Hi all
I am based in the uk and I'm faced with the following problem. My boss is pressurizing me to "adjust" my assessments of two staff so they dont progress into a permament post, to save his departmental budget.
The context is as follows. We have a couple of under 21 apprentices, they are coming up to their 3 months internal review. Its a big thing for them as a successful review puts them into a permanent and salaried post. Its a company wide scheme with published guidelines on how to progress the interviews and score the apprentices. But my boss is saying we can't afford them so skew the assessment. My instinct is to stick to my guns, they are good staff who I would like to see on my team. Also all the 121 and appraisal evidence for these staff is overwhelmingly positive.
I dont want to annoy my boss but I dont want to be part of a dishonest process that could do permanent harm to peoples careers and is against company guidelines and policies.

Lionel B Dyck's picture

I was in a similar situation. I was told that in my staff of 12 I had to have 2 or 3 rated below average which would prevent them from transferring or getting any increase. I firmly believed that while these 3 ranked at the bottom of my ranking for the staff that they were still performing at or above average. I had to explain this repeatedly to my boss and to his boss and provide justification. I was told several times that the justification didn't matter and to just do it. I didn't cave in and my boss stood by me and supported my decision while his boss who had given the direction was not pleased but accepted the outcome.

A few months later we had a reorg and my position was eliminated and I was not offered a new position (I was given a layoff notice). Was this coincidence? Who knows but it is possible.

imho - doing the right thing is always the right thing to do and while there may be consequences that are not fair or right you will have at least done the honorable thing.

TimBryce's picture

I know its tough, but remember: You have to wake up every day and look at yourself in the mirror.

SPPenn's picture

The other two people that have replied, give great advice.

I haven't been in your exact situation, but close. In the past, I've hit this kind of problem like all the others - seek professional help.

Well, kind of...

First, I would define my goals - which may be "Keep the good people on th team" or "Improve profitability", whatever. Second, layout all my options. Third, choose one. After doing this myself on this particular problem, I would approach my closest ally in HR and go over the game plan, ask for clear definitions of policy for review, get advice, and re-evaluate.

These are those touchy situations that you don't want getting back to your boss. And therefore, need those close relationships with someone in HR that you trust.

When I've done my homework, got a second opinon, and came up with a plan, I know that I've done everything I can and eventually I sleep better at night.

Good luck.

bflynn's picture

Question - I'm getting the hint that there are external, legal issues at play here? Can you not give them good reviews and terminate the employment too?

I would view it as unethical to give a dishonest review. And don't think that everyone else on your team won't know what is going on - I'm presuming you don't have a bunch of clueless dolts working for you. Moral will suffer if you do this...they will know what happened. You might save a little on budget, but you're sure to lose more in lower productivity.

Can you do something alternate? Surely you can identify a bottom 20% employee making twice what these guys are. What does it take to get rid of a single person (and do you have your documentation ready for that?)


Len's picture

I've also been pressured to change an assessment. Not only would it be wrong for you to do it, it is wrong for your superiors to ask you to do it. In my case, the reporting format in use at the organization contained a space in which the reviewer's BOSS commented on the individual's performance. It was meant to provide a broader look at the relative performance of individuals, across a broader cross section of the organization. Anyway, when my boss sent a messenger to tell me that he'd really like me to lower my assessment of one individual (yes, he sent a messenger), I told the messenger to kindly suggest to the boss that he take full advantage of his opportunity to comment in the space on the form that was reserved for his use.

The boss never responded directly (nor through the agency of his messenger, I hasten to add). Later, however, he did take advantage of an opportunity to move me to another part of the larger organization, outside of his personal domain.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Nope. Don't change it. You would be lying, which is by itself a firing offense.

If your boss wants it changed, he or she must do so him/herself. The only question I have is whether or not you would be asked to do the termination.

Stand your ground, if you can. BEWARE: you could be fired also, for either action.

Get your resume ready. Start touching your network.


xdarrah's picture

I've been on the recieving end of a bad review to save money, it's condesending and remarkably the tell all of your boss' ethics. After having that happen to me, within two months my manager quitely "pursued other career interests". Either way you choose to go, I agree with Mark, get your ducks in a row now, you don't know what's around the corner.

gnattey's picture

WOW - reading this was like looking in the mirror... (thanks TimBryce)

Last 5 years, 1 retrenchment, 1 dismissal (no reason given) and an unfair review with persistant beligerance from the manager that I was 'handed off' too... If i'm meant to learn something from all of this, I want to skip class.

I touched my network, and then something did come up - it is NO fun. Get prepared [u][i][b]early[/b][/i][/u]. It took 4 months in one instance and around 2001 (tech wreck) over a year, and a 300km city move (not hard in Australia).

My current organisation used a group 'mediation session' to "quality check" bonuses... I have been asked to 'moderate', however have always used examples from the feedback that was not actioned, or 1-1 notes throughte year to provide evidence that couteracts teh Halo efect of the last few weeks prior ot the review. When you look at the average bonus paid across the group (600 pax) after a leveling session, and it equates to 50% of the available pool, there is an amazing corelation and resemblance of the frequency of ratings to a "Bell" curve... incredible really... :roll:

Mark - I agree - get the superior to adjust, by asking you to adjust, then they are just asking you to do their dirty work.

"Moderation" is reality, however (imho) a professional manager would be able to negotiate their way through this with the supervisor, and then if all arguments (such as Shareholder returns) point to a great result, then share the good news... rather than use a pretty lame excuse such as "[i]for Budget reasons[/i]"

...but that might be the lesson I need to learn :wink:

pneuhardt's picture

Been here, done all this.

I have been lucky in that most of my career the organizations I have been in have taken the approach of rewarding top performers "to the best of their financial ability." This means that in lean years there is still an incentive to do good work because at least you will get something instead of the nothing that the poor performers (or even the average folks in the really bad years) get. At least you get to rate people on performance and not just on budget.

But at one place, I had to fight like the devil for being "out of norm." The expectation was that performance on any level, be it the 20,000 employee company as a whole or my 7 person team would fit a nice bell curve with a few performers at either end and most in the middle. I was told to have one high and one low performer and the other 5 should fall in the middle.

My fist year there, I rated no one as a high performer and ranked 3 people in the lowest category, and was summarily chastised for it as I was "out of norm." It was suggested I alter my appraisals. I had to point out that the reason I had been hired was they were getting poor performance from that team, I had only been there 4 months at that time, and the poor performance was related to these individuals. And besides, why was such a money tight place complaining when I was looking to spend only 65% of my increase budget. Sheesh.

Two years later, I had to fight like the devil for having "too few low performers and too many high performers" and thus being out of norm again. Nobody got a low rating and 2 got the highest level. I pointed out that the official policy was to measure each individual against his job duties and I had built a team with no deadwood and a couple of outstanding performers. When measured that way, this is the way my team came out and I wasn't going to change the appraisals.

It took going to the CIO and having him back me with HR to make it stick, but I got the money to reward properly everyone on my team. I had to borrow money not being given to the deadwood in other teams to do it, and that involved a trip to the CFO's office, but I made it work.

I also pointed out that creating such a high performing team should be factored in to my own performance review, which it was. I was told I was "being inconsiderate of the salary budget process" and given a mediocre review (and no raise) on that criteria alone. My boss made his budget for my team (including me) come in under his budget even though I had gone over the budget for my team exclusive of me at no penalty to him. It was retribution for showing up both him and the "traditional process" he so loved. Sadly, the CIO who had my back before left me to twist in the wind at this point. I was no longer in the employ of that company at the next review cycle by my own choice.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Paul makes an important point when he points out that some managers probably ought to be "out of norm" for being TOO LOW.. but no one ever asks about that.

This all takes work. I'll say it again: management is not pretty, not sexy. It's boring, repetitive, and terribly effective.