Review case—unsatisfactory performance dispute

An employee working as Executive Level 1 in a financial area of the agency was rated as unsatisfactory at the end of the performance cycle. The employee claimed on review that the performance management process was unfair because of delays in advising her of her final performance rating, a lack of performance feedback during the cycle and because insufficient support was provided to her during the performance cycle by her manager. The employee also disputed the manager's assessment of her performance.

The Merit Protection Commissioner found that the minimum requirements for performance management in the agency's enterprise agreement were met including that:

  • employee had a performance agreement
  • employee received the necessary formal feedback on her performance at the mid-year and annual performance appraisals; and
  • feedback was thorough and frank and directed at the employee's capability at the Executive Level 1.

The employee's mid-cycle and annual performance appraisals were delayed by about a month. The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the employee's work area was affected by the federal budget cycle and that this was likely to be a partial explanation for the employee's manager's difficulty in meeting the timeframes in the performance management cycle. The Merit Protection Commissioner also observed that the manager delayed recording comments about the employee's performance in her online performance agreement for several months after the performance discussions took place. The Merit Protection Commissioner considered that this was not good practice and sent confusing messages about the priority attached to performance management and the agency's commitment to addressing under-performance.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the performance measures in the employee's agreement were task focused and not expressed at the level of capability expected of an Executive Level 1. It appeared that the employee's manager had not had a role in articulating the employee's performance expectations although the manager made separate notes in the employment agreement about the capabilities the employee was expected to demonstrate.

The manager's concerns about the employee's capabilities related to her written communication skills, her capacity to identify strategies to overcome obstacles to the completion of projects and her capacity to focus strategically. The employee disputed the manager's assessment of her weaknesses and provided documentary evidence of her achievements. The Merit Protection Commissioner considered that this evidence was not sufficient to establish that the manager's assessment was incorrect and noted that, in places, it confirmed the manager's concerns about the employee's capacity to 'value add' at the Executive Level 1.

The Merit Protection Commissioner confirmed the decision to rate the employee's performance as unsatisfactory.