I have always considered the use of the word ‘satisfactory’ rather discouraging and is likely to demotivate people when it is applied to describe the level of their work. So I’m not in the least surprised that to some it appears to give the impression that its meaning rankles as it could be interpreted ‘just not good enough.’
Council chiefs have been criticised over their plan to ban the word from staff appraisals to be replaced by ‘good’, but the move has been branded ‘dishonest and barmy’ by campaigners. The change was recommended by officers at East Cambridgeshire District Council who said: ‘The word satisfactory suggest that you are adequate and reasonable, which are not pleasing words for people about their own performance.’
The local authority’s Head of HR, Nicole Pema, said: ‘Colleagues had strongly suggested that when assessing performance the word “satisfactory” was not effective.’ But the plan – set to be approved by a council committee – has faced strong criticism. Chris McGovern, Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘This is both dishonest and barmy. We should not be redefining the English language in order to disguise the truth. It will have the effect of destroying any confidence in the staff appraisal system.’
And Steve Jenner, of the Plain English Campaign, said: ‘East Cambridgeshire Council is one of a series of organizations turning their backs on “satisfactory” and other words which suggest customer satisfaction. It appears that council employees will find that their workplace performance assessments will increasingly be subject to inflation. A question which needs to be asked though is why is “satisfactory” so unsatisfactory?’
Bill Hunt, a Conservative member of the council, said: ‘We need things that accurately describe performance and there is a significant difference between “good” – on a scale it would be a 7 – and I would put “satisfactory” at about 5. If these people have problems or difficulties they should say it. As far as I know, this is just about some disgruntled staff, but I’m no expert on this.’
It’s unbelievable when you hear the rubbish some members of the council come up with. ‘Satisfactory’, used in appraisal is, in my view, almost a derogatory word since it infers lack of initiative, lack of enthusiasm and almost a dormant mind. It is similar to the standards of the councillors who hate any change that encourages progress and gives the individual the verve that he or she needs in order to improve their contribution to the task in hand.
Employees should be encouraged and not demeaned for the good and prosperity of the nation.