An audit by the US Postal Service Inspector general confirmed what many postmasters and supervisors have long known: managers have arbitrarily and improperly reduced the performance ratings of their subordinates, reducing or eliminating salary increases for those employees.
The audit was requested by the management organizations in the wake of widespread complaints about wholesale reductions in employees’ performance ratings at the end of fiscal year 2009. Some suspect that the arbitrary downgrades were “payback” for the organizations’ refusal to agree to a total moratorium on Pay For Performance increases that year.
The OIG reached this conclusion:
We determined that individuals responsible for evaluating or approving sampled employeesâ€™ FY 2009 core requirement ratings were not compliant with PFP policies and procedures. Specifically, we found that managers lowered core requirement ratings in a manner inconsistent with PFP policies and procedures, which state that employees should be rated on these requirements based on agreed-upon objectives and targets and that end-of-year ratings should reflect employeesâ€™ individual achievements. In addition, managers used numeric targets to rate postmasters on their core requirements, which they are supposed to base on behavioral objectives.
The report cites some of the more glaring violations:
- One evaluator wrote, â€œOn this indicator, the officeâ€™s Delivery Point Sequence percent increased by +3.26 percent ending up in the exceptional contributor category in accordance to the goals issued at the beginning of FY 09, thank you for your contributions.â€ However, the employee in question received a rating of â€œcontributor.â€
- In another instance, comments on an employeeâ€™s appeal reflect that the evaluator and second-level reviewer concurred that the employeeâ€™s performance on one of the core requirements merited an exceptional rating of 15, yet the next level reviewer lowered the rating to a three.
- A district manager stated the area vice president verbally instructed all district managers in the area to align employeesâ€™ core requirement ratings with the average NPA unit score for their districts. As a result, the manager reviewed and lowered the core requirement ratings for 606 employees.
- Another district manager stated managers lowered core requirement ratings after reviewing a sample of ratings in that district and determining that they were disproportionate to the districtâ€™s NPA score. Typically, a district manager only reviews the PFP of direct reports and employees whose core requirement ratings are identified as â€˜non-contributorâ€™ or â€™exceptionalâ€™ by the PES.
- A plant manager who was a second-level reviewer arbitrarily lowered an employeeâ€™s core requirement rating to avoid the additional scrutiny associated with giving the employee a rating five points or more over the NPA score.
While the report suggests changes to the postal service’s methods, it makes no mention of compensation for employees adversely affected by the falsified evaluations. (Unlike bargaining unit employees, postal supervisors and postmasters do not receive annual COLA or “step” increases.)
Personal note: 2009 was my last year as a postal employee, and my last Pay for Performance evaluation came not long before my retirement. It was considerably less than I’d received in prior years, despite the fact that my boss had never indicated any deficiencies in my work. When I asked about it, she told me “Don’t take it personally- I had to lower everyone’s ratings this year”. A week later, when I told her I was considering an appeal, she denied ever having made the comment.