July 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Performance Appraisal of Fellow Jews

The 28-year-old Orthodox father of two small children whom you supervise at work is not performing well. Moreover, he is not receptive and is even hostile to constructive criticism. How does one complete his company-mandated performance appraisal? If one presents an honest picture of his job performance the gentleman could be fired, leaving him and his family without a salary needed to support the family.

We discussed this question last year during a shiur at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. It was clear to all participants that the supervisor is undoubtedly halachically required to present an accurate portrayal of the disappointing employee, despite the financial damage it might cause him. The Torah forbids geneivat da’at (deception) and requires, hein tzedek—a yes must mean yes and a no must mean no. One must act in a straightforward and honest manner during all situations in life. Thus, a skewed report of the employee’s performance is forbidden to be presented to the company.

Moreover, failure to do so may cause the supervisor to lose his job when the company discovers, as it inevitably will, the inadequate work of the struggling employee and the supervisor’s neglecting to report it. It is patently unfair to the company and the people it serves to continue to employ someone who fails to provide proper service to its clients.

However, the supervisor must be sure that there is no bias against the employee and that the report is completely accurate. Lashon hara is permitted when the intention is to prevent others from sustaining a significant loss. However, the Hafetz Haim cautions that one’s motivations must be pure and agenda-free, as well as scrupulously accurate with no exaggeration.

Finally, an accurate report serves the ultimate interest of the difficult employee. We must all be ready to accept constructive criticism. Rarely will a recalcitrant employee succeed in a business environment. It is far better for this employee to be fired and learn this important lesson at age 28t when he has only two children than to be fired at age 36 when he has six children.

The Avot in Sefer Bereishit were scrupulously honest in their business dealings. They created a high ethical standard and it is our honor to uphold their magnificent example.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

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