Manager Evaluations

Dear Management Doctor:

Thanks for the article on leadership malpractice. Click here to read that article.

I am in a situation at my current agency where a Senior Planner was promoted to Planning Manager. This new "manager" doesn't have a clue how to be a manager (we are trying to get her to take your webinar) and she is a grossly ineffective manager - so much so that there is an outright rebellion going on with staff about here. I have never seen anything like it.

My problem with all the management books and ideas you send out is that there is always this focus on doing staff performance review and evaluation, there is never any analysis of how/if the managers should be evaluated. You and I both know that there are many bad managers in public agencies and there has to be some way for their underlings to give them, and their supervisors, feedback on their management abilities.

Thanks! Glad to see that you are still out there doing good things!

Regards,
Nameless for good reason.

Dear Nameless,

The only good news is that you are not alone. I see many many poor planning managers. It is very difficult for managers to get an appropriate evaluation. Generally the boss, city manager, is simple too far from the action to do a real evaluation.

The only evaluation then is when citizens complain or the mangers get in trouble politically. If the manager is good at politics, they can often survive as a lousy manger.

The other approach is when staff revolts. As discussed in some prior articles, this can be dangerous. However, in your case, if most staff is ready to rebel, maybe as a group go to see the City Manger. Or, is he or she also a problem?

We manage to address some of these issues in our studies. Although we are not hired to do personnel evaluations, the situation starts to be noticed through our recommendations.

Finally, the most effective method is the so-called 360 evaluation. This is where staff, peers and managers complete a confidential evaluation, often with an outside facilitator. This might be a good approach to see if the manager’s manager would sponsor such an evaluation.

Attached to this memo is also an article I did in 2003 that may help.

Best wishes and good luck,

The Management Doctor

From Harvard Business Review, December 2002

He's a rising star. He's also arrogant and unseasoned. Denying him that promotion might be the best thing you could do for his career - and your company.

It's not unusual for a star performer to be promoted into higher management before he's ready. Yes, he may be exceptionally smart and talented, but he may also lack essential people skills. Rather than denying him the promotion altogether, his boss might do well to delay it - and use that time to help develop the candidate's emotional competencies. Here's how.

Deepen 360-Degree Feedback. Go beyond the usual set of questionnaires that make up the traditional 360-degree-feedback process. Interview a wide variety of the manager's peers and subordinates and let him read verbatim responses to open-ended performance questions.

Interrupt the Ascent. Help the inexperienced manager get beyond a command-and-control mentality by pushing him to develop his negotiation and persuasion skills. Instead of promoting him, give him cross-functional assignments where he can't rely on rank to influence people.

Act On Your Commitment. Don't give the inexperienced manager the impression that emotional competencies are optional. Hold him accountable for his interpersonal skills, in some cases taking a tough stance by demoting him or denying him a promotion, but with the promise that changed behaviors will ultimately be rewarded.

Institutionalize Personal Development. Weave interpersonal goals into the fabric of the organization and make emotional competence a performance measure. Also, work to institute formal development programs that teach leadership skills and facilitate self-awareness, reflection, and opportunities to practice new emotional competencies.

Cultivate Informal Networks. Encourage the manager to develop informal learning partnerships with peers and mentors in order to expose him to different leadership styles and perspectives. This will provide him with honest and ongoing feedback and continual opportunities to learn.

Reader Response Could you please give me a quick definition of what “emotional competence” means as it relates to this article?

The Management Doctor suggests it relates to a person’s essential people skills. How does the person relate to his or her peers, subordinates and boss? Is the person still of the “I’m the boss” mentality or does this person understand contemporary management relies more on teamwork and coordination rather than authority. Good interpersonal skills are not just nice in a manager but are essential.

I hope this helps,

The Management Doctor


Reader Responses

I was disappointed that your answer didn't suggest that part of the complainer's job is to help the new manager. Everyone who is a manager now started as a new manager at one point and we know how little we knew then! My advice would be to forget about the good or bad reasons for the new manager's promotion, accept that person as the new manager, and work together as a team to improve the situation. It is the job of the city manager to assure that the senior planner has training and skills as a manager before promoting her, but the failure to do so is a good indication that taking the issue to him/her will only make matters worse.

Sarah More


Sarah,

Well said, I totally agree.

David Woods


I agree with Mr. Zucker's analysis of including some type of performance evaluation of managers. ALL employees should be evaluated and bad managers need to be identified for the benefit of the enterprise.

Employees should not be called on to 'support' a bad manager ("accept that person as the new manager"). I am also startled with the response that the troubled manager's boss should not do a performance evaulation and should not give the manager feedback on her performance.

Paul Praha


I didn't see where anyone suggested that the boss's boss should not do their job. The boss's boss has the same responsibility to complete performance reviews as the boss. Often, the boss's boss has a limited field of view and when they don't have the time or inclination (for whatever reason) their performance "reviews" are useless at best and likely counterproductive. Have you ever heard the boss's boss make the complaint, "If you would have only told me..." If you have, that probably was a memorable day. Is it any wonder why employees get disillusioned with the blind leading the blind? As employees, supervisors, managers or directors, we simply need to open our eyes and listen more. The same can be said for City Managers, but I digress.

Actively and continually solicit input from multiple perspectives and you will perceive more of the truth. I learned long ago that giving unsolicited advice to the boss's boss anywhere near this arena usually doesn't work out that well. This is a lesson best not learned directly if it can be avoided and avoiding it is almost impossible as one climbs the ladder. I guess one must be very, very careful because if you attempt to kill the king so to speak, you better kill him. This mesmerizing topic leads me to ask a question. Does anyone really think the 360-degree review provides truly accurate feedback when trouble is brewing?


At my former city, we had a manager that united the entire staff. The director had no clue and gave her a good review shortly before we sat the director down and itemized the complaints. Ultimately, the position was written out of the budget and a new management position was created of "senior planner," which I ultimately held.

In my current city, my current supervisor is not wonderful. Her supervisor, the director, has a clue because I've discussed it with him several times, but he seems to not acknowledge it. I'm just a planner and she's the planning manager - I'm subordinate and she's in control - I'm wrong and she's right - I know nothing and she knows everything.

Standing up for myself and my 20+ years experience in this field only gets me in trouble. I've been warned, disciplined, ousted without pay for two days (no hearing, I might add), and I fear termination.

My only "fault" is knowing more than my supervisor and thinking she wanted my 100 percent. When I saw she was having trouble managing more than one person, I spoke with the director about it. I guess it's because I'm "just" a planner and she's the "supervisor" he disregarded my concerns and did not help her in any way.

-- Still on the other side


I wonder if "still on the other side" is there for a reason. I can understand being in a situation with a bad manager. Been there myself. But to have it happen in two consecutive jobs, and with the:

Standing up for myself and my 20+ years experience in this field only gets me in trouble. I've been warned, disciplined, ousted without pay for two days (no hearing, I might add), and I fear termination.
makes me wonder if perhaps there is a little arrogance on the part of the writer. I know of no planning agency where someone can be "ousted without pay" without due process. The only cases I've ever seen in my years of experience where an employee is suspended without pay involves not only a hearing, but usually someone from HR in the meeting and a written reprimand explaining the transgression. There's more to this than is appearing in print.

Anonymous


Dear Still on the Other Side:

My response is shown below in red with your original comments:

At my former city, we had a manager that united the entire staff. The director had no clue and gave her a good review shortly before we sat the director down and itemized the complaints. If she "united the entire staff" that sounds like a good thing, so why did you think she shouldn't get a good review from the director? And what kinds of complaints would you itemize about a "uniter"? I'm confused. Is there a typo in your comments? Ultimately, the position was written out of the budget and a new management position was created of "senior planner," which I ultimately held.

In my current city, my current supervisor is not wonderful. Her supervisor, the director, has a clue because I've discussed it with him several times, but he seems to not acknowledge it. I'm just a planner and she's the planning manager - I'm subordinate and she's in control - I'm wrong and she's right - I know nothing and she knows everything. Maybe it's your tone or attitude - more like a whiner or complainer and someone who doesn't take the spirit of trying to help and be a team player.

Standing up for myself and my 20+ years experience in this field only gets me in trouble. Again, perhaps it's your tone and attitude. It's not always just about you; you're part of a team, everyone has to be in the boat rowing together to make things work. It's not up to you singularly to solve what you define as a problem. You may be the only one who perceives a "problem" where maybe there really isn't one. You're part of a team, part of a machine, and if YOU aren't part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. I've been warned, disciplined, ousted without pay for two days (no hearing, I might add), and I fear termination. There are always two sides to every story. You sound like you might be a difficult employee. Again, perhaps you need to do some soul searching and look inward. The common denominator in all your sorrowful situations is you. If you fear termination, you have two options - if you don't like your work environment get out before you get terminated, or change your attitude and behaviors. Don't be a know-it-all; be a team player, make "deposits" not "withdrawals" with your manager and co-workers.

My only "fault" is knowing (perhaps "thinking" you know?) more than my supervisor and thinking she wanted my 100%. (Wanting your 100% - not sure what you mean by that.) When I saw she was having trouble managing more than one person, I spoke with the director about it. I guess it's because I'm "just" a planner and she's the "supervisor" he disregarded my concerns and did not help her in any way. Maybe you should quit running to complain to the director all the time and instead focus your efforts on your source of irritation - try to be empathetic to your manager and try to help her in a HELPFUL way, with a smile and compassion, and an attitude of, "Is there anyway I can help make this situation better for you? Don't tell, don't lecture, don't put her down, don't criticize how she does things. You show compassion by saying things like, "I've noticed that you have some difficulty or uneasiness with so and so - is there anything I can do to help you with that? Soften up, show your humanity, and try to calm any display of self-righteousness and I think you'll find things will get much easier for you. Most of all try to be HAPPY with your station in life. In these tough economic times you could suddenly find yourself unemployed. Which do you prefer? It's up to you.

Wishing you all the best, and the courage to try not to "take sides" in everything. Sometimes ya just gotta go with the flow or move on.

-- Still on the other side


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