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Employee Performance Ratings

  • 1.  Employee Performance Ratings

    Posted 07-07-2022 08:30 PM

    Has anyone encountered an employee performance rating system in which management requires scores to fit an expected distribution, such as a bell curve? 



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    Bill McAnally
    ENGINEER
    Columbus MS
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  • 2.  RE: Employee Performance Ratings

    Posted 07-08-2022 09:55 AM
    I have not run into that, but I don't think it is ever right to force people to fit along a bell curve. If everyone is meeting expectations, no one should be ranked in a way that they appear to be failing or underperforming.
    I've known people that had college professors grade on a bell curve, and it seems ridiculous to me. If everyone does their best to learn the material and earns an A, why should some of them be given a C?

    I think any performance review for an individual should be independentof how others in the group are performing. I wonder if that kind of ranking system squashes employees' desire to work as a team...
    I know in a bell curve graded course I would be much less likely to feel motivated to help other students that were confused.

    Statistics are nice, but sometimes a given sample won't fit a nice little standard curve. I don't think we should manipulate assessments of people's performance to make them fit a predetermined distribution. 


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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 3.  RE: Employee Performance Ratings

    Posted 07-11-2022 10:59 AM
    In my opinion, that is a very naïve take for two reasons. First, the bell curve is more for the manager than the employees. If Manager A is a tougher reviewer than Manager B, is it fair that Manager A's employees be rated below Manager B's? What are the odds of everyone in Manager A's group 'deserving' a C? Wouldn't that point to a problem?
    Second, if everyone gets and A (or a C, or a B...), it is not much of an evaluation. Remember how bell curves tend to fit natural systems? Employee reviews and class scores are no different. If you do not see any difference in the scores, high or low, wouldn't that point to different problem?
    To think that not helping your teammates, presumably contrary to your company goals, would raise your evaluation score is a very jaded view of professional evaluations. The best employees (and yes there is always a difference) are those that can make the best use of all of the available resources (aka, "the team") to achieve the desired goals. I would hope the evaluation would reflect that.
    In terms of fairness, my professors often used bell curves but I can't remember anyone ever being curved down. To let the grading system affect how you think about helping classmates seems very Machiavellian and I hope most people don't think that way.


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    Brad Watson P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Engineer
    Freese & Nichols Inc
    Alvarado TX
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  • 4.  RE: Employee Performance Ratings

    Posted 07-12-2022 10:22 AM
    I don't appreciate the condescending tone of your response. You could have made your comment without talking down at me.

    Research and anecdotal evidence show that these type of rankings have common flaws including creating an environmental that breeds unhealthy team relationships.

    Are you honestly telling me that every company has a given percentage of people not meeting expectations? Forced cutting of the bottom, a practice tied to these rankings at many places, assumes that the bottom x% aren't worth having in the company. If 10% of your employees need to be cut on a regular basis, you may need to reevaluate your hiring, onboarding, and continued training practices.

    To the comment on grades: if everyone fails then I would say that is an indicator that the course was likely unfairly evaluated or the course was poorly taught. If every single student gets a 100% then it was likely not properly evaluated. But, if a professor does an excellent job at engaging students and effectively teaching and the lowest grade is a 90%, so be it; as long as they met the correct objectives that's fair.  I had courses with curves at the end to adjust everyone up by a certain number of points to adjust for things like tests being harder than intended to pass, but never was there any fixed percentage of students required at a C or failing grade.

    Bottom line:  I think that bell curve style rankings try to reduce things too neatly for the number of variables involved. I know as engineers we like a nice, clean data set, but these are real people we're talking about.

    I really enjoy training new hires at my job. It is exciting to see them really start to take ownership of their work, grow as designers, and step up to fill new roles. We are a team. The better any of us does, the better all of us do. The goal is to hire good people and retain them for years to come. That job security and shared stake in our firm's future pushes us to better ourselves and one another. I genuinely enjoy the people I work with, and I would hate to work somewhere that someone else doing well is disheartening or perceived as a threat by the others in the group. Fear isn't the healthiest motivator in the workplace, and these "rank and yank" practices absolutely seem to me to rely on it. "The bottom 'x%' get cut" means that any success by one person puts another person in greater danger of losing their job; that can't breed healthy teams. You shouldn't see your team just as a resource to use to get ahead or rungs on your ladder to the top. Every success by anyone of your team should be something you can all genuinely celebrate.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 5.  RE: Employee Performance Ratings

    Posted 07-13-2022 11:16 AM
    I apologize for the tone, it was not intended.
    The 10% comment was not mine and I do not agree with it. My point was that the evaluation should be capturing the differences among people and that there are always differences. Also, you concede that adjustments for "things like tests being harder" is appropriate. That adjustment is what I think of when the original question asked about fitting "an expected distribution".
    Now I don't think we actually significantly disagree on this issue; I think I was put off by your comment about your reduced motivation to help others because of the curve. Perhaps I read something into it that wasn't there.

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    Brad Watson P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Engineer
    Freese & Nichols Inc
    Alvarado TX
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