Commentary: Ethically, what would you do? The annual merit boards

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In the April scenario concerning annual merit boards, Warrant Officer Paul Detton and his supervisor, Major Sue Pinkus, discuss the upcoming Unit Ranking Boards. Maj Pinkus has asked WO Detton to complete his own scoring matrix, which she will use during the board to fight for a high position and score for him.

Maj Pinkus apologizes to WO Detton for forgetting to complete the scoring matrix, suggesting that he should provide her with a high-scored and well-justified assessment, because they want to get WO Detton promoted. WO Detton readily agreed to complete the matrix and include the required justification, but wondered silently if this was really what was meant by the old expression “you’re your own best career manager.”

This scenario generated a higher number of comments. It was pointed out that the scenario title refers to annual merit boards, while our scenario content deals with annual ranking boards. As one of our astute readers advised us, there are in fact three different boards: ranking boards, merit boards, and succession boards. While many people use the terms interchangeably, they are indeed three different processes with different leads and stakeholders.

Readers felt that Maj Pinkus demonstrated a clear lack of leadership in this situation. Many noted that one of the key requirements for a leader is to effectively monitor subordinates and ensure that each is given appropriate and accurate credit for their work performance. It was broadly felt that Maj Pinkus’s actions compromised the integrity of the personnel appraisal system, a system that is in place to ensure the integrity of the promotion process. Some commenters suggested that writing your own positive assessment detracts from the true sense of accomplishment an individual feels when receiving a positive personnel appraisal. Others questioned the ethics of writing your own personnel appraisal, suggesting it opened the door for inaccurate appraisals, and paved the way for favoritism and bias to enter the process.

Several readers noted that subordinates should help their supervisors reflect on achievements through the year by contributing a so-called “brag sheet” during the review period. This may help the supervisor focus on the member, and it is not a matter of scoring or ranking, but providing the kind of evidence on which scoring and ranking should be based. Such subjective accounts should, of course, be assessed by the reader rather than taken as matters beyond dispute.

In asking WO Detton to complete the 
written justification required for the board, Maj Pinkus has violated several of the five Defence Team values identified in the DND & CF Code of Values and Ethics, namely: stewardship, loyalty, integrity, courage, and excellence. From the perspective of the three hierarchical CAF-DND principles: respect the dignity of all persons, serve Canada before self, and obey and support 
lawful authority, Maj Pinkus demonstrated a lack of respect for the dignity of WO Detton. As his supervisor, she failed to adequately prepare for the ranking board, and has now asked him to step in and rectify her failure. This request has put the warrant officer in a compromising position.

The relevant regulations are clear. CANFORGEN 010/17, Changes to Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Military Personnel Evaluation Report (PER) for the 2016/2017 Reporting Year, addresses this very scenario. Paragraph 5b of the CANFORGEN states: “Score controls and the practice of using unit/formation/group ranking boards to directly influence PER scoring in any form is to cease. PER scores are to be derived by honest and professional assessment of a member’s performance by their supervisor and not subject to adjustment to meet board rankings.”

While this situation may be commonplace today, it is poor leadership practice that is in conflict with the guidance provided by CANFORGEN 010/17.

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