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CASE STUDY - APPRAISING THE SECRETARIES AT SWEETWATER UNIVERSITY Rob Winchester, newly appointed Vice President for Administrative Affairs at...

3.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?

CASE STUDY – APPRAISING THE SECRETARIES AT SWEETWATER UNIVERSITY Rob Winchester, newly appointed Vice President for Administrative Affairs at Sweetwater University, faced a tough problem shortly after his university 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 University. Apparently, the main difficulty was that the performance appraisal was traditionally tied directly to salary increases given at the end of the year. So most administrators were less than accurate when they used the graphic rating forms that were the basis of the clerical staff evaluation. In fact, what usually happened was that 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 feedback to each secretary on his or her year’s performance 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 begin leaving for more lucrative jobs in private industry; and from secretaries, who felt that the new system was unfair and reduced each secretary’s chance of receiving a maximum salary increase. 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 rumours 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 decided to 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 the University first opened 10 years earlier; and the appraisal form had been developed primarily by a committee of secretaries. Under that system, Sweetwater’s administrators filled out forms similar to the one in Figure 1.0. Figure 1.0 Excellent Good Fair Poor Quality of Work Quality of Work Creativity
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Integrity This once a year appraisal (in March) had run into problems almost immediately, since it was apparent from the 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 the standard across-the-board, cost-of-living increase. Since universities in general – and Sweetwater in particular – have paid secretaries somewhat lower salaries than those prevailing in private industry, some secretaries left in a huff that first year. From that time on, most administrators simply rated all secretaries excellent in order to reduce staff turnover, thus ensuring each a maximum increase. In the process, they also avoided the hard feelings aroused by the significant performance differences otherwise highlighted by administrators. Two Sweetwater School of Business experts agreed to consider the problem, and in two 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 a form with more measurable criteria and standards with explanations (as in Figure 2.0). In addition, they recommend that the Vice President rescind his earlier memo and no longer attempt to force university administrators to arbitrarily rate at least half their secretaries as something 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 or virtually all excellent – or conceivably, although less likely, all below standard. Figure 2.0 Criteria: Communication Below Expectations Meets Expectations Role Model Even with guidance, fails to prepare straightforward communications, including forms, paperwork, and records, in a timely and accurate manner, products require minimal corrections. Even with guidance, fails to adapt style and materials to communicate straightforward information. With guidance, prepares straightforward communications, including forms, paperwork, and records, in a timely and accurate manner; products require minimal corrections. With guidance, adopts style and materials to communicate straightforward Independently prepares communications, such as forms, paperwork, and records, in a timely, clear and accurate manner; products require few, if any, corrections. Independently adapts style and materials to communicate information.
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