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Learning Tough Love

‘Could My Soft Heart Torpedo My Career?’

That’s What Soft-Hearted Joe
Had To Ask Himself Following
The Performance Evaluation From Hell

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Dear Executive,
As the saying goes, ‘Nice guys finish last.’ But Joe Murchison has been a nice guy ever since I’ve known him. As far as Joe was concerned, it hadn’t hurt him a bit – until … well, let me tell you Joe’s story.
Joe had taken the first job offer out of school with a manufacturing company in the St. Louis suburbs. Fifteen years later, he was with the same company and rising rapidly. He’d gone from assistant project manager to supervisor to department head, and now they were feeling him out about taking charge of a new division.
Imagine! From a wet-behind-the-ears kid to boss of 95 people. Joe was extremely pleased with himself. “Who says ‘nice’ doesn’t fit with career success?” he asked me. But Joe’s nice-guy theory was about to be put to the test …
Joe’s duties included performance reviews. No one had ever shown Joe how to administer a review, but he’d sat through plenty of them himself and had always passed with flying colors. He didn’t foresee any problems.
Now, please understand. Like most of us, Joe doesn’t particularly like confrontation. He’d always said to me, “Pat, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Everything will be fine, Joe thought as he straightened his tie. Just be a nice guy.
Kathy Blake, however, was not a particularly nice gal. You know the kind … good at her job but not particularly easy to work with – disorganized, argumentative and icy – and Joe knew it.
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As Kathy sat across the desk radiating hostility, Joe sought to hide his uneasiness. He tried small talk to soften her up; she responded with one-word replies. He needed to be straight with her about her shortcomings, but he was having trouble doing so.
JOE: Well, it’s that time again. I hate these things, don’t you?
KATHY: I guess so . . .
JOE: Yes, well . . . How are you doing on that new program?
KATHY: Fine, really. We’re trying to get some bugs out of the interface but we’re still ahead of schedule.
JOE: Good, good . . . Well, I have this performance review form I have to fill out. I’m supposed to rate you on a bunch of different things. I think you’re doing fine, so I just gave you the middle ratings on everything.
KATHY: Middle? Is that good?
JOE: Sure. I mean, we both know you’re still learning this job. I’m sure you’ll get better as you go along.
KATHY: If you’re talking about the project I worked on with Bill, we’re going over it line by line so I can see what went wrong.
JOE: Good, good. Bill knows his stuff. Well, then, I guess that’s it! That wasn’t so bad. You didn’t have any questions, did you?
KATHY: No, I guess not . . .
JOE: Well, great. Just sign this form and we can forget about this until next year.
But Kathy wasn’t about to let Joe forget a thing. Within a week, she’d slapped him with a complaint that began as gender discrimination but wound up including a dozen other accusations.
Joe was tearing out his thinning hair when he saw a book we publish on my bookshelf. It’s called The Manager’s Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews. Joe grabbed for it as if it were a life-preserver. Which it actually is. Did you know …
  • Fewer than 10% of U.S. firms have good performance-appraisal systems, says one expert.
     
  • In a survey of 218 firms, most said their employee evaluation procedures fall far short of expectations.
     
  • Half said evaluations were of only fair or poor value, both to employees and to the overall organization.
     
‘Mister Nice Guy’ Becomes ‘Mister Smart Guy’

Faced with the employee from hell, The Manager’s Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews gave Joe the guidance he needed to rescue his career from imploding.
Joe learned that a good performance review can tell him much more than whether or not to give an employee a raise, a promotion or a termination. Properly done, the review process can –
  • Improve performance by helping employees identify and overcome deficiencies and develop new skills and capabilities.
     
  • Open lines of communication by providing a forum for dialogue between managers and subordinates. Managers can let employees know what’s expected of them. Employees in turn can express their feelings and discuss problems and training needs.
     
  • Develop employee potential by identifying emerging talents, pinpointing problems, focusing on strengths as well as weaknesses.
Put that “walking on eggs” feeling behind you ...
run your next performance review like an expert.
checkbox YES! I want to get more out of my employees. RUSH my no-risk examination copy of The Manager's Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews to examine on a 30-day FREE Trial Basis.
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As Joe paged through The Manager’s Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews, he realized his first mistake was in not having Kathy’s 6 key employee documents spread out on his desk before she walked in the door.
Joe discovered why focusing on job objectives – rather than duties – would help him avoid fights like the one with Kathy (which was getting hairier by the day).
He found an 8-point checklist to help him evaluate those all-important intangible qualities that separate top employees from run-of-the-mill ones.
He learned about the “BARS” system for turning subjective opinions into objective ratings. Example: For a field sales rep, “Picking up sales leads on a weekly basis” might score a “9,” but “rarely uses internally generated leads” merely scores a “1.”
He discovered when it’s effective to have employees rate themselves, and the 6 questions that belong on every employee self-rating questionnaire.
He came to understand the role his own personality unavoidably plays during performance reviews, and 12 ways to minimize the effects of personal biases.
He discovered the “forgotten step” of the review process, and 6 problem areas to avoid when rehabilitating problem employees.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Here are other valuable lessons Joe learned from The Manager’s Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews
  • How to phrase job descriptions so they cannot be construed as promises of future employment, remuneration or promotion. Did you know … courts in some states have deemed job descriptions to be legally binding contracts!
     
  • 13 tests every job description must pass
     
  • 6 ingredients every job description must include
     
  • 1 big no-no when you must terminate an employee
     
  • 4 tests to determine if a job description violates anti-discrimination laws
     
  • Who should draft job descriptions – and who shouldn’t
     
  • 8 ways to make sure the performance standards you establish are realistic, plus 5 ways to determine whether they are clear and relevant
  • 8 paths to effective logging of employee performance, and the 12 check-boxes every performance log must include
  • 3 types of employee rating scales, from simplest to most complex
  • 5 evaluation tools that help rehabilitate problem employees
     
  • 6-point checklist to prepare for the review session, plus 10 tips to conduct more effective reviews
  • 6 performance review missteps (and how to avoid committing them), 5 conversation-stoppers … and 1 total no-no
  • The pros (4) and cons (3) of “360-degree” evaluations
     
Joe Changes His Ways … But Is It Too Late?

As the Kathy mess deepened, Joe started changing his ways. He studied the sample performance review and the sample subordinate evaluation included with Effective Performance Reviews for clues to changing his style. He copied the 14 performance review audits and distributed them to every other executive in his division who conducted performance reviews. Finally, he named a task force to find the best performance review software, using as a guide the “Software Solutions” Appendix in Effective Performance Reviews.
But even though Kathy Blake had by now left the company, she remained a nagging presence in Joe’s life. When her case finally ended – with the state appellate court dismissing most of the charges and reducing the amount of the judgment and penalties to a less-than-painful sum – there was little rejoicing in Joe Murchison’s department. The case had dragged on for four long years.
“At least,” Joe told me ruefully over a late-night beer, “I’ve finally learned my lesson.”
Employee reviews in Joe’s shop now are a two-way street – employees rate bosses as well as the other way around. Joe’s own reviews have gone from “rah-rah” to cautious – neither excessively lenient nor overly harsh – and Joe never, never makes promises the company cannot keep.
It hasn’t been easy though. Not for a nice guy like Joe.
So imagine the thrill in his voice when he called me one day to invite me to a ceremony at his company’s headquarters. When I asked what the occasion was, he acted coy.
“It has a lot to do with that book of yours.”
“You mean the one on performance reviews?”
“Uh-huh.”
“Come on, Joe – spill the beans.”
“Well, uh … they’ve named me ‘Boss of the Year.’”
Performance reviews are a legal minefield, and laws and benchmarks change constantly. Protect your organization – and yourself – the way Joe did. Order your copy of The Manager’s Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews today.
Sincerely,

Pat DiDomenico
Editorial Director
Put that “walking on eggs” feeling behind you ...
run your next performance review like an expert.
checkbox YES! I want to get more out of my employees. RUSH my no-risk examination copy of The Manager's Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews to examine on a 30-day FREE Trial Basis.
Yes, I want to lead confident,
productive performance reviews
We respect your privacy.
P.S. Remember, there’s absolutely no risk. If you don't immediately take a more confident, professional stance in your performance reviews – I'll refund your entire purchase price. No questions asked, and you’ll have no further obligation.
P.P.S. In these times of EEO, anti-discrimination, the FMLA and more, you never know where the next lawsuit or accusation will come from. Protect yourself! Order The Manager’s Guide to Effective, Legal Performance Reviews now.