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Can my chain of command force me to change my recommendation?

A Squad Leader is being "strongly encouraged" (nearly forced) by 1SG and CSM to change critical comments in a subordinate's performance evaluation form (NGB 4101-1-R) and pad the points so they seem more favorable towards the subordinate Soldier. SL does not agree with changing any comments or points. What does the SL do?

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You can find the specifics for this issue in AR 600-8-19. Forcing someone to change a rating is unacceptable unless that rating is not fair or not in compliance with regulatory requirements. However, the Squad leader needs to have an open mind in this matter. I would encourage the Squad leader to look at this from the senior leader’s perspective so that the Squad leader can arrive at an objective decision based on the facts. When the Squad leader does this the leaders usually do not have any room to move because he was objective in his analysis of the issue.

Awarding points is usually a subjective process unless you have paperwork to backup your ratings. I believe the Squad leader should try to turn this into an opportunity. First, spin it around and try to figure out why the senior leaders are pushing this issue. Is it because the senior leaders have more experience and see the potential in this Soldier or is it possible that the good ol’ boy system is at work? Either way there is a professional way to handle the situation.

Start by putting together how the Squad Leader evaluated this Soldier. What was his methodology? Gather all of the paperwork (good and bad). Inspect counseling statements, awards, certificates of achievement, evaluations, etc. Review these and conduct another assessment. See if this assessment is the same one the Squad Leader already came up with. Once you have done this you are in a position to support your decision based on the facts.

See it From Their Perspective

Now the Squad leader needs to enlist the support of the senior leaders. This is done by speaking with the senior leaders. Tell them:

army forced recommendation for promotion

When faced with a conflict with your chain of command, it's always a good idea to try see thing through their perspective.

“I believe we are all working to achieve the same goal: to select the best Soldiers for promotion. I am trying to do the right thing and perhaps I am missing something. I have provided my honest and professional assessment. {State your methodology}. If you believe I have missed something or my assessment is not correct, I would appreciate the opportunity to learn what I have done wrong. Would you please mentor me and show me the errors in my assessment?”

This turns the situation from a confrontational issue to a teaching opportunity. The senior leaders must now explain why they believe changes should be made and provide specific feedback. This also makes them part of the solution. If they refuse to provide information or to mentor the Squad leader they come off as less than professional. If they provide good information, you can use it to modify your assessment. Most leaders will view receive a request of this nature in a positive manner. After all, you are differing to their leadership experience, wisdom, and perhaps a little bit of ego as well.

Determining Motivation

Using this approach you should be able to ascertain what the real motivate is: selection of the possible Soldiers or the good ol’ boy system. Either way you have your answer and have gained valuable information into the situation and the character of your leaders. Now what to do with that information?

The information they provide should clearly indicate their motives. Regardless of their motives, you may wish to use the following method to diffuse the issue. Taking a hardnosed approach will not do anything to help you in this matter in fact it could cause you more problems in the future. If the information is factual consider changing your assessment as previously requested. This is not losing the battle, it is changing your assessment based on new information–the right thing to do. If you still believe your assessment is accurate, consider a slight modification to your assessment in the spirit of cooperation and team work. You might want to consider something like:

determining the chain of command's motivation

Once you've gathered your information, it should easy to deteremine why the chain of command chose their direction.

“After careful consideration of the facts presented during our discussions regarding ________, I was unable to fully modify my assessment because I believe my assessment is an accurate reflection of the Soldier’s performance and potential. However, based on information I received during our discussions and in the spirit of teamwork/leadership, I have made the following modifications to may assessment in the following areas: _____________. These modifications will result in a new score of: _____.  While I regret that we could not reach a mutual understanding on this issue I considered all the information in an objective manner and sincerely tried to see it from your perspective.  I greatly appreciate your insight and the information you provided to assist me in bettering my understanding your perspective. I trust you will agree with the modification to my assessment.”

By doing this you show that you are willing to listen to common sense and treat people like you would want to be treated. It also shows flexibility in trying to resolve the matter as professionals. I would send this communication by email and would also recommend putting together a memorandum for record (for your personal use) that contains a complete description of the entire event. This MFR should be written from a factual perspective. Ensure the Squad leader removes all emotion, assumptions, and accusations. If the senior leaders handle your response in an unprofessional manner you have a professional email that documents your actions and you have an MFR that documents the full story behind the issue. If they try to force the Squad leader to change the assessment or try to come down on the Squad leader, he should remain professional and contact the state IG. The Squad leader can receive information from the IG office on an anonymous basis or receive advice and ask the IG not to intervene unless he calls back and specifically ask for intervention.

The Bottom Line

chain of command forcing suggestion

Forcing some­one to change an hon­est assess­ment is wrong... You must also stand your ground when the issue is a vio­la­tion of prin­ci­ple, val­ues, or ethics.

Forcing someone to change an honest assessment is wrong. The Squad leader is in a difficult position but leaders must be willing to work together for the greater good of the unit. You must also stand your ground when the issue is a violation of principle, values, or ethics. This is a personal call that no one can make for you. The goal is to do everything possible to resolve the conflict in a professional manner and not over-react by holding on to a position or decision based on emotion. This usually only produces pain for everyone involved. I believe the course of action listed above allows the Squad Leader to protect their assessment while ensuring they have all the facts. A modification is not surrender and the true benefit of this course of action is the Squad Leader learns more about his senior leaders and their character. While this is not a cut and dry response to your question I hope it helps to resolve the issue in a professional manner and results in the “right” decision, whatever that may be.

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Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training.

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