Jim Peters leaned back in his office chair and sighed with relief. Supervisor of the
Metallurgical research Section at XYZ, he had just finished writing the last of the annual
performance appraisals on his 12-person research team. Nearing the end of his first year
as supervisor, this was Jim's experience in appraising employees. Nevertheless, he felt he
had done his appraisals well. He had held a thorough performance review discussion with
each individual, going over progress toward specific annual objectives established early
in the year. These discussions were open, frank, and, Jim believe, of value to him and to
XYZ's appraisal forms required giving each employee a ranking of: High Achiever,
Excellent, Satisfactory, Marginal, or Deficient. Each ranking requires a supporting,
written justification. Jim ranked 8 of his 12 people at either High Achiever or Excellent.
He ranked only 1 as Marginal, and he ranked the other 3 as Satisfactory.
Jim delivered his appraisals to his immediate supervisor, Jason "Mac"
McDougal, manager of the Materials Research Department at XYZ. Mac had review Jim's
appraisals, along with those of his other sections, approve them and submit them to the
Human Resource Director for XYZ's total research operation. Jim assumed Mac would quickly
and easily approve his appraisals.
Much to Jim's surprise, Mac appeared stormed into Jim's office a few days later, threw
the appraisals on his desk and exclaimed: "Jim, these appraisals just won't do!
You're overrating your people! You know I have to force-rank everyone in Materials
Research and turn that ranking in with all the appraisals. It looks to me like you've
tried to assure that all your people will be placed high in the forced ranking. I want
these appraisals rewritten and your ratings adjusted to something that more closely
approximates a 'normal distribution'--you ought not to have more than a couple of
High Achievers and probably a couple of Marginals or Deficients. I want the revised
appraisals back on my desk by the end of the working day tomorrow! Understand?"
Jim felt frustrated, disillusioned and disappointed by this turn of events. It seemed
to him the appraisal system was being manipulated to produce an expected result and was
not truly reflecting the performance of people. He also felt pressed for time, since he
had the next day fully committed to other projects. What options do you think Jim has?
Which do you think he should select? Explain.
Jim Peters worked late into the night to meet Mac McDougal's deadline. As he approached
the end of his task, he grew careless and changed two Excellents to Satisfactory without
changing his comments on their performance.
Jim submitted his revised appraisals to Mac and went back to the daily routine of
supervising the Metallurgical Section. Mac appeared satisfied with the revised appraisals
and submitted them (along with his forced ranking) into the normal chain of approval in
Some weeks later the appraisals were returned to Jim, who then scheduled individual
appointments with each of his people to inform them of their appraisal ratings and discuss
plans for subsequent improvement.
Jim's individual meetings went reasonably well until he met with Pete Evans. (Pete's
appraisal was one which had the changed rating without revised comments.) Pete listened to
Jim as they reviewed the appraisal and finally burst out, "Jim, your comments seem to
sound like I'm an excellent performer but you only rated me 'satisfactory'!"
Jim had been afraid of such an observation but hadn't carefully thought out a response.
He simply blurted out, "I had to reduce most of the ratings I gave to conform to the
distribution management expects!"
Pete stormed out of Jim's office muttering: "I thought my appraisal was supposed
to motivate me to improve! It sure as hell didn't!"
Discuss Jim's handling of his reappraisal task. What might he have done differently
that would have had better results? What would you suggest that he do now? What changes,
if any, do you think XYZ should make in its appraisal system?