Poor Performers:

How They Are Identified and Dealt With in the Social Security Administration

GGD-89-28: Published: Jan 27, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on how the Social Security Administration (SSA) identified and dealt with employees who performed their jobs poorly.

GAO found that the SSA performance management system required supervisors to: (1) establish performance plans specifying employees' job tasks and expected performance levels; (2) periodically monitor employee performance against performance expectations; and (3) inform employees who were performing poorly of their deficiencies and provide them with the opportunity to improve. GAO also found that SSA supervisors: (1) used the system effectively when they identified poor performance; (2) were not always able to identify poor performance and did not always use the performance management system; (3) cited concerns about the quality and applicability of performance standards and the lack of sufficient authority or management support; (4) were not monitored by SSA in their use of the system; and (5) were limited in the actions they could take regarding employees they rated as minimally satisfactory.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Concerns will be identified and correctional action will be pursued.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should examine supervisors' concerns about identifying and dealing with poor performers and institute any training, procedural improvements, or other actions that are needed to address them. These concerns include supervisors' perceptions about the difficulty of using standards and the lack of authority and management support.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA agrees and believes that increased training, tightened performance standards, and management commitment will bring about desired results.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should periodically determine how well poor performers are identified and dealt with so that SSA can take action to correct any future problems that might occur.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration


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