My boss gave me an unfair rating. What do I do now?

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,



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