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The boss who hates me gave me an unfair rating. What do I do now?

Bureaupat answers a serious workplace question...

By Bureaupat Sep 09 2011, 06:43 AM

Dear Bureaupat:

Recently I sought your guidance on how to deal with my upcoming performance evaluation with my immediate supervisor who does not like me on a personal level.  I took your advice and documented everything I could think of but after all was said and done, my worst fear happened.  The boss who hates me gave me an unfair rating. What do I do now? Is there anything I can do to change my appraisal so it reflects my true performance?

Dear Screwed Over:

Stand fast and be strong.  While it may take an act of congress (or God) to remove you from your current position, a performance rating below successful is not good for your long-term career as a federal employee and should be corrected if you were unfairly rated.

If your performance was truly underrated and your boss actually has it out for you, she demonstrated a lack of management savvy. Federal managers who know best how to work the system understand that there are two easy ways to shed an employee.  Promote them, or rate them highly and make their lives miserable so they want and are able to leave for another job.

Chances are, if your boss really wanted you gone, she would have rated you higher so you could hightail it out of there in a hurry.  But she didn't.  This means she is likely attempting to discipline you for something. If you haven't been told what it is you've done wrong, you can fight her on it. 

I'm glad you took my advice, and hopefully you have been taking copious notes and documenting everything. You will have to use these facts to present your case as you proceed with the long and bureaucratic process of seeking relief.

If you feel that this issue stemmed from a racial, gender, sexual preference and/or creed bias, you should solicit the assistance of the Equal Employment Office (EEO). If you can be represented by the union, all the better.  They can provide legal and financial assistance as you march forward. 

If you have no reason to suspect a motivating bias, you are on your own.  Don't expect anyone to be a friend to you who is involved in your grievance, including the Human Resources Department that will be assisting you and your supervisor along the way. 

Each Agency's process for filing a grievance differs slightly but the overall approach is the same.

Be aware that time is not on your side, and typically the grievance must be signed, dated, and presented in writing within 15 calendar days of the date you were notified of the rating.  So get going! Although you have a number of rights, this system does not necessarily favor the employee.

Generally, a formal grievance must include:

  • Your name, position title, salary grade, and the organizational entity to which you are assigned
  • Name of your employee representative, if any
  • Date that you were notified of the questionable performance rating
  • A complete copy of the your performance appraisal and related documents
  • A clear and concise statement of the specific reason why you disagree with the rating, based on your demonstrated performance in relation to the performance standards developed for each critical element at issue.
  • The performance rating you believe is warranted based on your demonstrated performance in relation to the performance standards developed for each critical element at issue. Sufficient detail must be included to show how, why, and in what manner your performance warrants a higher rating than the one received, based on the demonstrated performance for each critical element.

The grievance must be submitted to the appropriate leadership within your organization.

This is the first step in a long process of fighting the rating.  This step grants management the ability to fix the rating before you start making their lives miserable by filing more paperwork. Experience has taught me that when dealing with irrational leadership, they most likely will not take the path of least resistance and will sustain the poor rating. 

Keep OhMyGov! informed of your progress on the issue.   If your management sustains the rating, Bureau Pat will continue to provide advice on navigating you through the subsequent steps in the process. 

With persistence, you can make things right.  If not, air the dirty laundry about your boss confidentially with us.

The Only,



Read More: Pay And Benefits, Surviving The Bureaucracy, Dear Bureaupat, News and Research


May 2, 2008 6:55 PM

While a poor performance rating is not good for your career, its also not worth losing sleep over. Employees who challenge thoughtfully challenge truly unfair ratings will mitigate most of the harm by documenting their challenge (filing a grievance). They might even win the grievance, and get a better rating.

With respect to grievances, Union "exclusive" representation (or lack there of) of the employees in a "bargaining unit." For employees without Union representation of their bargaining unit, the regulatory "administrative grievance procedure" gives a chance to buck a review of the decision to the next level supervisor. Performance ratings are not "adverse actions," so there is no MSPB appeal right.

Certainly performance ratings could be challenged through an EEO complaint, but it will be rare for "pro se" employees to succeed. It is rarer still for a federal employee to find an attorney who will represent them on a contingency process if there is no loss of pay. (Employees' rights to file an EEO complaint and hire a lawyer to pursue it are not affected by Union representation of the employees' bargaining unit.

For Union represented employees, they should have a "negotiated grievance process." That grievance process must include the Union's right to challenge through arbitration the Government's final decision on the grievance. The negotiated grievance process is usually faster and cheaper than EEO, but does impose costs on the Union. Whether the Union is willing to take an individual's specific complaint to arbitration, is up to the Union . Union politics I'm leaving for another day. Also the negotiated grievance procedure will be written down in the Union contract. Time frames may vary, mediation may come up. There are many grievance process differences between Union contracts. Possibly even different Unions and associated contracts cover different employees (professional vs. non-professional) in the same office.

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September 21, 2011 4:39 PM

In some agencies, the Local Union (I.e., stewards or other union staff) may be able to help you pursue your grievance.

October 22, 2011 9:58 AM

I work for the DOD as a journalist for a weekly newspaper and just had an evaluation, though satisfactory, it was on the low end of satisfactory. One comment on the eval. stated that I needed to check my fact. When I questioned what facts I was wrong on, no one could remember and I wasn't told that I was in error. These were comments by a senior supervisor, not my immediate supervisor. There is an insuation that my writing isn't up to par,which I know isn't true. Seven of my articles were publishe on Army.mil site and I received a public comment about a Super article I wrote for the Superintenden, a Lt. General. He also complimented my work privately during a event I was covering that he attended. What can I do about that? I signed it with the words "with reservation" under my signature.

March 7, 2012 10:05 AM

I would advise against grievance in this case, i think it's called "request for informal or if necessary, formal reconsideration of your performance review".  grievance will only damage your relationship with your supervisor further. in general, you want to mend bridges, not burn them. Try to negotiate a better rating with them informally and face to face, being very clear about reasons why you are dissatisfied (how you've met your performance goals).  if this doesn't change your rating or the language of the performance review, you can put it in writing (remove bias, don't be emotional, just present the facts as it will be read by others, not just your supervisor) and submit it it to your supervisor for their response.  if that doesn't get you the desired outcome, you can challenge the review formally (you will have to submit the reasoning our presented in writing, your  supervisor's response, a response to your supervisor's response, and any documentation backing up your argument).  Really make sure you have been careful in your wording every step of the way.  an independent panel will review your case and make a decision.  check your employee rights on this entire process.  keep in mind all this has to be done fairly quickly after the  the performance review and it will take time to make your case.  hopefully much has been documented throughout the year (emails, memos, accomplishments help) and you would just be summarizing the information.  I did this and was successful in getting a minimally successful rating changed to fully successful. you don't want an unfair rating on your record, it can damage your career, at least in the short term.  if you have to look for another job, you will be at a disadvantage for some time.

September 27, 2012 1:23 AM

I have a boss who is married and likes me. He has made advances in which I turned down.I am being targeted and treated bad because I wont follow through on his offers.,

October 28, 2012 12:03 AM

These ratings that are given are so unfair.  I say mgmt already knows who is getting what.  Not to mention the fact some agencies have been doing them wrong for so long!

October 29, 2012 6:15 AM

My boss give me low rating in performance when he never assign   any job description last two years he did not knows about my job and never consult with my initial reporting officer against my performance please advice me how i write to him for reasons of my low rating in performance please help me












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