Performance review neglected by a resigned manager

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

I was promoted from within as a new manager replacing a resigned manager. On top of my list now is how to appraise the work performance of my three workers assigned to me. They should have been appraised two months ago, but for some reason, it didn’t happen. Now, they’re waiting on the possible merit increase that comes with the review. But, how in heaven’s name can I do justice to the process when I’m new to the job? Our human resources manager was even careless enough to say that I should “do the best I can do under the circumstances.” He exclaims there’s no way he can request the resigned manager to go back and do the performance appraisal since he has been cleared of any accountability. Please give me your advice. — At Random.

In Berkeley, near the campus of the University of California, there’s a ramp that goes up the freeway. When vacation time begins, that ramp is loaded with kids hitching rides with kind souls. They carry signs saying, “Sacramento” or “L.A.” or names of other destinations. They hold up those signs for the passing motorists to see and respond to.

The trouble is there are not so many takers, except for one middle-aged woman who was particularly impressed when she saw a young man with a sign in big, bold letters: “Please! My Dear Mom is waiting for me.” How could she resist giving him a ride?

The worst part of life is waiting. The best part of life is having to wait for someone worth waiting for. Are you that person?

The ritual of conducting the annual performance review is often viewed as an exercise in frustration by both the boss and his workers. This is understandable. For one, it’s difficult to summarize one year of performance in a series of check marks and few paragraphs explaining a person’s miscues and accomplishments.

In addition, the burden of a manager’s daily tasks tend to cause him to give lower priority to performance reviews. And in your case, you’re right to say you are in no position to objectively measure the workers’ performance because you’re new to the job. So, what can you do under the circumstances given the fact that the HR manager has declared he has no plans to ask the former manager to do his job?

It’s a lame excuse and might constitute incompetence, to say the least, on the part of the HR manager. In fact, the performance appraisal should have been done as part of the clearance process and terminal pay is released. It is very clear that the HR manager was negligent about this.

What are your options? Would you rather elevate the matter to top management for resolution and risk starting a conflict with the HR manager? Or go back and appeal to the HR manager to take the task off your hands? Since I’m supposing that you know your predecessor well, I suppose you can also talk to him on behalf of the workers who are overdue for their evaluations.

The best approach is to seek the permission of the HR manager to talk to your predecessor. Remember that you don’t want to antagonize HR on this even if you’re going in the right direction. Convincing HR on this may change his mind and convince the former manager to spend some time to conduct the appraisal process. With your approach, the HR manager may realize his irrationality and correct what has been neglected before.

But what if the HR manager continues to stonewall to the detriment of the workers? Would you be ready to stick your neck out and create a conflict with HR, which might be tempted to sabotage your career prospects in that organization? How about the waiting employees expecting their merit increases?

Even without your prodding, they may go straight to HR to appeal their case. The trouble is that the HR manager may suspect that you motivated them to go directly to him.

Study all implications of your actions. But act with a sense of urgency. If worse comes to worst, and HR refuses to move, secure the written department objectives and analyze them from the records. Take the time to understand everything. Then request all concerned workers to prepare a report of their individual accomplishments. It should be easy for you as you’re not new with the system and the activities of your current department.

In the meantime, elevate the matter to your boss and voice your concern that you don’t want to alienate the HR manager on this issue, even if it’s clear that he was negligent. Whatever he says should be your guide.

Using the department objectives and the performance report of the individual workers you have collected and other relevant information, sit down with them and try to validate their self-evaluations. Take into account the personality of each worker when you plan your performance meeting.

After completing this process, seek the approval of your boss who may have known something about the performance of your three workers. Reconcile your impressions with that of your boss and take it from there.

Bringing employees to their full potential doesn’t start and end with the completion of the formal performance evaluation process. It’s better if you can have regular, face-to-face interaction with your workers. The frequency of these meetings will depend on the nature of every worker and the nature of the tasks assigned to them.

Whatever happens, be both constructive and unobtrusive in providing the right guidance.

ELBONOMICS: The best time to conduct the annual performance review is every day.


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