Monday, July 27, 2009

Outside, Inside, and Perspective

I've met some managers who insist that no one should ever be given an evaluation of "Outstanding" in all performance categories or even overall.

"No one," they insist, "is perfect."

I respond that being outstanding is not the same as being perfect, but they shrug off that argument. What they are really saying is that their evaluation system is skewed, Any third party reading the evaluations should know that for many of the employees, "Meets Standards" is as good as it gets.

Unfortunately, not all of them will know that.

I've met other managers who can tell you what this or that employee did wrong 10 to 15 years ago. I ask, "Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations on such infractions?" Something in their smile makes me suspect that their honest answer would be "No."

How do people slide into such attitudes? I don't have the answer. I do wonder how many of them have ever been subjected to serious unfairness; not some minor "I don't think that was right" moment, but a raw, brutal episode that leaves a scar.

Fortunately, many managers have such memories. In most cases, those recollections provide a helpful perspective and a healthy sense of justice. In others, of course, it clouds perspective with prejudice and resentment.

Either way, as one observer noted, it can be difficult to see the picture if you are in the frame.

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