclude people who shouldn’t be there.

    I’d suggest that the LW call around to find a designated meeting room. Try local libraries, houses of worship, co-working spaces, organizations that have social halls (like the Legion or a fraternal organization — is anybody in the group a member of the K of C or a Rotarian?), etc. These kinds of spaces are more likely to be accessible than somebody’s home, too.

  36. LW3*

    LW3 here – I went with something very similar to what Alison suggested because I knew I had to say something. The HR manager popped by not long after I’d sent in my question to say how excited everyone was to have found someone I already had a successful working relationship with and how they couldn’t wait to meet him.

    So I outlined what I knew to be false, and they asked a couple of questions, including if it was out of character. It is, but what do I really know?

    This morning they’ve told me that they still intend to proceed with his interview as they are still impressed by the parts of his resume that were ‘true’ which for me translates as ‘But I don’t know they are true’.

    They’ve tried to get me to talk more about his actual experience and how I found working with him but I’ve pushed back as that feels very unethical given the situation. I can’t just produce a new verbal resume for them from my knowledge about someone else! And we’re governed by GDPR here, I’m not going to start talking about anyone beyond what has been provided in his application.

    One thing I did realise is that by using a false start date he’s scrubbed the role he had before working with me. I know that made him miserable and is why he had a career change to my industry in the first place. I could be sympathetic to wanting to forget you’d ever worked somewhere awful but it’s still not an excuse. And I can’t show nepotism just because I know he deserves a chance to get his life back on track.

    I was going to call him to discuss this with him because from a personal perspective it does seem out of character and I did want to check in, both for his welfare and to highlight that I can only be a reference if he’s truthful but that doesn’t feel appropriate yet if he’s still coming in to meet with us.

    1. Johanna Cabal*

      Your company’s not doing your former employee any favors. Most companies I know will not continue the hiring process for a candidate who lied, and if an employee is discovered to have lied, they are usually terminated immediately.

      Is this a position that’s been open awhile or needs to be filled soon? I’m worried they are so desperate to fill a position they will overlook things. I’ve been in that position as a hiring manager and hiring someone just to fill a seat almost always ends up not working out (and I’ve also been in that position on the employee side…that is the only position I’ve ever been fired from and I think my employer was really desperate to fill the position they hired me despite not being a good fit. Of course, in hindsight, I should’ve declined the role but at the time I was laid off and desperate).

    2. Sylvan*

      Thanks for the update. This guy’s resume sounds so odd. I don’t know about following GDPR requirements, so I don’t think I can give advice, but I think any information you are able to provide could help your employers make a good decision. You might have already said all you can.

      Just a thought, but could he have worked with a recruiter or somebody else who might have “polished up” his resume?

    3. Reba*

      I am surprised that your colleague is like, “sure sure he lied, but what about these other bits? let’s see where this goes!”

      As for contacting the guy, I don’t know if your workplace has a policy that would guide whether you should contact applicants outside of the process, but I wouldn’t want to let him just show up and see your face on the hiring panel! So I would advocate for giving him a heads up that you are there and you have seen his resume and have shared what you know about him. Not to put him on the spot — I would try not to even listen to reasons for doing it etc — but just to let him know where things stand. Perhaps after this hire is over, then it would be appropriate to touch base with him in a friendly concerned way?

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        I would hope former employee would decide to drop out of the hiring process once they learned LW is on the interview panel…

    4. Plebeian Aristocracy*

      1) Please continue to update. This sounds like a slow-motion train wreck.

      2) Did you notice any odd discrepancies when you first hired him? Things that he said that he knew how to do but needed some extra guidance on? I would assume that the résumé that he used to get hired at your previous company was fluffed up as well. If you have any stories like that, you could use those as examples of things that you noticed to help prove your point.

    5. Programmer Dude*

      So, I’m a bit curious. Was this resume directly from the applicant or from a recruiter? There’s been enough shady recruiter stories coming through here that I could absolutely see one “sprucing up” a resume like this.

      I don’t know if that’s the case, but it’s enough to warrant looking in to with an open mind.

    6. Bubbles*

      Hi LW 3, thanks for your letter and update. I understand that it’s all a very pleasant experience. I do think that telling the truth to your colleagues (first about the incorrect resume, then about your actual work experience when they ask about it. I wonder why you worried about telling actual facts in this case. It’s not gossip or anything, and as long as you don’t speculate about things you don’t know for sure, I don’t see how your collegues could hold you responsible for how they choose to proceed wth that ibformation.

    7. linger*

      On the other hand, if there’s any benefit of the doubt to be extended, it would be better to contact him beforehand to check in (“you know the details of your work history don’t align with what I remember, what’s going on there?”), rather than having him come in and be completely blindsided during an interview.
      You suggested above that his actual skill levels are not a bad fit for the position you’re hiring for, which does explain why others on the panel are still willing to consider him. The only big red flag is the level of trustworthiness the position requires.

  37. Sylvan*

    LW 5. My dad’s phone call and long conversation exits:

    – Well, I’ll let you go.
    – I’ll let you get back to your day now.
    – I’m sure you’re busy, it’s been good to talk to you.

    Just more polite versions of “I’m done! Bye now.” I’ve even seen him get cornered by a talkative neighbor and extract himself while sounding like he was only leaving because he didn’t want to impose on the neighbor’s time.

    1. snarkyface*

      I’m chatty because I don’t know how to end a conversation or sometimes think I’m being polite by engaging further. Along with exit phrases like those, it can be helpful to keep in mind that maybe the chatty person feels obligated, rather than demanding.

    2. Esprit de l'escalier*

      That strategy of polite verbal disengagement works with some people, but the truly loquacious will just keep talking … it’s what they do. To get out of that kind of conversation, you need to be prepared to feel like you’re being rude, because the only thing that works is to turn away and get to work or leave or hang up or whatever situation requires. (Well, there are some talkers who will actually follow you, to the bathroom or out to your car or wherever you thought you could escape to, but those are extreme cases.)

    3. sarah*

      Yup, came here to say this, my go-to when I want to get rid of someone professional is “Well, I should let you get back to x.” It works really well with that certain type of person who is like “Yes, I am actually Important and Busy!” You could pretty easily adapt to the circumstance–“I’ll head outside and let you get on with your morning”

  38. Anomie*

    I would not call the resume liar after he’s been disqualified from hiring and confront him about his resume. He’s not going to be hired at new job. What’s the point? Starting a needless confrontation? If someone calls you as a reference you can simply state you don’t give out references.

  39. Finally happy at work!*

    OP#3: regarding his resume stating he was still employed with the previous company.
    My husband is job searching and he was given instruction by an employment agency to list on his resume that he was still employed with the company he had recently taken an early retirement option. This was at about 6 months out from his retirement date. (We’re no where near retirement age but his pension rules were changing as of 1/1/22 so he got out with pension intact.) So this candidate MAY have been given similar advice. That doesn’t excuse the flagrant padding of his job duties and experience but the first part may have been very bad advice.
    And honestly, hundreds (no exaggeration, it’s a huge employer) took advantage of the early retirement option with his company so chances are, other potential employers are probably aware of these gaps.
    *Sorry if this has already been pointed out.

  40. That One Person*

    L1 – While I know of a similar instance with a family member, the difference is their grading rubric I think has something of 4-5 categories so they can receive “Exceeding Expectations” ritualistically (and I think they do), but the ones beyond that are harder to earn. Did make it extra special when they did, and felt pretty pleased when their boss told them they wish they could give it two years in a row. Unfortunately it’d look odd…but yeah your version is very discouraging and as Allison said it just makes people consider being a rock star every other year when it’ll actually count.

    L2 – Honestly I’m with you OP: I wouldn’t want it at someone else’s house either. I’d feel like I have to bring my own snacks and drinks because I don’t want to sift through someone’s cabinets for water or make them feel like a waiter for requesting it. A friend’s mum once celebrated when I ate and really enjoyed a soup she made because I often went home hungry from her house simply because I don’t feel comfortable taking food – I don’t know what their plans are for it and like I said, not comfy rooting through cabinets either for dishes at times. As you also said if you need space it’s a bit awkward since it always feels like parts of the house are off limits so you’d be basically stuck walking to the end of the block or holding up in a bathroom a spell. Too much awkward for some of us to do work things at coworkers’ houses.

    1. linger*

      “ritualistically” demands more detail! So many questions…
      What gets sacrificed? What auspices do the tribal elders consult?

      1. That One Person*

        Alas nothing but time and effort are sacrificed in the name of Exceeding Expectations. I dare not ask to what gods lest I receive an answer…

  41. Software Engineer*

    If you’re not supposed to give somebody an exceeds expectations multiple years in a row but they HAVE been a top performer they should be promoted. Recognizes the hard work, gives a raise etc.

    At my company if you are being put consistently in the top band of performance your raises are even better than if it’s just one good year, and HR and your managers manager starts asking when you’re being promoted since you’re clearly performing awesome

    1. Filosofickle*

      Right, but promotion is not always desirable. Where I am, a promotion equals managing people + taking on responsibility for increasing sales/revenue. I absolutely don’t want either of those things and have declined to be promoted. So I will stay a top performer at my level and do want my reviews to reflect that! (However I recognize I will hit a salary cap, at some point.)

  42. sc.wi*

    LW 1: At my last position, we were ranked on scale from 1-5 in each of 5 categories. The year my new (terrible) manager started, she all gave all of us “3: Meets Expectations” in every category. One of coworkers was very upset, since she was newer but she was working very, very hard, and already seeing great results. When she set up a meeting to discuss her performance review, she really pushed for an honest answer, and our manager finally admitted that management “doesn’t like to give out more than a 3 unless something REALLY rare is achieved.” We were livid, especially because we’d just opened a third location that year, and that had required a ridiculous amount of time and work from employees. It was bad. The entire department left within 18 months.

  43. Keeping My Expectations Low*

    #1 – We’ve been told “exceeds” is very rare for anyone and only if you go above and beyond. Pretty much everyone meets expectations and gets the same raise, so people who used to be more ambitious are just swimming along and not doing more.

    1. 653-CXK*

      This is what CurrentJob does. We all get the same raise no matter how much work we take on or the quality of that work, unless you go above and beyond the job.

  44. GladImNotThereNow*

    #4 – Not sure if this is really a similar situation, but when folks come to do work inside the house (A/C checkup, etc.) I tend to hover as I prefer not to have unattended strangers wandering around and I end up chatting due to the awkward silence. I do understand that workers want to work without distraction, but there may be a reason that customers are more visible than desired.

    1. kiki*

      Yeah, I understand not wanting to dilly-dally, but when a worker is coming into a client’s home, it makes sense to spend a little extra time making sure the client feels comfortable with the worker’s presence. I don’t think that necessitates a half-hour heart-to-heart or anything, but 10-15 minutes of chatting can make a big difference for comfort levels

  45. Parenthesis Dude*

    LW1: I agree that in most jobs, there should be a limit to how often you can get “exceeds expectations”. I mean, they should give you a promotion in that case, at which point you’re no longer exceeding expectations.

    Exceeding expectations is just a terrible criteria. There may be much higher expectations for me than a different team member that has the same rank. But if we’re at the same rank and salary, why should I be punished? Excellent performance is better.

    1. Aimless and Abstract*

      Eh, a promotion is not necessarily a good thing. I love my job and don’t WANT to move up into management, which is the only place for me to go. Not everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder. Some just want to do the job they love and have good work recognized.

      1. Parakeet*

        This is why individual contributor jobs should have a ladder. Widgeteer I/II/III, or Teapot Maker/Senior Teapot Maker, etc. My last job had no individual contributor ladder. My current one does. I much prefer the setup at my current job.

  46. Proposal Manager*

    OP #1. I worked at an organization like that previously and the ratings are pretty much made up to keep everyone on the same level so that they can hand out the same bonus/raise to everyone. Therefore, the performance review becomes just a formality, unfortunately. We also had the system where they would only give Exceeds to one person each year. One year, I took on all of our hardest work, plus did a large project on the side to help the organization out of a pickle. My boss knew full well that I was working 60+ hours per week and had to cancel all my PTO for the back half of the year, resulting in lost PTO. I still only “Met Expectations.” That’s because the one and only Exceeds allowed went to a girl who became best friends with the boss and spent most of her time on projects the boss really liked, but which didn’t actually produce much. Treat these as a formality going forward, and assume you will always get the same raise/bonus as everyone else. This isn’t based on merit, it’s clearly a one-time prize they pass around the department periodically. It’s lazy management, for sure, so don’t kill yourself. I never did again, and I left that job shortly after.

  47. El+l*

    OP4: Tell them to lay the groundwork for leaving 5-10 minutes before actually leaving. “Let me just finish this one last part, and then it’s time for my next customer, who I gather is waiting for me with bated breath.” Etc.

    (This is how in the upper Midwest you avoid long drawn-out goodbyes)

  48. Sunflower*

    #1 Stuff like this burns me up. I once got the highest possible point but my boss’s boss knocked it down one because of similar reasons. So why should go above and beyond after that when I’m getting the same raise as those who just did the minimum (learned they are the smart ones).

  49. Other Alice*

    #1, I’d suggest taking it easy for the rest of the year then… Seriously, they are just inviting people to do their best work every other year!

  50. Erica*

    #1 – not only is that a terrible policy, it’s just inaccurate. If your company wants to stack-rank people into top, middle, and bottom performers, say so – that has nothing to do with “expectations” (except encouraging the expectation that 5% of the company will fail every year.)

  51. Mae*

    LW 1– my husband was told the same thing at the store he helped set up. He was the top performer, knew the entire store and every job, had the most experience, and several unique awards in the three and a half years he was there.

    That was two months ago. He just finished his first month at his new job today.

  52. I would prefer not to*

    LW3, did he ever ask you to be a reference?

    That’s a good opening for a call. You can say that as a reference you will be giving accurate information about his dates, his involvement in projects, and so on.

  53. I would prefer not to*

    LW1 reminds me of the Weasley twins’ joke in Harry Potter: “Fred and I always thought we should get ‘exceeds expectations’ on everything, because we exceeded expectations just by turning up to the exam.”

  54. Curmudgeon in California*

    #4: Add the yak time to their bill. If they want two hours of captive audience, fine, but they need to pay for all the time your employees are on site. If you bid fixed cost, then they would be best advised to throw you under the bus with “I’m sorry, I need to be painting or my boss will be ticked off. He spot checks us.”

  55. BlueStarGirl*

    My company does this but it’s clearly stated and fairly divided.

    There’s basically a “bonus fund” that gets fully funded if we hit 100% of our company goal, 75% funded if we hit 75% and nothing if we miss more than that. Then HR takes whatever that number is, divides it by the number of employees below director level is and figures out a per-person maximum. We use a five point scale, but basically exceeds expectations employees get 100% of their bonus, meets expectations gets 75%, and does not meet expectations I think still gets 50% of a bonus.

  56. Jaydee*

    LW2 – If you’re in tertiary education, is there somewhere else you can meet on campus? Like if your department is in Llama Hall, are there rooms in Alpaca Hall or the Camelid College Commons you could use that would be free but also in a different building so it feels more off-site? That would also make it inconvenient for people to just stop at their desk on the way back from the bathroom and end up not coming back to the meeting for hours (or at all).

  57. Make it make sense*

    The person lying on their resume sounds stupid, too, because why list someone as a reference WHO KNOWS WHAT YOU HAVE ON YOUR RESUME IS A LIE? Do they just assume this person will not reveal the lie or won’t see the resume?

  58. too many dogs*

    LW#4; I work with the public. We also have lots of chatty customers. We find it helpful to kind of reverse the statement — ” I’ve kept you long enough. I know you’re busy, so I’ll let you get going. It was nice chatting with you. Hope you have a great day.” Hope this helps.

  59. MCMonkeyBean*

    #1 does not surprise me–there is a lot of bullshit with ratings like that. At my company, I found out 5 years ago we are basically graded on a curve. We also get 1-5, but almost no one gets 1s or 5s. Most people will get 3s with occasional 2s and 4s. I got a 4 my first year because I apparently exceeded what they expected for someone right out of school, then I got 3s every year after. It never bothered me until one review when I was told basically “this was your best year ever and you really went above and beyond… but it was also a bunch of other people’s best year ever and we can only give out so many 4s” so I got another 3. I was already thinking about leaving the company and that kind of pushed me over the edge… but then I found out my next company was the same way! They also graded on a curve! I don’t know about any rules for 2 years in a row but since they are only allowed to give out so many it would not surprise me if they try not to always give them to the same people or something.

    I am back at my original company now, and much happier after deciding not to care about my annual review. I do good work and I know my bosses are glad to have me, but I don’t really go above and beyond. It has helped me set strong boundaries on my time too on a team of people who tend to work late and work weekends even when there is really no need to do so.

  60. H3llifIknow*

    Re: the resume. I had an interesting resume story. I was the team lead of ~22 people doing various systems engineering jobs: everything from software development, to acquisition, to cybersecurity, etc… One day our HR sent me a resume, saying, “this person seems like a good fit for your team” and when I looked at it, I busted out laughing. Of course she was a good fit! She was using MY RESUME. She’s replaced a few things: name, address, and year of graduation etc.. that were unique to her, but the task and accomplishments descriptions, even the formatting I use–all the same. I obviously put her on the DO NOT HIRE list, but I’ve since moved on to 2 other places that ALSO got her (my) resume. Somehow she keeps getting hired for jobs but isn’t able to keep them since all she knows are the “buzzwords” of our field and not the true analysis etc… that goes into it.

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