Quit My Job Due To Unfair Evaluation

Question:

I worked for the same organization for over 10 years. In those years very few job evaluations were done, but they were always very good when they were done. The last evaluation was terrible. I had a new boss for about one year, and no direction at all. I responded to his reasons with great detail (he had to give reasons for low performance ratings). When I presented him with my comments, everything got even worse for me. He refused to discuss the comments, and redid the initial probation form they tried to present to me.

The biggest change was the scale they were suing to rate me. The initial scale was a 5 level scale. One being that you did not attempt the assignment, and five being that you completed the assignment perfectly. My boss made the scale a three level rating. One meant that no attempt was made. Two was that an attempt was made, but not according to his satisfaction, and three was that the assignment was completed perfectly. A rating of three or higher would remove you from probation. However, anything less than three kept you on probation, and could result in either termination or an extension of the probationary period. The deadlines were within 10 days (of which 6 of those 10 days were NON working days – holidays and weekends). The second deadline was 4 days later, the third deadline was the Monday after Christmas, and the fourth was 2 weeks later. Of course each deadline would be rated with his subjectiveness. These were not truly measurable items. I quit the following Monday. I was so frustrated and stressed, that I did not see an option but quit. I have the first and second probation forms as proof that they altered the probation scale in such a way that it would be impossible for me to achieve coming off probation. What could I have done differently? I wonder why this happened to me?

Signed,

Sad and Wondering


Answer:

Dear Sad and Wondering:

I’m very sorry things happened as they did. I don’t know for sure what caused the problems or even what you could have done differently that would have worked well for you. However, let me give you some things to consider, which might be helpful for looking back as well as for the future. (You may have thought of all of these or followed the suggestions, already.)

1. Employees should frequently compare their work with the areas being evaluated by supervisors. This avoid surprises and allows you to have real documentation of effectiveness, rather than merely an argument when the evaluation is given. The form used is usually available by talking to HR and asking for a blank copy–or by copying the most recent one received. Often an employee would not be surprised by an evaluation if he or she had been tracking quantity and quality of work and behavioral and interpersonal issues, realistically.

Have you received complaints? Have you received commendations? Have there been mistakes? Have coworkers seemed to have problems? Are you a strong team supporter? Those are all things to consider, and which most of us have a least a bit of an idea about how we’re doing.

2. Even if a supervisor does not provide guidance, most employees can tell if a supervisor is pleased with the quality and quantity of work and if they are not. If a supervisor doesn’t say, a wise employee will ask. An employee can regularly schedule time with the supervisor or he or she can just ask casually, “So, how do you think I’m doing in the areas that you’ll be evaluating formally?” Or, “I want to get a high evaluation. What are some things I need to work to improve and what are some of the stronger areas I just need to keep steady?”

If your boss won’t discuss it, maybe a trusted fellow employee can provide some perspectives.

3. Another way to determine a likely evaluation is to compare yourself with others who seem to receive positive support from the boss. That is not always accurate, but is a place to start. Are they performing or behaving differently than you? In what areas?

4. Another way to have an idea about evaluations is simply to self-evaluate how things are going, based on what is happening every day at work. The problems signs: Corrections of your finished work; questions about it and redirection of your actions; disagreement by the boss or others about your judgments or methods; conflict between you and one or more employees that you have not worked to settle; conflict between you and your boss; turning in late work or failure to get work done; complaints by internal or external customers; a reputation for something that is considered negative; being the source of gossip or complaints.

Those are all times when a manager may be making notes and deciding whether you are contributing at a high level or not.

All of that brings you to what happened in your situation. Apparently your evaluation was so low you were placed on probation. That doesn’t just happen over a tiny perceived problem–and it requires approval at a higher level in nearly all organizations. The fact that there IS a probationary period would indicate you have an organization large enough for HR or other personnel specialists. Somewhere your boss got approval, based on evidence he presented–evidence that you might not agree with, but that apparently convinced HR.

If you could prove the evaluation examples were wrong, you probably could have written to HR to protest the action and asked for a formal review. Your personnel evaluation could have been taken to a higher level above your boss as well. If you felt the form was changed unfairly, that could also have been taken to a higher level. (But I would bet HR knew about it, since they would have to review it prior to further action.)

So, it sounds to me as though there was a lot going on and that this was not a complete surprise. It also sounds as though the problems were serious enough that your boss consulted with someone else and developed a plan that would put you under some pressure to improve quickly.

You might not have liked being on probation, but it doesn’t sound as though you would automatically be fired. Perhaps you could have held on and asked your boss what it would take to get a two rating. Then, you could work toward a three rating. It wouldn’t have happened quickly, but you would still have a job.

On the other hand, if things had gone so far downhill, it may be you realized you would not be able to bring them back to the level you needed, given your relationship with your supervisor or given the knowledge or skill level you had to do the work that was being evaluated.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t add this note: I have interviewed many, many employees who were on probation or were disciplined or dismissed. I have never yet interviewed one where there were not plenty of indicators of problems long before the actions were taken. Often the employees simply did not agree–but that didn’t remove the problem. Or, they disliked the boss so much they pushed back on suggestions, and ended up in such conflict there was no recovery. Or, they were unable to improve for one reason or another, and it was better for them to move on to someplace else where they could be happy and successful.

That may be the case with you. It may be that leaving was not only the best way to reduce the stress you were feeling–it may have been the only way to free yourself up so you can find a job where you are able to be as effective and successful as possible, and where you will have more open communication within the team.

Your situation points out how crucial communication is. You say your boss didn’t communicate with you. Your boss might be able to say you did not communicate with him. Obviously, there was a lack somewhere in there. My thought is that your manager/boss should have put many things in writing before your final evaluation, so you would have it to review. If that didn’t happen, he didn’t do all he could do to make sure you understood how to improve. if improvement really was needed. Once again, I’m sorry this has worked out as it has. This will be one of those times when your inner strength will need to come out and when you will need to draw on all of your courage and optimism to get you through. At the same time, it can be a time to self-evaluate and ensure that if there were problems you will work to avoid those in the future. Often the situation is simply a bad one because of personality and style differences, and different expectations, habits and attitudes. It may be there was no way for this to work out better, and you are better off leaving. That should at least be a bit of a consolation (though I know, not much!)

Best wishes to you, and I hope you can find a new place soon where you can be the best you are capable of being.

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.