Employee performance evaluations through the ages

These case studies might be instructive for employers of today. Examined here are the supervisor evaluations of employees Benedict Arnold, Judas Iscariot, and George Armstrong Custer.
Crosscut archive image.

Jesus (left center) and Judas during an employment performance evaluation.

These case studies might be instructive for employers of today. Examined here are the supervisor evaluations of employees Benedict Arnold, Judas Iscariot, and George Armstrong Custer.
Most people think that annual performance appraisals are a recent innovation. In fact, they date from the Sumerian Dynasty of Kish, approximately 2900 BCE. In the Epic of Gilgamesh (2700 BCE), the demon Humbaba writes that that Gilgamesh's performance is below average and he "needs improvement in team-building skills." Gilgamesh then slays Humbaba. Flip Side researchers recently discovered three fascinating historical performance appraisals:Performance Appraisal

Employee: Benedict Arnold
Job Title: Major General, Commander West Point
Supervisor: George Washington, Commanding General Continental Army
Appraisal Period: January 1780-December 1780


Responsibilities: Principal responsibility was to safeguard the strategic position at West Point and prevent British ships for moving from New York up the Hudson and connecting with British troops in Canada.

Accomplishments: Last year, the British were unable to capture West Point and move ships to Canada. For this accomplishment Gen. Arnold deserves a good deal of credit. However, the unfortunate "Major André" incident remains a blemish on an otherwise excellent record.


Professional/Technical Knowledge: Exceptional. Gen. Arnold continues to display a grasp of tactics and strategy that gained him renown in the battles of Ft. Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain, Danbury, and Saratoga.

Flexibility: Exceptional. Gen. Arnold displayed unrivaled flexibility in his dealing with both ally and enemy.

Innovation and Creativity: Exceptional. Gen. Arnold's plan to turn over West Point to the British demonstrated unusual creativity.

Team Effort: Highly effective. I would have rated Gen. Arnold "Exceptional" except that he occasionally forgets which team he is working for.

Affirmative Action: Exceptional. To promote diversity, Gen. Arnold has reached out to include the enemy within his workforce.

Dependability: Highly Effective, with one exception. Remember, one mistake does not make a person undependable. The Continental Army is a learning institution. Look on the André incident as a learning experience. The next time you are tempted to betray your country, count to ten.

Communications: Needs improvement. Gen. Arnold at times can be too explicit in written communication and must learn to write with diplomatic concealment.

III. Plan for Next Period

Gen. Arnold will continue to command the strategic position at West Point and deny navigation of the Hudson to the British.

In light of the André incident, Gen. Arnold should improve his loyalty skills. I suggest that he attend a loyalty skills seminar.

Performance Appraisal

Employee: Judas Iscariot
Job Title: Disciple
Supervisor: Jesus of Nazareth
Appraisal Period: 30 CE-31 BCE


Responsibilities: As a disciple, Judas was responsible "to the least of my brothers to":

  • Give food when hungry
  • Give drink when thirsty
  • Clothe when needing clothes
  • Look after when sick
  • Visit when in prison

Accomplishments: Judas' performance has above average, although some of the homeless have complained about his cooking. His prison visits have been outstanding and he never fails to cheer up a convict who is awaiting crucifixion.


Initiative: Exceptional. Judas is a self-starter, always looking for new opportunities.

Attitude: Needs Improvement. Judas is far too concerned about his compensation. Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Dependability: Above average, although Judas should cease saying "huh?" after hearing a parable.

Interpersonal Relations: Needs Improvement. Judas' habit of kissing men may lead the goyim to believe that Christianity is a gay cult.

Planning and Organization: Needs Improvement. Judas spends too much time planning. Take a lesson from the lilies, how they spread over the field. They do not toil at, the do not spin their own fabric. But I tell you that Solomon in all his splendor did not outshine them.

Communications: Needs improvement. Judas keeps dating his correspondence 31 AD instead of 31 CE. He should adopt the later system of dating since we want to avoid a cult of personality.

Affirmative Action: Exceptional. Judas has developed close relationships with the High Priest Caiaphas and the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.

III. Objectives for the Next Period

I look forward to another great year together. This year I expect you to:

  • Sell all you own and give what it yields to the poor.
  • If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
  • And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
  • Love your foes, help those who hate you, praise those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
  • When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors ... invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.

IV. Employee's Comments

Giving everything to the poor is fine for you. You don't have a wife, kids, and a mortgage. I want a raise.

Performance Appriasal

Employee: George Armstrong Custer
Job Title: Major General, 7th Cavalry
Supervisor: General Philip Sheridan
Appraisal Period: 1875


Specific Objectives For Appraisal Period:

  1. Get Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho on the reservation.
  2. Improve the military appearance of the 7th Cavalry.


  1. Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho are still off the reservation.
  2. Hair of 7th Cavalry continue to be too long and too curly.


Toughness: Needs Improvement. Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Team Building: Needs improvement. Remember, there is no "I" in "team."

Fighting Spirit: Needs Improvement. Remember, it's not the size of the dog in the fight. It's the size of the fight in the dog. â'ꂬ¢ Persistence: Needs Improvement. Remember, winners never quit. Quitters never win.

Audacity: Needs Improvement. What are you afraid of? Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull are wimps. Stop being an appeaser. The only thing Indians understand is force.

Affirmative Action: Exceptional. Gen. Custer has met diversity objectives through the employment of Crow Indians as scouts.


  1. Get the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho back on the reservation by the end of June 1876. I suggest that you corral them at Little Big Horn. Be tough, persistent, and audacious. Attack with a fighting spirit.
  2. Improve the military appearance of the 7th Cavalry. Get a haircut yourself.

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