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‘Get real’ with performance reviews; make sure managers don’t fluff them up

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Your supervisors have probably heard the horror stories of how negative performance reviews have sparked lawsuits from disgruntled employees. That could cause some supervisors to shy away from criticism and give excessively positive reviews to even their poorest-performing workers.

The better thing to do is to urge your supervisors to “get real” with reviews.

Reason: Honest appraisals are crucial to a productive workplace. Rating everyone as if they were stellar performers undermines any potential need for discipline or discharge down the road—and it stunts productivity.

Also, supervisors need to realize that a negative performance review alone isn’t enough for an employee to win a discrimination lawsuit. As the following case shows, employees can’t use poor reviews as the basis of a winning lawsuit unless they lead to demotion, discharge, lost pay or the loss of something tangible.

Recent case: Lindy Watkins sued when she received a performance review that rated her a 3.0 on a five-point scale for the year. The previous year, Watkins had received a 4.0 score.

Watkins’ lawsuit claimed race discrimination was the true reason for the downgrade. But the court threw out her case. It reasoned that a performance review alone can’t sustain a discrimination case. The review must lead directly to a demotion, loss of pay, termination, lower raise or some other actual employment loss. (Watkins v. Paulsen, No. 08-20408, 5th Cir., 2009)

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