When done properly, performance appraisals should be a useful tool for members and management. They should help to clarify your supervisor’s expectations and give you a clear idea of where you fit within the Service’s broader organizational goals. You should get positive feedback for what you have been doing well and direction on where you could make improvements. The process should also allow you to discuss your own career goals and to tell your supervisor what support you need to meet your current responsibilities and future goals.
Performance appraisals remain in your personnel file forever. Therefore, when they are not done properly, they can have a negative and unfair effect on your career and can, in certain circumstances, be used to justify discipline further down the road. For this reason, it is imperative any problems with your appraisal are addressed as soon as possible.
Although performance appraisals should provide positive reinforcement, management has the right to identify perceived shortcomings in your performance. However, this doesn’t give your supervisor the right to put whatever they want in writing, completely unchallenged. Performance appraisals should be conducted in a fair manner and must be based on accurate facts. If they are not, you should ask that mistakes be corrected or clarify them yourself on the appraisal form.
What to Watch Out For in Your Appraisal:
- Are the opinions and assessments in your appraisal based on accurate facts? If the appraisal states that you missed deadlines or are chronically late for work and you can show this is not true, raise this with your supervisor and ask that it be corrected. If your supervisor refuses to make the change, you have a right to address inaccuracies in the “Member’s Comments” section of the appraisal form. If there isn’t enough room in the comment box, add a separate sheet. Although it is not ideal to have to attach explanations to your appraisal, it is preferable to leaving inaccurate negative statements unchallenged or unexplained.
- The appraisal should include all necessary information. If you receive negative comments about your performance that can be explained, ask that your supervisor include this information. Otherwise, provide your own explanation in the Member’s Comments section.
- The performance appraisal should not be disciplinary. While your supervisor may refer to perceived shortcomings in your performance, there should be no reference to discipline. Most working agreements state that discipline must be removed from your personnel file within certain time frames. If a reference is made to discipline in your performance appraisal, it remains there permanently.
- Referencing discipline in an appraisal is in violation of most working agreements. If reference is made to discipline, ask that it be removed. If you have received discipline through a separate letter, check your file to be sure the letter has been removed when it should be.
- The appraisal must be done in a fair manner. You have the right to review and sign off on your performance appraisal. Nothing should be changed or added to your appraisal after you have signed it. At times, documents have been added to a member’s appraisal after they have signed them. The additions have been negative and it may appear as though the member had signed off on these comments. To be clear, this is an unfair exercise of management rights. Although your supervisor’s manager has a right to make comments on your appraisal, these should not be added unless you have had an opportunity to review and comment on them. And if the manager’s comments are based on inaccurate facts or incomplete information, you should ask that they be clarified or address them yourself in the Member’s Comment’s section.
Performance Improvement Plans:
Another issue concerns the imposition of Performance Improvement Plans. These plans are generally introduced after a negative performance appraisal or where management has concerns about performance. They set out a specific list of goals you are expected to meet within a specific time frame.
These plans may be a genuine attempt to assist members in reaching their potential. On the other hand, they may also be used as the first step in a documented process that can lead to discipline. They should be taken very seriously. Review the goals that you are being asked to meet. Are they attainable? Are they part of your job description? If the Performance Improvement Plan contains unreasonable goals or threatens to discipline you for failing to meet the goals, call your Association.
For many members, performance appraisals have been a positive process. However, unfair appraisals will remain in your file permanently and can have a long lasting impact on your career goals. When you have a concern about something, address the concern with your supervisor or use the Member’s Comments section to clarify issues, when necessary. If you have real concerns, call your Association to determine whether there is any merit to a grievance.