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When Performance Reviews work against you!

By Martha Rice

"Your assistant, normally gregarious, happy, and extremely helpful has become sullen and, withdrawn. At first, you assume that he/she is having some problems at home. But after thinking about this sudden and drastic change for awhile, you realize this shift of attitude came shortly after the yearly performance reviews were completed. Your assistant seemed to be pleased at the time with the rating, especially after you explained that you do not give the highest ratings to anyone because no one is perfect.

Today, your HR manager told you that this person has requested to interview for another position within the company and the position tells you the whole story. The manager of this department is known for his/her extra high ratings under the current review system. His/her team members always get the highest percentage raises and his assistant was given $1000 more a year than your assistant even though both assistants do the same job with equal proficiency. This manager's attitude, "reward high so you don't cause trouble, may be working for him/her but it is causing you a big headache.

You want to keep your assistant; not to mention the hassle of training a new assistant as effective as your current one was before the evaluations and raises. Worse yet, you feel betrayed; you thought you had a good relationship with this employee."

This scenario is all too familiar to leaders who have to work within businesses who have subscribed to a standardized performance evaluation program. While standardization of merit raises sounds equitable, more often the employees involved feel cheated or punished if their raise isn't as high as someone else's.

Perhaps your employee didn't begin looking for another job or ask for a transfer; maybe you simply feel a chill in your working relationship. What your employee has is a perceived unfairness; and like it or not, you are the villain.

This perceived unfairness in standardized performance reviews, especially when yearly raises are attached to the review, can attribute not only to higher turnover rates, but more illness, more accidents and pilferage which leads to higher costs in health care and workman compensation premiums and in supplies and products.

While this information is interesting, it really doesn't help you now. Your problem is how to keep your assistant, make him or her feel valuable, and find ways to counteract the damage done.

First step would be to start a coaching ( relationship with your assistant. Meeting daily or weekly with him or her regarding his or her issues sets the tone that you are interested and supportive of his or her goals. According to surveys conducted by CMOE, employees rank support, availability, listening, communication, and feedback as top qualities in an effective leader.

Second, try to determine what motivates them.

"Does he or she have a family issue that more flexibility in his or her working hours would help resolve: a longer lunch period or a shift in work periods, either earlier or later in the day?

"Does your assistant have long term professional goals? Would more training or education opportunities be important?

"How about more responsibility or variety in duties? This is especially effective with people who take pride in their work.

"Maybe he or she needs frequent reassurances about their job performance. This need may be a result of a perceived unfairness when another manager indiscriminately rewards employees regardless of their performance.

"What about taking him or her to lunch for one of your coaching ( sessions? This can be twofold in benefits; it gives you an opportunity to talk in a more relaxed setting opening the door to communication that is often hampered in a formal situation. The lunch can be viewed as a reward as well, a thanks for all you do

Of course, these are just a few coaching ideas, there are many ways to meet the goals of your employees, and you will have to consider the needs and policies of your company. You may not be able to change the other manager's point of view or the company merit policy but you are not at their mercy either. The most important factor to the situation is you and your attitude, communication, and professional coaching skills.

CMOE's Coaching ( Workshop will give you the tools to work through issues like this to build long term partnerships with your employees, where both members give support, take responsibility, and work for the good of the partnership.

About The Author
Martha Rice is a design team leader for

To learn more about our worldwide experience in coaching, leadership, and team development, please contact a representative or visit


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