Council managers to be banned from using the S word (satisfactory) for fear of implying they are ‘good but not good enough’

Councillor Bill Hunt age 71 outside East Cambridgeshire District Council office in Ely. Council ch

Councillor Bill Hunt age 71 outside East Cambridgeshire District Council office in Ely. Council chiefs have come under fire for banning the word 'satisfactory' from its staff appraisals over fears it will make them feel "not good enough". - Credit: James Linsell-Clark / SWNS.com

Managers at East Cambridgeshire Council are to be banned from using the S word (satisfactory) to describe their employees.

New appraisal form for East Cambs Council drops the term 'satisfactory' and replaces it with 'good'.

New appraisal form for East Cambs Council drops the term 'satisfactory' and replaces it with 'good'. - Credit: Archant

The council’s head of HR Nicole Pema says feedback from senior colleagues “strongly suggested” that when assessing performance the S word was not effective.

“The word suggests that you are adequate and reasonable which are not pleasing words for people to hear about their own performance,” she says in a report to today’s meeting of the regulatory and support services committee.

She believes the S word gives the impression you are “‘good but not good enough’ and can be de-motivating. This comment was raised by a number of staff including members of the management team.

“It is proposed that the rating ‘satisfactory’ is changed to ‘good’”.

Councillor Bill Hunt age 71 outside East Cambridgeshire District Council office in Ely. Council ch

Councillor Bill Hunt age 71 outside East Cambridgeshire District Council office in Ely. Council chiefs have come under fire for banning the word 'satisfactory' from its staff appraisals over fears it will make them feel "not good enough". - Credit: James Linsell-Clark / SWNS.com


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Annual appraisals will now give staff one of five ratings: outstanding, excellent, good, needs development/training or no overall rating. Councillors are now considering changing the appraisals “to emphasise the responsibility of both the line manager, as the appraiser, and the employee, as the appraiser”.

Other changes likely to happen include telling senior managers they must inform their line managers if they have changed a provisionally agreed rating.

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Ms Pema also took on board comments that the appraisal forms were “too long and does not work effectively” for manual workers such as grounds maintenance staff and cleaners.

“For fairness management team have agreed manual staff still have equal access to the scheme,” she says. “However they have tasked the HR manager to produce a one-page summarised version of the appraisal form ahead of the appraisal meetings commencing next year.”

Bill Hunt, a Conservative member of the council, said: “We need things that accurately describe performance and there is a significant difference in ‘good’ and ‘satisfactory’. If I were to put ‘good’ on a scale it would be a seven and I would put ‘satisfactory’ at about five.

“If these people have problems or difficulties they should just say it.

“As far as I know this is just about some disgruntled staff but I’m no expert on this.”

•What do you think? Email me at john.elworthy@archant.co.uk with your thoughts

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