“The only perfect person
is a perfect idiot.”
- Sklover Household Saying
ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: For nine years, Margaret, was universally considered a top performer in her position as Vice President of Vacation Residences for a diversified real estate company. Time and again, internal audits showed her division to be among the most efficient, profitable and growing in the company. Year in and year out, Margaret’s performance reviews were either “exceeds expectations” or “meets all expectations.” What’s more, Margaret had received significant bonuses, promotions and awards for her good work. That is why Margaret didn’t see it coming.
In February of each year, Margaret’s company disseminated annual performance reviews. During the past year, Margaret’s division did not prosper, due to the economy, but it did not suffer, either. And she had not received any negative reports, comments or complaints. As she had each year before, Margaret received word she was to meet with her supervisor to go over her annual review. Nothing new in that; that is what happened each year. Another reason that Margaret didn’t see it coming.
When Margaret met with her supervisor, as was the custom, Margaret was handed a copy of her annual review to read before the two discussed it. As she opened the papers before her, Margaret was startled to see a few comments that seemed negative, and a few “needs improvement” boxes checked. When she saw her overall evaluation to be “Partially Meets Expectations,” her first thought was “They must have given me someone else’s performance review by mistake.” No such luck; it was hers, and it was brutal.
Margaret went silent, and barely spoke a word throughout the entire meeting. As requested Margaret signed her name at the bottom of the last page. Afterwards, she walked straight over to Human Resources, and shared her feelings of upset, anger and betrayal. She was told there was nothing she could do. She was told performance reviews are “not negotiable.” She was told that perhaps she should consider whether her job was really the right fit for her. She was told perhaps she should consider looking “elsewhere.”
She just never saw it coming. Worse still, far worse: she did not know where it was headed.
LESSON TO LEARN: In the first 25 or so of my 30+ years of working with employees, I shared the commonly held view that Performance Reviews were “no big deal,” that they were not usually cause for concern, and that they surely were not anything an attorney was involved with. The past five years or so has made me feel quite different.
Today, I find that issues of Performance Reviews, and their “cousins,” Performance Improvement Plans, to be among the top reasons people contact me, or review my blogsite. And, yes, I have come to view them as something that an attorney can – and should – help employees with.
That is because they are sometimes “corrupted” by (a) false information, making them potentially fraudulent, (b) improper motivations, such as discrimination or harassment, (c) damaging to professional reputations, and (d) in my humble opinion, increasingly being used to deny employees what they have earned, the protections supposedly afforded them by company policies, or even their jobs. Yes, I have come to view Performance Reviews as sources of significant problems in the workplace.
That said, I am of the view that “for every problem there is a solution.” I strongly suggest that every employee who believes that his or her Performance Review is incorrect, improper or otherwise “corrupted” should respond in an appropriate and effective way. I am also of the firm opinion that, if not addressed promptly and thoughtfully, a negative Performance Review can become a much greater problem, potentially leading to a lower bonus, diminished chances for advancement, loss of ability to transfer within the company, or even job loss.
That is to say, a robust Performance Review Rebuttal both addresses the past, and protects the future. Its goals need to be: (1) to make a correct and true record of your performance; (2) to ensure that negative consequences do not follow, whether a Performance Improvement Plan, a reduced bonus or even job loss; and (3) to show the Reviewer and others that the employee is capable and prepared to defend his or her performance record, and hence his or her career and your family.
Gone is the time that an employee who receives a negative Performance Review can simply say, “Oh, well, I will just try harder next year.” That time is long gone. These days, and henceforth, those facing a problematic Performance Review have no real choice but to submit an effective Performance Review Rebuttal. Here’s how.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are 16 Steps to a Robust Rebuttal to a Performance Review that is inaccurate, misleading, wrong, unfair, dishonest or otherwise problematic: Read the rest of this blog post »