Navigating a poor performance evaluation

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IT WAS LATE FRIDAY afternoon. Mary was trying to tie up some loose ends before a planned weekend off work. A few minutes before Mary's shift ended, she received a high-priority e-mail from her nurse manager asking her to stop by the office before leaving to receive her annual performance evaluation. She knew her evaluation was due as she'd already completed her self-evaluation, in which she included many positive details about her work that year.
In the self-evaluation, she listed her activities to align with unit goals and the facility's mission. Additionally, she suggested several new projects that would facilitate the unit's work flow. Having received certification in her specialty area, completed her assignments in a timely fashion, used few sick days, and published an article in a peer-reviewed journal during the previous 12 months, Mary felt good about her work performance.
Unfortunately, a poor review awaited Mary, and her manager's remarks took her by surprise. Mary received low performance ratings in multiple practice areas. The themes of “not working well with others,” “rudeness to staff and patients,” and “a messy desk” were repeated multiple times. Shock and disbelief were Mary's predominant feelings. Except for the “messy desk” comment, she'd never been counseled concerning her work. Her manager refused to discuss Mary's questions about the evaluation.
Performance evaluations are an important part of every healthcare professional's career. Continued employment, raises, promotions, and career changes hinge upon the substance of these evaluations.1 Employees may refuse to sign a disparaging evaluation, but this does nothing to change the content.
This article, although focused on Mary's evaluation, also depicts several management issues. Although the manager's conduct is beyond the scope of this article, nurse managers have a responsibility to address performance issues in a fair and professional manner. Nurse managers can consult the Nurse manager's checklist for managing negative evaluations. Here are steps an employee like Mary should take to remedy an unfairly negative performance evaluation (see Nurse's checklist for managing negative evaluations.
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