[EDITORIALS]Management by fadSince the participatory government recommended multi-sided personal evaluations, public officials have been greatly agitated. The Ministry of Health and Welfare recently decided to reassign its general directors and directors according to the officials’ own wishes and the results of the evaluations. We think multi-sided evaluation has many problems, along with some merit. It should be a complementary tool in personnel decisions.
Under multi-sided evaluation, officials are evaluated by supervisors as well as juniors for performance and leadership, instead of by their bosses alone. This promotes flexibility in a bureaucratic culture and increases transparency in personnel management. President Roh Moo-hyun, when he was maritime and fisheries minister in the Kim Dae-jung government, adopted the idea. Under his presidency many ministries are taking it up. Multi-sided evaluations play a dominant role in personnel management at some ministries, including the health and welfare ministry.
The biggest problem is the possibility that evaluations may become popularity polls in which personnel matters are decided by ties of hometown and school, or by personal relations. Multi-sided evaluation is also subject to lack of awareness among public officials, personal revenge cloaked in anonymity and cartels in which officials conspire for their parochial interests. In some ministries officials are said to have already given favorable evaluations according to hometowns or seniority.
Such evaluations do not ensure that officials will perform appropriately. They can do great harm if they are hastily introduced or only for show. Supervisors may not work according to their own convictions but pander to their juniors. Some may get a good review not for performance but for personal charm. A Blue House secretary responsible for improving the policy process recently complained, “We’d better give up now if this is all we can get.” Ministries must not adopt uniform evaluation procedures. They should take time to develop standards suited to their own organizational culture, responsibility and characteristics. Training officials about the new standards should also precede introducing them.