Boreal

Shooting the Messenger

24 - R. G. Woolham and the Appraisal From Hell

For public servants who aspired to lofty inspirational goals; to professionalism, to being the paradigm of Canadian values and of civilized behaviour you might expect that, in victory, they would be magnanimous. The diplomats would reveal themselves, even in victory, as petty and vindictive.

The man who heard my appeal against the Appraisal From Hell was a diplomat by the name of Robert Gordon Woolham. Soon to be High Commissioner Woolham was between diplomatic assignments keeping busy as Director General of the Personnel Administration Bureau.

In a letter dated May 3, 1985 Robert Gordon Woolham informed me that "In consideration of the facts I can find no evidence to support your allegations regarding management harassment and/or intimidation tactics [therefore] I find no reason to modify the assessment of [the character assassins] in any respect."

How did an apparently sane man arrive at such an aberrant conclusion? To try to find out, I wrote Robert Gordon Woolham.

May 27, 1985

Dear Sir,

I would like to thank you for your letter of May 3, 1985 informing me that my grievance regarding my special performance appraisal has been dismissed. One certainly cannot accuse the Department of inconsistency, all previous grievances and appeals have been dismissed in the same manner without any explanation. I believe I am owned an explanation ...

First a simple matter of dates. Your letter is dated May 3, 1985 yet the Department's postmark indicates the letter was mailed after May 20, 1985. Why the almost three weeks difference ...

Why, indeed!

Is it possible that Robert Gordon Woolham, a diplomat by training, was not aware that even an appraisal as abhorrent as the one handed me by the character assassins could not be appealed any further.

If he didn't, then, as far as Robert Gordon Woolham was concerned, it was in the Department's interest to delay the delivery of his decision until I was no longer a public servant, when any rights I might have had to appeal to an outside agency or court for redress would be extinguished.

Robert Gordon Woolham need not have worried.

In agreeing with the character assassins that I was incapable of performing the most menial of tasks, or communicate with colleagues or my supervisor on even the most superficial level, he made sure that The Appraisal From Hell would remain on file as long as I lived and breathed, and even after that.

In your letter you state "I have carefully reviewed and considered all aspects of your grievance."

What aspects did you consider?

The character assassins' Appraisal From Hell was the only fact put forward by Foreign Affairs management, therefore, Robert Gordon Woolham's decision in support of the character assassins can not be said to have been based on what a reasonable person would consider factual evidence.

During the hearing Robert Gordon Woolham admitted not having read any of the materials I made available to his staff prior to the hearing into the Appraisal From Hell.

Weeks prior to the hearing I provided your staff with material explaining my side of the story. At the hearing, you stated that you had not read this material since it was irrelevant. Please explain to me the logic of stating the material was irrelevant when not having read it.

Robert Gordon Woolham's aberrant decision meant that the character assassins' Appraisal From Hell would be available to any prospective employer that would even consider hiring me after my dismissal from the public service.

His decision would make it extremely difficult for me to find meaningful employment, in either the private or public sector, after being terminated as a public servant. This in my, in my opinion, was the intent of Robert Gordon Woolham's blanket approval of the character assassins’ assessment of my character and abilities.

Director General Robert Gordon Woolham had to know that two days after signing off on his letter, his boss, J. G. Harris, Assistant Deputy Minister, Personnel Branch, would be fulfilling the promise of the character assassins and terminating me on their behalf.

Vindictive is not the only word that comes to mind when reading Robert Gordon Woolham's decision: malicious, spiteful, mean....

Shortly after making sure that The Appraisal From Hell remained on file for years to come, Robert Gordon Woolham was named Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica.

It was Robert Gordon Woolham's first appointment as Head of Post.

High Commissioner to Jamaica was a prized and sought-after destination, usually reserved for diplomats who had served with distinction as Head of Post in much less desirable locations.

Less than two months after giving his blessing to The Appraisal From Hell, Robert Gordon Woolham was probably lounging on a beach, savouring a pina colada or a rum and coke, enjoying the fruits of his labour. That would be my guess.