Performance management - Employee failed to establish his performance deserved a ‘superior performance’ rating

An employee applied for review of a 'satisfactory' rating given at the end of the performance cycle. The employee had received a performance rating of 'superior' in the previous year and expected to achieve that rating again. The employee's supervisor gave the rating because the employee had failed to deliver project work of a sufficient quality.

The employee was concerned that the conduct of performance management process had not complied with the agency policy and that the supervisor had placed undue weight on one project. He sought to have the rating set aside and a new appraisal process and rating be applied.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the agency's performance management arrangements were in policy rather than prescribed in the enterprise agreement. For this reason, there were no binding procedural requirements which, if not complied with, would mean that a performance outcome was invalid. Nevertheless, the management of an employee's performance should be consistent with the spirit and intent of the policy. In the Merit Protection Commissioner's view the basic requirements of the agency's performance management policy were met. The employee had a performance agreement with a line of sight to business plans and the employee had mid-cycle and end-of-cycle performance discussions.

However, the Merit Protection Commissioner considered that process could have been managed differently. It was evident that the employee and his supervisor had significantly different views about priorities. These differences did not become clear until quite late in the performance cycle. The employee drafted his performance expectations, focussing almost exclusively on working with clients and stakeholders and ignoring project work which was given priority in the divisional business plan.

The Merit Protection Commissioner considered, with the benefit of hindsight, the supervisor should have paid closer attention to the content of the employee's performance agreement and revisited it when he became concerned about the employee's engagement with project work. It was the supervisor's responsibility to ensure a clear link was drawn between business priorities and individual performance. Nevertheless, the Merit Protection Commissioner considered that an employee who aspired to be high-performing should take responsibility for ensuring he or she understands the supervisor's expectations and priorities. High performing employees should seek feedback and clarify expectations on an ongoing basis throughout the performance management cycle.

The employee had a different view from his supervisor and division head of the value of his contribution during the performance cycle. However, even though the employee performed to a high standard in other areas of his work, the failure to deliver the project meant that his overall performance was 'satisfactory'. The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that the report the employee delivered for the project was superficial and reflected a lack of effort. The Merit Protection Commissioner considered that the overall assessment of the employee's performance was valid and recommended that the performance rating of 'satisfactory' be confirmed.