September 24th, 2010 12:56 EST
How about Forced Ranking Leads to Dissatisfaction!
As you are about to meet with your leader for your annual performance review, you whisper under your breath "I am Brilliant, I am Brilliant - And I am about to have my entire year of work come down to a check box on a form."
Will you be categorized as "Below Expectations", "Meets Expectations" or "Exceeds Expectations"? Is this all sounding familiar? You know that you have made a contribution to your organization, but the reality is that no matter what stellar job you`ve done, you may still fall victim to a common performance evaluation practice called "forced ranking."
In theory, this is a means of differentiating talent through a performance appraisal system comparing your results with those from other areas throughout the organization. Hang with me for a moment - I am going somewhere with this information.
I take issue with the forced ranking system. It is based on statistical data and metrics stating that organizations, in order to improve the overall potential of its workforce, have to systematically remove the bottom 10 percent of performers every year and replace them with better talent. I can remember so vividly sitting in a meeting a few years ago with ten other managers around the table and hearing the senior leader at the time say "ladies and gentlemen we have a pot of money (salary increases) and everyone has to be ranked in a certain order. The people who are ranked at the top (exceed expectations) will receive the most money, but that will only be a few. We don`t want to set a precedent that it`s easy to exceed expectations."
So here I am sitting in the meeting, fighting (figuratively not literally) and justifying why certain people on my team deserved an "exceeds expectations" ranking instead of a "meets expectations". What was most interesting was that my colleagues and peers had obviously had a meeting before the meeting because when a name was mentioned from their team everyone else nodded in agreement almost on cue. So and so was a great team player and they deserve an "exceeds expectations" rating. Needless to say, I left the meeting exasperated after witnessing this ossified manner of thinking.
What the inculcated group of leaders failed to realize was the contribution of men and women who worked hard doing things that had a positive direct and indirect impact on the organization. That`s a contribution that is worth noting and in times of change, talented men and women don`t forget.
I challenge all leaders of organizations as you begin to rank people on their performance, honestly assess their contributions. Consider all the times they stayed late to finish a project. What about the time they missed their child`s ball game or recital? How about the time they went to a meeting in your place or wrote a new procedure that had a direct impact on the company but perhaps an indirect impact on your department. Consider the time when they identified ways to save the organization`s money or create new revenue streams. Think about all of the hoops that they jumped through to make something happen. You should remember. Perhaps you were in their shoes once upon a time. Make a note of their contributions so that at the end of the year you don`t have to scramble and scratch your head wondering exactly what they did. If you are giving them open and honest feedback throughout the year, then you don`t have to wait until the last minute to do their review.
When it comes to "forced ranking" and you find yourself in one of those awkward meetings with other leaders, stand up for your team! They may want to force the rank but you should force the issue. If you have talented individuals that have knocked the cover off the ball, then make sure that they are taken care of. I know that many times organizations want to reward the stars of the organizations, but what about recognizing the people who put forth an effort, even if they do it quietly?
Satisfaction and engagement is knowing that your efforts don`t go unnoticed by those who have the greatest influence on your future career. Senior leadership only knows what they are told by your manager. Speak well of your direct reports even when you are coaching them to shift their perspective to move in the direction that you need them to go. Failure is not final, it`s only feedback and feedback is a gift. People want to receive ongoing feedback that is meaningful, authentic, and concrete and invites them to look honestly at themselves in the mirror.
I challenge all of you who are on the receiving end of a performance review to really consider the following:
Have you been a good steward of your company`s time, resources, and training?
Have you focused your energy on doing the right things instead of just doing things right?
Have you done everything within your power to "exceed expectations"?
What have you done to go the extra mile and differentiate yourself in your place of business?
As you approach another quarter, what are you going to do better than you did within the last 90 days that will make a tremendous impact on your department and perhaps even the organization at large?
If you have done everything that you could possibly do, then you don`t even have to ask for a raise. It will be given to you because your contribution is noted and recognized.
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