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Performance Assessment: When Good Reviews Go Bad

Analyze both Case Studies of the textbook (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2011, pp. 253-255); "Performance Review Takes a Page from Facebook" and "When Good Reviews Go Bad".
Answer the three questions at the end of each case.

 Summarize answers for the case studies in essay format with a minimum of 250 words for each case for a total of 500 words minimum for both cases combined.

 Submit the essays as one word document. All sources used, including the textbook, must be referenced; paraphrased and quoted material must have accompanying citations.

Performance Review Takes a Page from Facebook

In the world of Facebook or Twitter, people love to hear feedback about what they're up to. But sit them down for a performance review, and suddenly the experience becomes traumatic.

Now companies are taking a page from social networking sites to make the performance evaluation process more fun and useful. Accenture has developed a
Facebook-style program called Performance Multiplier in which, among other things, employees post status updates, photos, and two or three weekly goals that can be viewed by fellow staffers. Even more immediate: new software from a Toronto startup called Rypple that lets people post Twitter-length questions about their performance in
exchange for anonymous feedback. Companies ranging from sandwich chain Great Harvest Bread Company to Firefox developer Mozilla have signed on as clients.

Such initiatives upend the dreaded rite of annual reviews by making performance feedback a much more real-time and ongoing process. Stanford University management professor Robert Sutton argues that performance reviews "mostly suck" because they're conceived from the top rather than designed with employees' needs in mind. "If you have regular conversations with people, and they know where they stand, then the performance evaluation is maybe unnecessary," says Sutton.

What Rypple's and Accenture's tools do is create a process in which evaluations become dynamic—and more democratic. Rypple, for example, gives employees the chance to post brief, 140-character questions, such as "What did you think of my presentation?" or "How can I run meetings better?" The queries are e-mailed to managers, peers, or anyone else the user selects. Short anonymous responses are then aggregated and sent back, providing a quick-and-dirty 360-degree review. The basic service is free. But corporate clients can pay for a premium version that includes tech support, extra security, and analysis of which topics figure highest in employee posts. Rypple's cofounders have also launched software called TouchBase that's meant to replace the standard annual review with quick monthly surveys and discussions.

Accenture's software, which it's using internally and hoping to sell to outside clients, is more about motivating employees than it is about measuring them. With help from management guru Marcus Buckingham, the consultancy's product has a similar look and feel to other corporate social networks. The major difference is that users are expected to post brief goals for the week on their profile page, as well as a couple for each quarter. If they don't, the lack of goals is visible to their managers, who are also alerted of the omission by e-mail. By prompting people to document and adjust their goals constantly, Accenture hopes the formal discussion will improve. "You don't have to desperately re-create examples of what you've done," says Buckingham. Typically, "managers and employees are scrambling to fill [evaluation forms] out in the 24 hours before HR calls saying 'where's yours?' "

If having your performance goals posted for the world to see sounds a bit Orwellian, consider this: Rypple reports that some two-thirds of the questions posted on its service come from managers wanting feedback about business questions or their own performance. The biggest payoff of these social-network-style tools may prove to be better performance by the boss.

SOURCE: Jena McGregor, "Performance Review Takes a Page from Facebook,"
BusinessWeek, March 12, 2009, .

1. Based on the information given, discuss how well Performance Multiplier and Rypple meet the criteria for effective performance management: fit with strategy, validity, reliability, acceptability, and specific feedback.

2. How suitable would these tools be for fulfilling the strategic, administrative, and developmental purposes of performance management?

3. Think of a job you currently hold, used to have, or would like to have. Imagine that this employer introduced Performance Multiplier or Rypple to your workplace.
Describe one area of your performance you would like to seek feedback about, and identify which people you would ask to provide that feedback. What concerns, if any, would you have about using this system to seek feedback about your performance?

Case: When Good Reviews Go Bad

Based on her performance reviews at Merrill Lynch, Kathleen Bostjancic was amazing, at least for a few years. In one appraisal report, her boss said Bostjancic "continues to deliver top-caliber product," and he wrote, "Her judgment is impeccable." After three years, her pay more than doubled to reflect her apparent value to the company.

Then something changed; Bostjancic noticed the difference around the time she took a maternity leave. Her economist boss phoned and asked her to take on a newly created position, Washington policy analyst. But when she returned to work with a plan for the position, her plan was rejected, and tension grew. A year later, Bostjancic's boss issued a memo advising her that her work must "improve dramatically." Seven months later, she was told that she was being laid off in a downsizing effort; the company hired a replacement two months afterward.

A former Citigroup employee also recalls that good reviews before maternity leave didn't do much to help her situation when she returned to work. Wan Li says one performance appraisal after another reported that she was exceeding expectations. Then as she neared maternity leave, she was transferred from a key job in the Structured Trade Finance Group to a support position that would (Li recalls being told) be "more manageable" for her. Upon her return from maternity leave, Li tried to transfer from her
temporary support post to a revenue-generating job, but she was instead transferred to another support role. Three years later, following a second maternity leave, Li received
a call announcing that her job had been eliminated in a "restructuring."

At Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Paula Best was progressing well in her career. She was responsible for securities lending and apparently handled the responsibility well enough that the bank added management of international lending to the scope of her job. Best thought she should be made a vice president, like the other employees who reported to the department manager of securities lending. What was holding back her promotion? It wasn't her performance, according to the appraisals; she was rated at the level of "Achieves + ," and Best recalls that her vice president promised her a promotion. After two more years and still no promotion, Best, who is African American, complained to the bank's personnel department and then to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that she believed she was a victim of sex and race discrimination. Soon thereafter, Best and four other employees in her department were laid off.

How could three employees with glowing performance appraisals be laid off by the institutions that once seemed to value them? Of course, one possibility is that the recent
financial crisis required all of these institutions to make hard choices among many valued employees. It's also possible that the three women's performance deteriorated in
the time after their last favorable review. Two of the three employers have publicly claimed that their decisions were justified. Merrill Lynch has said that Bostjancic's manager treated her appropriately after her maternity leave; Bank of Tokyo says it fully investigated Best's complaints and found that management had made appropriate decisions, given her level of responsibility.

Whether or not these decisions were justified, they have proved costly in terms of negative publicity and legal actions. Bostjancic filed a discrimination lawsuit, which
is ongoing as of this writing. Li filed a discrimination lawsuit against Citigroup, which was settled to avoid further expense. Best is part of a class-action lawsuit filed against Bank of Tokyo. Meanwhile, among the hundreds of thousands of financial-industry jobs lost in the financial crisis, almost three-quarters of the layoffs have involved women. Notable examples include Zoe Cruz, who had been co-president at Morgan Stanley, and Erin Callan, formerly chief financial officer at Lehman Brothers. The impact is especially dramatic in top-level jobs, where women were already scarce. In one recent survey of
executives across industries, 19 percent of women said they'd been laid off in the past two years, compared with 6 percent of male executives.

SOURCES: Anita Raghavan, "Terminated: Why the Women of Wall Street Are Disappearing," Forbes, March 16, 2009, Business & Company Resource Center, ; Alan Kline and Rebecca Sausner, "Taking Charge in Turbulent Times," US Banker, October 1, 2009, Business & Company Resource Center, ; and Geraldine Fabrikant, "Bank of America Hires Former Top Citigroup Executive," The New York Times, August 4, 2009, Business & Company Resource Center, .


1. Which purposes of performance management did the appraisals described in this case fulfill? Which purposes did they not fulfill?

2. How can managers and HR departments minimize the likelihood of disputes arising over whether employees are continuing to perform at the same level?

3. If you had been in the HR departments of the companies described in this case, and the employees had come to you with their concerns, what would you have done in each situation?

Solution Preview

According to Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright (2010) performance management systems must help the organization meet its' business objectives and serve as "a basis for developing employees' knowledge and skills" (p.251). Performance Multiplier and Rypple help the organization meet its' business objectives by keeping employees on track on a regular basis. Performance Multiplier has employees set weekly and quarterly goals, an important function in making sure employees are working toward organizational objectives. Performance Multiplier would help employees understand what is specifically expected of them and help them adjust their behavior to meet these expectations. Rypple allows regular feedback so that employees can shape their behavior in an ongoing manner. In this way, the tools fit with strategy and validity. However, there is concern that Rypple's feedback, while specific, may be anonymous. This may mean the feedback is more direct but it is also important for managers and employees to communicate directly, without the guise of a 140-character limit or anonymity. As a result the reliability, acceptability and actual ...

Solution Summary

This detailed solution provides answers to the case questions in "When Good Reviews Go Bad" and "Performance Reviews Take a Page from Facebook". Answers are in essay form with APA formatted citations.