Bad Review Based on Hearsay From Coworkers

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about hearsay and a performance review: My supervisor told me that she based it on what my co-workers said about me.

My supervisor has given me a less than adequate performance review. I was surprised because this would be inconsistent with my 13-year record of stellar performance reviews in other jobs. My supervisor told me that she based it on what my co-workers said about me. I know who those co-workers are, and my feeling is that they have the mindset of “we work harder than anyone else. No one else is as efficient as we are” regardless of the actual facts and statistics of the work they produce. I would like to express this to my supervisor without sounding like I’m gossiping or unable to get along with others. We’re having a meeting with my supervisor’s manager soon.

Signed, Frustrated and Rated Unfairly

Dear Frustrated and Rated Unfairly:

I can imagine your frustration if you were never told you were performing inadequately and now you are being rated as less than adequate. What makes it worse is having been told you were doing a good job! I’m glad you’re having a meeting with your supervisor and her manager because this needs to be reviewed at another level.

Consider some of the following as you decide what you want to say in the meeting:

1. According to your relationships with everyone involved and the culture of the organization, you may want to consider having a short statement of your concerns in writing. If no changes are made in your evaluation, ask that the statement be placed in your personnel folder to explain your concerns about it. (That may not be something you want to do at this point, but it certainly would be appropriate and happens in many workplaces in similar situations.)

2. When you are given a chance to speak in the meeting–and we’ll hope you are; say that there are two things that disturb you, then discuss the first one before mentioning the second one. (That’s something I’ve noticed over time. If you list the two things up front–the fact that you were led to believe you were doing well, and your concern about coworker evaluations–you run a greater risk of them picking the latter issue as something to debate right away and you’ll get off track.) Just a thought.

3. Prior to the meeting list the issues about which your supervisor says you are performing less than adequately. Your goal is to either show that you have been performing effectively or to show that you have had no reason to think otherwise.Get a calendar and refresh your memory about how much work you have done, how many of the problem tasks you have performed (if that fits the situation) how many times your supervisor has looked at your work or talked to you about it but not said anything corrective, and similar things to show that you had no reason to think there was a problem. Those are all great statistics and dates to have. They also allow you to sell your perspective better.

Be specific about how many days or weeks you have worked while thinking you were doing a good job. State specific dates when you were given a compliment or when you talked to your supervisor about work and she acted as though you were doing fine. Tell the manager that not only were you not told that anything you were doing was a problem, you weren’t told anything to do instead of what you were doing. As a result, you thought you should keep doing work just the way you were. (That’s a very compelling point to make!)

4. After you have discussed the matter of the lack of awareness about work, also bring up the issue of being evaluated by peers. You might want to mention that you have not been asked your thoughts about peers so you wonder why peers were asked about you. You can say, “I could understand it if there was a formal process for peers to rate each other and everyone knew about the process. But it just sounds as though my coworkers were asked their opinions of me and that was used as the evaluation. That hardly seems valid and subjective, since they’re not trained to be supervisors.”

5. Keep your remarks brief and to the point and close with a request: “I don’t think there is any evidence to show that I was less than acceptable in my work, so I’d like to have my evaluation changed to reflect that. Then, if there are areas you think I could improve in, I’d appreciate having you tell me those specifically and give me ideas for doing better. Both of those things seem fair to me. Is that something we can do?”

6. You may want to suggest that regular meetings be held so coworkers can express concerns as well as ideas for work improvement. You may not want to suggest that! It depends upon your workplace and your relationships there.

7. I realize you don’t want to make your supervisor look bad; but probably her manager already realizes there are some problems with this evaluation. You certainly don’t want to soft pedal the situation if you get a chance to discuss it.

8. No matter how the interview ends; and probably no decision will be made right away; write a thank you note to both of them, thanking them for their time and interest in the situation and saying again that you’re committed to doing an effective job.You can really help your situation if you present yourself to the manager and supervisor as a cooperative, balanced person. At least, that won’t hurt!

If they say the low evaluation stands, work to win an Academy Award for your tolerance of a bad situation! Apparently you won’t lose your job over it. So, maybe you can use this as a way to work more closely with your supervisor and to build your reputation. You might even want to reach out to those coworkers and let them get to know you in a better way.Best wishes as you develop a plan of action for this situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, please let us know what happens so we can adapt your ideas to help others in similar situations.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.