I was not in a good mood.
In fact, I was in a downright ugly mood. No reason for it, just my raging
male hormones running amok. Unlike the opposite sex, I don’t have the
luxury of charting. It just happens. I’d be fine in a few days.
Few events could brighten my day. Ms.
Ferguson, my loyal office manager, quickly ascertained my mood and tried
endlessly to perform an upgrade. After failing miserably several times,
she offered the ultimate sacrifice.
"By the way," she said,
"Ralph (my general manager) wanted to know if you were available to
do some employee reviews today."
I didn’t say it, and I probably didn’t
even think it, but somehow the message was very clear in my dark little
brain: "Oh boy, we’re going to save some money now!"
In small businesses, the pay scale is
generally not as structured as in larger companies. If someone is doing an
outstanding job, they can be rewarded, or not rewarded, at whim without
altering a set wage scale. And whims are at the mercy of moods.
"Should I send Ralph and his
little lamb folders into your office," asked Ms. Ferguson, gingerly
balancing her allegiances to me and to her fellow employees.
The twinge of exaltation I had felt
over the possible cost savings had faded. "Are you suggesting I won’t
be fair just because I’m a little grumpy?"
"Not at all," replied Ms.
Ferguson. "It’s just that you’ve reminded me three times today
how lucky I am to have a job."
"Good," I said, turning my
Within a few minutes there was a
tentative knock on my slaughterhouse door. Ralph walked in, employee files
"You sure you feel like doing this
today?" he asked.
"Absolutely. No better time than
now." I paused, looking him over. "Do you realize how lucky you
are to have a job in these difficult times?"
He didn’t bother answering. We got
right into the reviews, which were composed by supervisors and brought to
me for determination of the wage increase.
"Ok, first up is Horace,"
said Ralph, handing me his folder. "As you can see, it’s his
six-month review. And he got rated ‘exceptional’ on almost every
category of performance."
every category?" I asked, brightening ever so slightly. "Let’s
see, where is he lacking? Aha! He only got a ‘satisfactory’ in ‘Appearance
and Habits." What’s his problem?"
"Maybe if we paid him more he’d dress
better," replied Ralph with a touch of what I believe was sarcasm.
Horace was an hourly employee. The
raise for this six-month review could range from zero to 75 cents per
hour, depending on a variety of factors. Unfortunately, one of the
factors, since the decision was entirely mine, was my mood.
Had I been in a good mood, pleased with
the present, confident about the future, I would surely have rewarded
Horace, who is truly one of our best employees, with a full 75 cents.
But on this day, the present was a
chaotic nightmare and the future was a big, black hole. Horace might be
outstanding, but that problem with his appearance loomed larger than life.
"Give him 60 cents," I said,
shoving the folder back to Ralph. My mood had said give him zero, my
conscience said give him 75. So I compromised.
The rest of the reviews went the same
way. Everyone probably got anywhere from 5 to 20 cents less per hour than
they would have received had I been in a better mood. Blame it on the luck
of the draw, the orbit of the moon, or the time of the month.
Fair? Absolutely not. But there is no
reasonable alternative. Personalities and temperaments ultimately play a
part in any evaluation, whether it be big business or small business. But
in a company with less structure the mood of the decision-maker becomes
even more vital.
And eventually, it should all even out.
If Horace or anyone else got short-changed it will most likely be made up
on the next review.
Just as my bad mood can save money, too
good a mood can end up costing money. For example, there have been many
days when I thought Horace’s "Appearance and Habits" were just
dandy. Had he been reviewed on one of those days, he might have lucked
into an 85 cent raise.
Of course, that’s why I try to never
come into the office if I’m in too good a mood.