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Assessing the Performance of Supervisors: Lessons for Practice and Insight into Middle Management Resistance to Change

PAQ, Vol. 31 No. 3, (2007)

Data from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board's First-Line Supervisors survey conducted in 1991 is investigated to assess the relative power of ratings on twelve management functions (what managers do) and nine effectiveness characteristics (how the work is performed) in the prediction of performance appraisal outcomes. Findings from this secondary analysis of the MSPB survey data indicate that a subset of the Office of Personnel Management’s Management Excellence Inventory (MEI) provides a broadly useful foundation for public sector supervisor performance appraisal. As importantly, however, the analysis reported here also reveals some troublesome findings regarding impediments to employee empowerment and the devolution of problem solving incentives to lower levels of bureaucratic authority. There is evidence that middle managers tended to view supervisors less favorably when they took a greater strategic view and exercised more leadership initiative in problem solving.. The more intrepid supervisors were indeed taking career risks (receiving lower performance ratings) by engaging in more reinvention of government than their bosses were comfortable with at the dawn of the federal reinventing government effort.

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