b'PAGE 16 / NATIONAL CLOTHESLINE / OCTOBER, 2019K EEP I T L EGAL BY F RANK K OLLMANThe pitfalls of employee evaluationshe performance evalua- was working at a large firm. forpoorworkperformance courages everyone to be just without more explanation. ItT tion is the least under- The partner, a nice fellow, told had notice that her choice was good enough. wouldbebettertosaythatstoodandthemost methatIwasreallydoing to improve or get fired. Its like recreational council Johnneedstoavoidvulgarabused practice in labor and well, that my work was excel- More often, evaluations are soccermake sure every kid language and lower his voiceemployment law. lent, and that clients liked me. used by plaintiffs lawyers to gets a trophy. In the workplace, to coworkers when he has aIf you attend a seminar on He added, however, that the showthatyourformerem- employers do not want to up- problem instead of John hasgoodemploymentpractices, partners believed that I did ployee was the victim of dis- set average performers by tell a bad attitude.you will be told how impor- not take criticism well. crimination or wrongful termi- them the truth. Second, editorial languagetant they are, how to complete I do not recall if I said OK, nation. If your evaluations are Unfortunately,whenit or overblown explanations canthem to avoid legal problems Ill work on that, or if I said more likely to hurt you in liti- comestimetoterminatea be dangerous, especially in thedown the road, and how to get Thats nonsense, I take criti- gation,itsbetternottouse poorly performing employee, handsofplaintiffslawyers.around them if you, as many cism very well. It was proba- them at all. those prior outstanding evalu- For example, Beth is doing asemployers do, screw them up. bly the latter. The first problem with eval- ations become a major liabil- well as she can given that thisI wish it were that simple. Evaluations are used to de- uations is that they are rarely ity. isnormallyamansjob,I have been formally evalu- termine wage increases, correct accurate. While there may be Howdoyouexplainata Andyneedstospendlessated only once in my legal ca- deficienciesinjobperform- companiesthatemployonly deposition why this five-star timecomplainingaboutdis-reer,whichnowspansfour ance, and ultimately to show top notch, honest, and moti- 67-year-old employee with di- crimination, Rons perform-decades. I was 28 or 29, and I that the employee discharged vated employees, the odds of abetes went from outstanding ance has deteriorated since hisyourcompanybeingoneof in2018tounemployedin hunting accident and medicalthem are not good. Even the 2019? And if the idea of evalu- leave, and Habibe needs tobest of companies has employ- ations is to make the employee act more like an American areeeswithdifferentskillsand improve,whatsensedoesit comments that are dangerousability, and while one person make to give five-star reviews even if you are only thinkingmay be a fantastic performer in any category? them. when hes there, that does not For this reason, if you use What is the perfect evalua-mean he is always on time, a evaluation forms with ratings, tion? I cannot describe it, but Igood team player, or someone considerchangingtoaform know it when I see it. It is help-whoisgoodatpaperwork. that reports performance in a ful to the employee who needsNobody is perfect, even your more objective way. John av- to improve and reaffirming tobest employee. eraged 10 widgets an hour last the employee who is doing aEssentially, evaluations of a quarter, but is expected (or re- good job. It accurately placesworkforce should show a few quired) to average 15 this quar- the employee in the spectrumoutstandingperformers,a ter is a better evaluation than from satisfactory to great with-large group of satisfactory em- a star rating, and outstanding out using ratings. It containsployees, and a small group of employeescanbenotedby no language that is subject tosoon-to-be former employees. stating John regularly exceeds torture by a clever plaintiffsOne of the reasons why they 20 widgets per hour, and it will lawyer.Itcontainslanguagedo not is because of the rating bereflectedinhiswagein- that is helpful to your lawyersystems found on typical eval- crease this year. if the employee is about to en-uationforms.Noemployee Using words instead of rat- tertheranksoftheunem-wants to receive an average ings to describe performance ployed. It is done on time (an-rating, and no employer wants is not without its risks. nually, for example), and it isto give an average rating be- First, vague conclusory lan- consistent with the evaluationscause good enough is not the guageisnotalwayshelpful. of other employees in structureALDREDGE CLEANERS in Gilmer, TX, purchased a UnionHXL-8018-C cleaning machine through Gulf States Laundry goal. Giving an average em- Words like satisfactory, in- and tone. It is shorter than thisMachinery. Charlotte Cage, the owner, is pictured with Matt ployee five stars or an out- appropriate, attitude, dif- article.A. Lipman, sales representative for Union. standing rating, however, en- ficult, etc., should be avoided Finally, evaluations can beexcellent devices at any pointin an employees tenure withthe company.Ifitisclearthatanem-ployee is not going to make itduring her first 30 to 90 days,that first and final evaluationshould explain why. If an em-ployee is starting to slip in hisperformance,theevaluationshould be a warning shot. Ifslippage continues, the evalu-ation should set goals that, ifnot met, will result in the ter-mination of his or her employ-ment.Again,badlyconstructedevaluations are far worse thanno evaluations at all. Use themasanopportunitytomakeyour company better.Frank Kollman is a partner in thelaw firm of Kollman & Saucier,PA, in Baltimore, MD. He can bereached by phone at (410) 727-4300 or fax (410) 727-4391. Hisfirms web site can be found atwww.kollmanlaw.com. It has ar-ticles, sample policies, news andSee Us at NCAs TexcareBooth 703-15 otherinformationonem-To learn more, see the Index of Advertisers on page 42 or visit www.natclo.com/ads ployee/employer relations.'