Boss Ranking Systems LO17528

Rol Fessenden (
Tue, 24 Mar 1998 17:51:55 -0500

Replying to LO17402 --

Awhile back I was asked for more information on boss ranking systems. At
the time I was out of the office and unable to provide the information.
Now, here it is.

Someone asked if there was not a risk that in the presence of 'boss
ranking systems' bosses might change their standards. One would hope so.
This is exactly the point to evaluation of any kind. To create learning,
to provide another lens through which to assess your behavior and even
your values.

I suspect this person was suggesting that bosses might _lower_ their
standards in the face of such ranking. All of my experience is that
employees have very high standards, and I doubt it. However, it is also
important to decide exactly what you want your bosses to do, and make sure
those are the things you are assessing. Below are the dimensions I would
recommend, and one sample question in each category. It is not that hard.
it is not rocket science. The only validity is how it changes over time.
I find it to be a powerful tool that expands bosses views of their roles.

People Dimensions

Ethical and compassionate
"There is a strong emphasis on honesty and integrity."
Commitment to the organization
"I am proud to tell people outside the organization who I work for."
Open and innovating
"My suggestions are listened to and considered seriously."
Customer focused and aligned
"We put a lot of emphasis on meeting the needs and expectations of
external customers."
Challenging and empowering
"Decisions are made at the level closest to the issue, rather than
being pushed up to higher levels."
Rewarding and developing
"I get feedback that helps me imporve my job performance."

Process Dimensions

Aspiring and focused
"I clearly know what is expected of me and what the major priorities
Team approach
"My team's performance goals are specific and measurable."
"Decisions about me and my job are made with relevant and accurate
Efficient and Effective
"We spend our time doing things that are important."

"My work unit produces high quality output the first time, without


"I am satisfied with the amount of support and guidance I receive from
my immediate boss."
"I am satisfied with the amount of personal growth and development I
get in doing my job."
"I am satisfied with the amount of job security I have."
"I am satisfied with the amount of pay and fringe benefits I receive."


There are actually many other questions in each dimension, each question
probing another aspect of the question. There are 60 total questions.
Every person answers the questionnaire. Results are summarized by
supervisor, then by manager, then by director, and so forth.

Questions are answered on a sliding scale from 0 to 7. We measure the
average and the dispersion.

To the question, "Does this change behavior?" It has certainly affected

Someone asked if this kind of assessment will influence supervisors who
have difficult personnel decisions to make. Yes it will. But so will the
assessment of the supervisor's boss and the assessment of the supervisor's
peers. Influence is ok. Directed influence is even better. This is, in
my view, just another form of coaching. This creates an environment in
which the supervisor must reflect on their actions. That is good.

In addition, the impact on the personnel decision might be the reverse of
what one might expect. People know when one of their peers is not doing
the job. The peers of the person not doing the job are the ones who have
to pick up the slack. So they want the supervisor to take action, either
in the form of more active direction of the person's work, more assertive
coaching, or other action. The supervisor will not be rated harshly for
taking action on a sub-par performer.

Does upward assessment bring with it deficits that outweigh the
advantages? The only answer is an individual one. Experimentation in
your circumstances is apprpriate. That is the primary mechanism for
learning. There are trade-offs. In our case the benefits seemed more
important than the deficits, but each person should be encouraged to try
it themselves and draw their own conclusions.

Someone pointed out that people do not like assessment systems. Bosses
have very mixed feelings about this process. My view is that disliking
something is not a good reason for not doing it. Discomfort, in my
experience, is generally a sign of potential learning. It has been so for


Rol Fessenden

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