Change Management; Employee Problems and Problem Employees; Leadership; Motivation

No BeTTer ThaN I Used To Be?

Primary Topic—Communication

Additional Topics—Change Management; Employee Problems and Problem Employees; Leadership; Motivation

Supervisor Carrie Johnson was not at all comfortable with the way the performance appraisal interview with Helen West was going. Helen seemed uncommunicative; she would speak only when asked something, and then only briefly, and Carrie’s two or three attempts to warm the atmosphere with some light remarks had no vis- ible effect.

Except for a brief probationary review of sorts 3 months after Helen’s transfer to Carrie’s unit, this was the only real opportunity made available for a thorough review of Helen’s performance. Helen had initially seemed eager to have this meeting with Carrie, but upon sitting down together and laying out the completed appraisal forms Helen fell largely silent and seemed to withdraw.

Growing increasingly frustrated with Helen’s apparent unwillingness to partici- pate, Carrie finally stopped in the middle of trying to make a point and said, “Helen, something about this discussion is bothering you. Out with it.”

“Nothing’s bothering me,” answered Helen. “I know you well enough to know that you’re upset about something. Out with

it, so we don’t simply wind up wasting our time here.” For a moment Helen said nothing. Then she rapped a fingertip against the

appraisal form and said, “It’s this—my rating.” “There’s nothing wrong with it,” Carrie said. “It’s comfortably above stan-

dard performance and very close to the average of a very good group of people on this unit.”

“It’s lower than any score I ever got from Sue Collins,” Helen said, mentioning her previous supervisor. “I know I’ve done at least as well here as I ever did there, but you’ve given me my lowest score in nearly 5 years.”

“Helen, this is a good evaluation score,” Carrie insisted. “I can’t agree,” Helen said. “All of you who do these use the same forms and

the same job descriptions, and the evaluations ought to be consistent. Compared with Sue, are you telling me that after all my hard work I’m still no better than I

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used to be? Or even that my performance is slipping because I had a higher score last year?”


1. If you found yourself in Carrie’s position, how would you try to explain the differences in evaluation scores to this employee?

2. What, if anything, do you believe the organization should be doing about its performance appraisal system?

92      Case 38: No Better Than I Used to Be?

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