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Forced Ranking

Forced Rankings are Terrible!

Yahoo made headlines in 2013 when it was disclosed that they were adopting Forced Rankings in their approach to Performance Management.

The measures are often arbitrary.

If you can quantifiably measure something, that takes away a lot (but not all) of the bias, but in most cases, we try to measure behaviours like Cooperation, Teamwork, Collaboration & Communication which are all qualitative, or Opinion-based. Then there is a whole set of things that are measurements, but hard to measure like how productive someone was when working on ad-hoc or one-off tasks/projects.

It is pretty much impossible to have perfect bias-free measurements and so you’re effectively creating all your ‘forced rankings’ based on opinions. Oh, dear.

It implies that a Manager is unable to develop everyone in the team effectively.

Everyone has to have poor performers. The bottom 10% should be fired. Wait, what…? What if I am a great manager and have worked really hard to motivate and performance manage my team to the point where they are all good. Isn’t this what I’m supposed to be doing as a manager!?

Forced Rankings tells managers – no matter how good you are, you’ll never be an effective manager to everyone.

It demotivates everyone NOT in the top percentile.

Since these rankings are usually tied to compensation such as bonuses if you know you have no chance to meeting the small threshold that qualifies, why would you keep trying really hard?

It pits employees against employees.

Can anyone say teamwork…? Individual targets and performance measures like this promote working in isolation which in turn kills collaboration and causes many more problems. It creates the very culture managers work hard to avoid. Employees steal credit, keep things to themselves, excessively and unnecessarily criticizes colleagues and can even sabotage others work in extreme cases.

Forced rankings are really, not the place you want to be in.