The management staff of the store had been told by their manager to spread the word to all their reports. In terms of the self-ratings in their reviews, they were not to rate themselves above a 3, though the scale did go up to 5. “Nobody is a 5”, said the manager, and indicated that was the same for the 4 rating.
Upset, but obedient, the management staff communicated this to their staff, and obeyed the same for themselves. When staff asked why, all they could do is explain that this is what the head manager wanted and communicated, and that she had said nothing more than that. The staff, knowing this head manager, understood what was being said to them.
About a week later, one of the management staff came into the head manager’s office, which was open, to drop off the reviews for his staff. Sitting in plain sight was the head manager’s self-evaluation, ready to be sent to the regional office. The ratings the head manager gave herself? All 5’s. Apparently, she felt nobody but herself was outstanding.
Have you ever had a manager who let you know that to get the top rating on your review, you pretty much had to leap tall buildings with a single bound, work 25 hours a day, and single-handedly double the company’s stock price during the rating year? Then, when you have worked as hard as you know how to, exceeded all your goals, and needed IV coffee just to get to your desk, your manager sniffs derisively and says, “You did average work this year. Good work.” This setting of the bar so beyond expectations is a major demotivating factor for staff, who feel that management is only looking at the bottom line of the company in terms of raises, and not on what the employees are contributing to their department and the organization as a whole.
What is more galling is when those same managers, who say that you would have to win the Nobel Prize in order to be considered for the highest level, turn around and give themselves an evaluation of ‘outstanding’ year after year. When they actually get that rating from their management, who have a different expectation of what the highest rating means than your manager, you have then turned your staff from disengaged to outright hostile. What you have demonstrated is that the only thing you care about is what goes into your wallet, not your staff’s. Pity you, such an outstanding performer who is saddled with all these ‘average’ direct reports.
When you set the bar so high that it is unreachable, it is not an incentive to the staff to try to reach it. Instead, they slump their shoulders, shuffle under that bar, and wonder why they should do anything more than just the bare minimum to keep their jobs. After all, there is no hope for them to actually get a higher rating, so why try?
When you compound that by not following your own standards, using the lowered expectations of your management for your high ratings, and then beaming because of it, you have demonstrated that the only thing you are managing is your own career. If your management’s expectations of you are more reasonable, why aren’t yours for your staff? Who are you in your position for…them or yourself? The answer could tell you a lot about whether you are a good manager in your staff’s eyes.