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Have You Committed the Management Sin of "The Santa Claus Syndrome"?


by Glenn Shepard

March 10, 2015

Category:  Self Improvement





Opelika, AL March 11
Statesville, NC March 19
Cedar Park, TX March 24
Temple, TX March 25
Columbia, TN March 31

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Dear Glenn,


      When a position opened up in our organization, an employee inquired, was considered and ultimately was passed up for the position.

      I explained the areas where improvement was needed so that she could prepare for when a similar position comes available.

       She has done nothing to improve in the areas discussed and has made it clear that she is unhappy she was “denied” the position.

      I am now getting complaints about her arriving late, taking long lunches, and a general lack of teamwork.

    Should I start the disciplinary process or simply get her out of the organization? Experience has taught me that an employee who feels they have been denied something can justify theft and become very vengeful.


Sandra in Georgia



Dear Sandra,


Have a "Come to Jesus" meeting with her.

    Let her know that it's normal to be unhappy about not getting a promotion she wanted, but she has two choices on how to handle it.


1.  Hunker down and do the things she needs to do to earn the promotion the next time.


2. Be petty and vindictive, and sabotage her existing position so that she ends up with no job at all.


Then ask her which way she thinks is the smarter way to handle the situation.


Glenn in Nashville, TN


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For years, I have advised my Priority Club members and public seminar attendees to give at least two performance evaluations per year.

One obvious reason is because Midterm Evals give employees enough feedback to know where they stand before they’re up for a raise.
Another reason is the "Santa Claus Syndrome."


When a marginal employee knows a review is coming, he may temporarily improve his performance.

Just as bratty kids will shape up around Christmas time because they don’t want to be on Santa’s naughty list, problem employees will change their behavior when they know their evaluation – and a possible raise – are just around the corner.


Because of poor record keeping or just forgetfulness, the supervisor may notice the improved behavior but neglect to evaluate performance deficits that occurred earlier in the review year.

Yet another reason for twice a year evals is to avoid a “Recency Bias”.

This occurs when there has been a recent high-profile event. Regardless of whether it was positive or negative, this approach is detrimental and will result in a skewed view of the employee's actual progress.

For example, imagine that an employee suggested a change in procedure that resulted in significant savings for the company. Of course, that's a big deal and it should be rewarded. But if that's the only significant contribution the employee made during the evaluation period, he has not been a stellar employee.

The one big success should not minimize the other areas that need improvement. Even though every manager knows that, it's all too easy to let big event cause us to lose sight of one smaller ones.

Ensuring that these are not overlooked or minimized will make the evaluation as effective as it should be, which will help the employee become better at their job, which will in turn lead to more rewards for the employee – and the company.

Like it or not, twice a year evals are becoming the new standard.



To Your Success ,



Glenn Shepard



P.S. If you hate doing performance evaluations, you’re not alone. Managers report that it’s the most unpleasant part of their job next to terminating people. But just as terminations are a necessary part of management, so are performance evaluations.









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