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—I’m looking for your thoughts and ideas on how to overcome the “five-star review” dilemma outlined below; please consider sending me a note and I’ll incorporate everyone’s feedback in my follow-up to this blog—

The phenomenon of people choosing to leave nothing less than five stars when doing online or other reviews has generated much discussion. Same with those automatic tip options that vendors plug into their credit card readers, prompting customers to leave a generous tip. In both cases, reviewing and tipping, customers can feel obligated to rate or tip higher than they normally would, even when the service is average or subpar. Why this dilemma?

Commentary I’ve seen or heard from interviews attributes this behavior to the customer not wanting to spoil the host’s reputation, or in the case of tipping, to the customer feeling pressured because the server is watching the tip screen on the credit card reader. Customers are unwilling to give the host or server the review or tip that matches the service, even though there are expectations for a certain level of service. So, what’s going on here, and how does it apply to leading in the workplace?

Setting and Enforcing Standards

While serving in leadership positions in the US Coast Guard, my procedure for evaluating people was to set or enforce standards, clearly communicate expectations, provide periodic feedback to ensure alignment and progress, then evaluate truthfully based on how well the person performed regarding those standards and expectations. In every case, the person being evaluated will either fall short, meet, or exceed the standards and expectations. I’m a practical person, so to me, measuring performance and behavior against standards and expectations is the way to ensure  everyone is marked fairly, with those performing better receiving the deserved recognition. If applied consistently, that results in a positive workplace climate. And I believe a positive workplace environment is crucial to any organization’s success.

Yet I often found myself conflicted when I realized other supervisors were not or had not been evaluating employees honestly. I asked myself if I was disadvantaging my employees by doing the right thing. What a moral dilemma!

Useful Tools

It’s a problem when supervisors in the workplace act like those people who only give five-star reviews and the highest tip, regardless of employee performance or behavior. I’d like to offer some tools to help supervisors overcome the “five-star dilemma” and give honest appraisals. This can be a complex issue, and I believe there are different tools for different situations. Let’s take a look at two possible scenarios:

  • Suppose you step into a leadership position in an in-person workplace where your peer supervisors are not rating subordinates truthfully. You want to break the existing trend and reset expectations for your employees, but realize if you evaluate your employees per the standards and your fellow supervisors don’t, your employees could be disadvantaged for an assignment or promotion.
  • How about if you’re a new supervisor, assigned to lead a newly-formed team working virtually in an all-virtual office. You have the advantage of being able to set standards and expectations, but this is a high-tech company and your employees are all from generation Z, the youngest generation in the workforce.

In both these scenarios you, the supervisor, are definitely going to be held to the standards and expectations set by your boss. You have an obligation to meet your organization’s mission and goals. How do you best fulfill your obligations to both your employer and your employees?

Look in the mirror. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please contact me via my website at the link below and let me know what tools you’ve found useful, or that you think would be useful, in evaluating subordinates in either of these workplace scenarios. In my next blog, I’ll incorporate your ideas, anonymously. Together, we can help create more positive workplace climates and more productive workplaces!

Please join me next time for more on Leading with Character.

If you enjoyed this post, please visit my website where you can sign up for my mailing list to get this blog in your inbox, and buy my book, Breaking Ice & Breaking Glass: Leading in Uncharted Waters (proceeds from my book are donated to the US Coast Guard Academy to help develop the next generation of leaders of character):