One tough, tearful job evaluation doesn’t equal emotional distress

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

On Michael Jarrard's first day back to work at United Parcel Service (UPS) after six weeks of leave for psychiatric care, his supervisor gave him a harsh 20-page evaluation accompanied by a nearly half-hour tongue-lashing.

The supervisor knew why Jarrard had been on leave, but he continued with the critique despite the employee's tearful requests that it be postponed. As a result, Jarrard had a complete mental breakdown.

Jarrard sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress, but lost. Reason: The court said a single tough evaluation isn't outrageous enough for the employee to win damages, even though the employer knew he was having emotional problems. (Jarrard v. United Parcel Service Inc., No. A99A1871, Ga. App., 2000)

Advice: You may not be as coldhearted as this employer, but this case shows that you have the right to give tough evaluations regardless of the distress it causes workers. Employees must be expected to endure unpleasant aspects of work. That being said, we don't suggest your managers mimic this style. UPS escaped liability for the supervisor's conduct in this case, but not every court will be as understanding.

Performance reviews give you an opportunity to encourage employees to correct negative behavior and become productive. Take a calm, instructive tone and keep the focus on tangible job-related improvements.

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