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Track attitude if it’s a performance criterion

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

No doubt, employees who work hard deserve the reward of plum assignments. They’re probably the employees with the best attitudes and who get along with their peers.

But before you use attitude as one of the reasons for rewarding one employee over another, consider how you will defend that decision if another employee thinks it was based on discrimination.

Here’s how to use attitude as a decision factor: Track employee attitude regularly, including in performance evaluations. But don’t write down just generalizations. That could appear subjective. Instead, include specific examples showing employee attitudes—both good and poor—at work.

Recent case:
Era Murphy, who is black, worked as a staff pharmacist for many years, assigned to various hospital functions, such as the central pharmacy and the emergency room. She got generally good reviews, marred only by specific comments about her poor interpersonal relationships and communications skills. For example, on one occasion Murphy referred to her supervisor, who also is black, as the “house slave.”

Performance evaluations weren’t the only documents that mentioned Murphy’s attitude. She also received an “insubordination and failure to cooperate” warning after she refused to supervise a pharmacy technician because she didn’t think it was her job.

Murphy sued after she was bypassed for what she considered plum assignments. She also said she had been relegated to the central pharmacy because of her race.

But the hospital said race was not the reason. Her poor attitude was. The court dismissed the lawsuit, saying the employer had provided ample support for its assessment that she was less qualified because of her attitude. (Murphy v. John Peters Smith Hospital, No. 4:07-CV-605, ND TX, 2008)

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