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Appraising the Secretaries at Sweetwater U

Answer the questions to the case, “Appraising the Secretaries at Sweetwater U,” at the end of Chapter 6. Include at least one outside source supporting your answers. Explain your answers in 200 words.

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Case Incident: ;Appraising the Secretaries at Sweetwater U

Rob Winchester, newly appointed vice president for administrative affairs ;at ;Sweetwater ;State ;University, faced a tough problem shortly after hisuniversity career began. Three weeks after he came on board in September, ;Sweetwater’s president, Rob’s boss, told Rob that ;one of his first tasks was to improve ;the ;appraisal system ;used to evaluate secretarial and clerical performance ;at ;Sweetwater ;U. ;The ;main difficulty was that ;theperformance appraisal was tied to salary increases given ;at ;the ;end of ;the ;year. ;Therefore, most administrators were less than accurate whenthey ;used ;the ;graphic rating forms that ;were ;the ;basis of ;the ;clerical staff evaluation. Each administrator simply rated his or her clerk or secretary as “excellent.” This cleared ;the ;way for all support staff to receive a maximum pay increase every year.

But ;the ;current ;university budget simply did not include enough money to fund another “maximum” annual increase for every staffer. Furthermore, ;Sweetwater’s president felt that ;the ;custom of providing invalid performance feedback to each secretary was not productive, so he had asked ;the ;new vice president to revise ;the ;system. In October, Rob sent a memo to all administrators telling ;them that ;in ;the ;future no more than half ;the ;secretaries ;reporting to any particular administrator could be appraised as “excellent.” This move, in effect, forced each supervisor to begin ranking his or her ;secretaries ;for quality of performance. ;The ;vice president’s memo met widespread resistance immediately—from administrators, who were afraid that ;many of ;their ;secretaries ;would leave for lucrative jobs; and from ;secretaries, who felt that ;the ;new system was ;unfair. A handful of ;secretaries ;had begun quietly picketing outside ;the ;president’s home on ;the ;university campus. ;The ;picketing, caustic remarks by disgruntled administrators, and rumors of an impending slowdown by ;the ;secretaries ;(there were about 250 on campus) made Rob Winchester wonder whether he had made ;the ;right decision by setting ;up forced ranking. He knew, however, that ;there were a few performance appraisal experts in ;the ;School of Business, so he set ;up an appointment with ;them to discuss ;the ;matter.

He met with ;them ;the ;next morning. He explained ;the ;situation as he had found it: ;The ;present appraisal system had been set ;up when ;theuniversity first opened 10 years earlier. A committee of ;secretaries ;had developed it. ;Under that ;system, ;Sweetwater’s administrators filled out forms similar to ;the ;one in ;Figure 6.8. This once-a-year appraisal (in March) had run into problems almost immediately, since it was apparent fromthe ;start that ;administrators varied widely in ;their interpretations of job standards, as well as in how conscientiously ;they filled out ;the ;forms and supervised ;their ;secretaries. Moreover, ;at ;the ;end of ;the ;first year it became obvious to everyone that ;each secretary’s salary increase was tied directly to ;the ;March appraisal. For example, those rated “excellent” received ;the ;maximum increases, those rated “good” received smaller increases, and those given neither rating received only across-the-board cost-of-living increases. Since ;universities in general—and ;Sweetwater ;in particular—have paid ;secretaries ;somewhat ;lower salaries than those in private industry, some ;secretaries ;left in a huff that ;first year. From thattime on, most administrators simply rated all ;secretaries ;excellent in order to reduce staff turnover, thus ensuring each a maximum increase. Inthe ;process, ;they also avoided ;the ;hard feelings aroused by ;the ;significant performance differences otherwise highlighted by administrators.

Two ;Sweetwater ;experts agreed to consider ;the ;problem, and in 2 weeks ;they came back to ;the ;vice president with ;the ;following recommendations. First, ;the ;form ;used to rate ;the ;secretaries ;was grossly insufficient. It was ;unclear what ;“excellent” or “quality of work” meant, for example. ;They recommended instead a form like that ;in ;Figure 6.2. In addition, ;they recommended that ;the ;vice president rescind his earlier memo and no longer ;attempt to force ;university administrators to rate ;at ;least half ;their ;secretaries ;as less than excellent. ;The ;two consultants pointed out that ;this was, in fact, an ;unfair procedure since it was quite possible that ;any particular administrator might have staffers who were all excellent—or conceivably, although less likely, all below standard. ;The ;experts said that ;the ;way to get all ;the ;administrators to takethe ;appraisal process more seriously was to stop tying it to salary increases. In other words, ;they recommended that ;every administrator fill out a form like that ;in ;Figure 6.2 ;for each secretary ;at ;least once a year and ;then ;use this form as ;the ;basis of a counseling session. Salary increases would be made on some basis other than ;the ;performance appraisal, so that ;administrators would no longer hesitate to fill out ;the ;rating forms honestly.

Rob thanked ;the ;two experts and went back to his office to ponder ;their recommendations. Some of ;the ;recommendations (such as substitutingthe ;new rating form for ;the ;old) seemed to make sense. Nevertheless, he still had serious doubts as to ;the ;efficacy of any graphic rating form, particularly if he were to decide in favor of his original forced ranking approach. ;The ;experts’ second recommendation—to stop tying ;the ;appraisals to automatic salary increases—made sense but raised a practical problem: If salary increases were not to be based on performance appraisals, on what ;were ;they to be based? He began wondering whether ;the ;experts’ recommendations weren’t simply based on ivory-tower ;theorizing.

QUESTIONS

1.

Do you ;think that ;the ;experts’ recommendations will be sufficient to get most of ;the ;administrators to fill out ;the ;rating forms properly? Why? Why not? What ;additional actions (if any) do you ;think will be necessary?

2.

Do you ;think that ;Vice President Winchester would be better off dropping graphic rating forms, substituting instead one of ;the ;other techniques we discussed in this chapter, such as a ranking method? Why?

3.

What ;performance appraisal system would you ;develop for ;the ;secretaries ;if you ;were Rob Winchester? Defend your answer.

Figure 6.8 ;A Graphic Rating Scale with Unclear Standards

F20573_06_f0010.jpg

Note: ;For example, what exactly is meant by “good,” “quantity of work,” and so forth?

For example, one study found that raters penalized successful women for their success.50 ;Earlier studies had found that raters tend to demean women’s performance, particularly when they excel at what seems like male-typical tasks. The researchers found, “it is only women, not men, for whom a unique propensity toward dislike is created by success in a nontraditional work situation.”51

The bottom line is that the appraisal often says more about the appraiser than about the appraisee.52 ;This is a powerful reason for having the supervisor’s boss review the rating or for using multiple raters.53

fig6.2.jpg ;

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