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To ask for your experiences with ‘forced distribution’ in performance management?

74 replies

Spookytoast · 30/10/2018 20:14

My workplace are now using this system for performance management where employees are ‘ranked and stacked’ against one another and a certain % have to be ranked at the bottom at the end of the year regardless of whether people have actually underperform or not. This obviously means no bonus or pay rise.

I don’t agree with it. As the year as gone on my colleagues have started to become secretive with projects, people are constantly determined to ‘improve’ processes that don’t need improving and teamwork doesn’t seem to work for anyone anymore because people need to be able to take all the credit for the work.

Has anyone got any positive stories of this kind of system in their workplace or tips on how not to let it affect working relationships? I think my colleagues are fab and hard working and couldn’t put anyone in the ‘needs improvement’ box but also don’t want to be put there myself!

OP posts:
MorelloKisses · 30/10/2018 20:17

Logically though, someone must be the top o the pack and someone the bottom, no matter how slim the difference...

Spookytoast · 30/10/2018 20:22

Yes - they just be but that doesn’t mean that the person at the bottom hasn’t met their objectives necessarily. I’m all for people being scored as satisfactory if they haven’t particularly sparkled this year but to say they need to improve when they don’t seems harsh, no?

OP posts:
slapbitchface · 30/10/2018 20:23

I agree. We do it too at work and it's totally wrong. Don't have an issue with rating people but pushing people into bands to hit percentage targets that actually impact their bonus is wrong

Spookytoast · 30/10/2018 20:25


do you find that it has an impact on your relationship with your colleagues?

OP posts:
Doobigetta · 30/10/2018 20:26

At least one of the Big 4 consultancy firms- definitely KPMG, I think- does this, and actually gets rid of the bottom slice of each intake of graduates. I don’t have personal experience of it but I’d assume it contributes to the silly hours they work. I think it’s really unhealthy.

CherryPavlova · 30/10/2018 20:27

What a horrid idea and really demotivating for staff. Hardly the way to build successful teams.

Allergictoironing · 30/10/2018 20:29

Some government departments do this, so at least x% MUST be marked as underperforming. Maybe not so bad in a team of a couple of hundred people, but when you're in a team of half a dozen who were hand picked as high performers for a very specialist role it's a little unfair on someone to not get a pay rise and even be under disciplinary action because they were "only" fantastic, rather than phenomenally brilliant in every way.

And that's the thing, it's not just saying that one person is better than others but affects people's salaries, chances of any progression etc just because someone else is even better.

LoniceraJaponica · 30/10/2018 20:30

Wouldn't this system destroy any kind of teamwork? If everyone was trying to outdo each other where I work it would be carnage. Nobody would support each other and the atmosphere would be terrible.

IMO anyone eho thinks it is a good idea should be shot.

quartzy · 30/10/2018 20:30

We have this evaluation system too, and I don't see how it can lead to anything but a competitive environment. It's counterproductive I think to pit your employees against each other in such a way.

For me, I only focus on what I can do well and ignore the competitiveness as much as possible. I convince myself that competitiveness is detrimental to my career in the long run and try as hard as I can not to get involved in it. I help others a lot, but always have to cast it as 'mentoring'/ 'coaching' to avoid it being overlooked at review time.

Sometime soon, I will leave and find a nicer place to work.

IrenetheQuaint · 30/10/2018 20:31

It's hideous and I can see no justification for it. My organisation used to do this but doesn't any more - such an improvement!

RaggieDolls · 30/10/2018 20:32

My work did this for two years and managers were told if they refused they would be placed in the bottom 10% themselves regardless of their performance.

It was awful and went down really badly with staff. As you rightly point out people who had done what had been asked of them were being put in bottom 10%.

They have abandoned it this year. No reason given but I suspect it had a lot to do with % of staff with a disability related reasonable adjustment being placed in the bottom 10% and how that made the company look.

MIdgebabe · 30/10/2018 20:33

That system has been dropped in our place as demotivating, team destroying etc

Before then...well you could all agree to take it in tums to be bottom ...needs the top dog to go first

cucumbergin · 30/10/2018 20:35

I thought it had pretty much fallen out of favour as it basically totally fucks up teamwork and company performance? I don't think there is any way to make this work well, sorry OP.

I would personally be looking at moving on. But I have quite a low tolerance for this kind of abusive bullshit so I'd probably get booted out the first time I was asked to complete performance reviews Grin

MaisyPops · 30/10/2018 20:36

I see no reason for it.

It's the same in education, but on an organisation level not staff level. There's a set amount of GCSE grades to go around. Without the good gcse you get downgraded as a school. Government want all schools to be above average but have designed a system so it doesn't matter how good everyone does or how well the students mean, someone gets shafted.

To put that on an individual level seems particularly mean and utterly bonkers. Teams thrive when part of one vision and pulling in the same direction. You don't get that if people are working on pet projects and trying to one up each other.

Xiaoxiong · 30/10/2018 20:36

I read a history of Enron and when Jeffrey Skilling introduced this "rank and yank" system, it had a really detrimental effect apparently and contributed to the toxicity and fraudulent behaviour at the company before it collapsed.

ThomasRichard · 30/10/2018 20:37

What an utterly crap way to run a workplace. I can’t imagine how they get away with it! Surely they’re setting themselves up for tribunal claims of constructive dismissal and discrimination on the basis of maternity (p/t employees), sex (women socialised to be less aggressive than men) and disability. Let alone the impact on staff morale and teamwork. Disgraceful.

Are you in a position to strongly object OP?

TedAndLola · 30/10/2018 20:38

What a horrible and ridiculous system. How could anybody think this was a good idea?

I'd be looking for another job.

trashcansinatra · 30/10/2018 20:39

There are no advantages. You've described some of the bad points, but it's a terrible idea that makes performance worse and degrades teams especially badly. Also tends to discriminate against women.

Google "stack ranking microsoft" for some interesting articles. ... and probably start updating your CV.

MrsVietor · 30/10/2018 20:41

We have the opposite problem: my boss wouldn't give me the top rating even though I had earned it, because too many people had already been awarded it, and he didn't want HR to think he was overly generous 🙄

If ratings are based on anything other than the individual effort and effectiveness then by definition they're unfair.

Thebluedog · 30/10/2018 20:42

I’ve had this in a number of roles as companies, and personally i think it drives the wrong behaviours from staff. Management will have a ‘curve’ of performance and they have to put a % of people at certain points on this curve. Which means some people will be in ‘improvement required’ most in the middle and some in ‘excellent’. But what I’ve found is that people then start to look out for themselves. I’ve seen people actually pleased if someone fucks up a project, because they know that will put that person in the bottom group come assessement time. It gets even worse if your bonus and pay rise are depended on where you come on the curve.

So OP I’m afraid I don’t have any positive stories for you. It’s great, I guess, if you are a high performer and want to move up and get promoted, also if your face fits it can work in your favour. But it’s a bit of a bummer if you like your job, do a good job, occasionally exceed expectations but don’t want to push your career or move up the corporate ladder.

That was me. The feedback I had was good, I was a good employee, exceeded expectations on occasions and enjoyed what I did. But I had dc and my focus went to them, I was no longer interested in becoming the next ceo and as such didn’t push myself to become that. I went from ‘outstanding’ to ‘good’ to improvement required. I left shortly after that as I lost all faith in the company I worked for. I actually did a really good job.

SwedishEdith · 30/10/2018 20:43

It's a completely outdated system designed to make staff leave rather than wait to be pushed. Read up on Microsoft stack ranking. I thought most workplaces had dropped it as it is so discredited.

SwedishEdith · 30/10/2018 20:46

It doesn't even work for the high performers because you have to exceed your own high performance next year. Totally demotivates staff.


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PersonaNonGarter · 30/10/2018 20:48

What a weirdly shortsighted way to run a business.

The firm I am in relies on cross-selling between departments and actively taking time to big up each other to clients and fee-earners. That couldn’t work in the system you describe. Team work would be over by the end of the first week.

Vinorosso74 · 30/10/2018 20:50

It's shit and unfair. As averages work put yes most people will be on the middle but forcing it to make sure the distribution is certain percentages is just so wrong.
When I last handed my notice in it was July so just as mid year ratings were being finalised. I was in the middle-met expectations but then after I did that got pushed down so someone else who was staying could take my rating.

Hollycatberry · 30/10/2018 20:55

I’ve worked for firms in financial services that use this. It’s so managers don’t say ‘hey my whole team is great give them the top pay rise’. It’s HRs way of stopping managers being too lenient with positive performance ratings.
I don’t like it because it means some people will have performed well but are not allowed to get a certain rating because it’s already full.

That said, managers pay all sorts of games with pay rises and bonus pots. I know of one who gave his whole team the same bonus percentage (so none of the high performers were rewarded) and rewarded himself with the rest of the allocated pot (so he got an above average bonus).

More info on bell curves here:

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