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‘Is it because I’m black?’

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

by Manager's Legal Bulletin

Problem: An employee suddenly says, “You rate my production as average and tell me I should do better. My numbers are the same as Mary’s, but you gave her an excellent rating. Does it have anything to do with the fact that I’m black and Mary’s white?” 

Do you:

a. Ask her how she found out about Mary’s ratings. Explain that evaluations are supposed to be confidential and not subject for the office grapevine.

b. Tell her you are there to evaluate her performance, not Mary’s.

c. Detail the other reasons for giving Mary an outstanding evaluation and explain why you didn’t give the same to her.

The answer: How much an employee makes and what the boss thinks of his/her performance have always been prime fodder for the company grapevine. So “A” might not be the best approach. Consider a combination of “B” and “C.” Usually, you don’t want to get into a sticky situation where you are comparing employees on an individual basis. 

But this employee has backed you into a corner, especially with the racial implication. There must be some reason for the difference in your performance ratings. Now would be the time to say it.

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