In IL, performance evaluations are public knowledge – and staying that way

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Hammer 8 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #107011

    So, this is one of those ‘too much opengov?’ questions…

    In IL, they passed a big sunshine law that made our performance evaluations available for FOIA requests. Which meant, if you were a future employer or reporter or anyone – can request to see the performance evaluation for me or any state worker.
    Recently, Quinn vetoed a bill that would have provided an exception to the sunshine laws in regards to our evaluations.
    It may just be me, but shouldn’t that be off-limits? Or at least limited to top management?
    I understand the need for sunshine, but it’s the Illinois Governor’s office that keeps sending people to the slammer, not your everyday state worker.
  • #107021

    Mark Hammer

    Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.

    1) I was under the impression that news media provided the performance evaluations of upper management. If they needed something more “authoritative”, what does that say about the accuracy of their reporting?

    2) Many performance appraisals are not worth the disc space they occupy (I used to say “The paper they are written on”, but, you know, times change…), and are generally biased towards the upper middle (i.e., like Garrison Keilor’s Lake Wobegon children, everyone is “above average”). Personally, I find that once the dreaded A-word is uttered (accountability), everybody within earshot sprays themselves with teflon so nothing sticks to them. With the possibility that one’s appraisal of someone else could become public (and that becomes part of the exercise, whether intended or not), you can imagine that a great many more managers and supervisors will provide appraisals that are even blander and more artfully noncommittal.

    3) We now see bots crawling the web in search of embarrassing information about potential job candidates. So, how long before bots start text-mining performance appraisals? Not that performance in a previous job should NOT be considered when making selection decisions, but the thought of assigning it to text-mining software will be prone to frequent error.

    4) If this is one of those things that would be used infrequently, and in a context-specific way (e.g., when screening applicants for security-sensitive or highly mission-critical positions) then I can see it. On the other hand, how much value does that add beyond simply calling the people the candidate has previously worked for and doing a structured reference check over the phone?

    In short, it sounds great in principle, but I can’t see it adding value, and might even see it reducing the value of performance appraisals as we currently know them.

  • #107019

    Steve Ressler

    That is a little weird. We had this question last week about government salaries as well.

  • #107017

    Pam Broviak

    I don’t think our FOIA law in IL was well thought out. From what I was told the legislators passed it in their typical fashion – as a knee-jerk reaction to a lobby group (in this case the newspaper industry) and without any input from the people who administer it and are affected by it. It is a classic example of why our state is failing so miserably. And another example of how IL legislators pass laws that clamp down on the regular govt worker to make it look like they are being tough. But conveniently leave out the fact that they and their offices are completely absolved from having to follow their own laws.

    (Can we vote to have one of the adjoining states just take us over?)

    As for the performance evals, not sure how I feel about these being made public. But I do feel this issue should only have been decided after much discussion by everyone.

  • #107015

    My main concern is for entry level workers who try a stint in public service. It’s not for everyone, paticularly a high-stress job like mine. I’d hate to see somebody dinged because they gave it a shot and they just were not a good fit . Or worse, somebody gets their first threes month ‘probationary’ evaluation released and embarrases somebody (the very first one is supposed to sat how you can improve and where you’re lacking since you’ve only been there 3 months)

  • #107013

    Pam Broviak

    You are right Chris. I would also worry about people who go through a major life crisis. Many times their work performance suffers as would be expected, but once the crisis passes they return to an outstanding performance. But if during the crisis they receive a poor evaluation, even if the supervisor notes the reason why, someone reporting about it could just quote a portion of the eval. And by leaving out the reason why, which might be necessary if health related, people might think this person is always a poor performer.

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