Managers get bad reviews for performance reviews

Sometimes it’s worth it to state the obvious. That was the case last month when Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry described employee performance reviews in government as “infrequent and rote” and promised that changes were in the works. The response from readers? It’s about time.

By and large, readers who commented on our story agreed that morale suffers when poor performers slip through the system unscathed and receive the same meaningless rating often given to top performers: satisfactory. The system is not satisfactory, they say.

Performance matters

“Failing to remove poor performers disrespects and demotivates the entire team,” Berry said. “In declining budget times, we don’t have a position to waste.” Yes, and it makes the rest of the workforce look bad. This is something the unions should understand and not fight.
— Anonymous

I would appreciate a system that gauges a person’s performance against what the positions calls for, not whether they turned water into wine or some other extraordinary act. If a person exceeds the requirements of that position, creates things that wow others, is amenable to change, etc. — those are also things that should be rewarded as performance standards. I wish I had the courage to go back to the private sector, but after constant layoffs, I feel I have settled for the lesser of the two evils.
— Bay Area Advocate

Blame the managers

I have been part of [the National Security Personnel System], part of GS, and now I'm under the Interim Performance Management System for GS, which is just NSPS with greater destructive latitude for management. All these systems deny the employee any actual say in their performance review. The supervisor's word outweighs the employee's, 1,000 to 1. Where is the feedback mechanism for the managers to be rated? Poor management skills and unclear performance metrics potentially demoralize the motivated workforce far more than lack of bonus cash.
— Jaded

I cannot recall any new employee coming aboard with the attitude of doing as little as possible for the most pay possible. No! They come aboard wanting to make a positive contribution to the mission, make an impact on the nation's security and maximize the use of their particular skill sets. However, after a time, they become discouraged, disenchanted and even disenfranchised. Not through lack of wanting to be the best but through poor management! Cliques, nepotism, buddies, etc., get recognized for what? For being able to schmooze. It has very little to do with ability. There are no poor performers, just poor managers!
— George

Supervisors do know the performance levels of their employees. The system places too much [emphasis] on documentation because of what our courts do when an employee challenges the lack of a raise or a promotion. Satisfactory performance and time-in-grade should govern pay. We shouldn't have to document satisfactory or higher performance — just note it in the certificates and awards that are given to employees.
— Retired Army

Get real

It makes no sense to rail about tools that dehumanize and then say performance ratings are too subjective. That's almost as laughable as saying that failing to remove poor performers disrespects and demotivates the entire team but then proposing to continue pay without respect to performance.
— Retired Air Force

About the Author

John Monroe is Senior Events Editor for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, where he is responsible for overseeing the development of content for print and online content, as well as events. John has more than 20 years of experience covering the information technology field. Most recently he served as Editor-in-Chief of Federal Computer Week. Previously, he served as editor of three sister publications:, which covered the state and local government IT market, Government Health IT, and Defense Systems.


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