Tag Archives: “colorblindness”

Dick Grote: Favors Unjust, Unfair “Rank and Yank” Performance Management, Despite Practical Evidence that Rank and Yank Is a Failed System

Dick Grote, owner of Grote Consulting (“strategy-based performance management”), spoke on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” on March 19, 2014.

I have covered Grote’s unworkable and organizationally destructive “rank and yank” system in this blog. It is the sole basis of his company’s existence–to profit himself and also managers and those employees deemed “high performers” at a cruel and immoral expense of other people’s (80% of the workforce) livelihoods–so it is unsurprising that he zealously defends it in the face of two organizations (Adobe and CEB) that stopped using it because rank and yank inhibits collaborative work practices.

At its best, rank and yank encourages unjust, artificial comparisons of employees with each other (not their work assignments) and permits total and unaccountable managerial power over powerless subordinates. Rank and yank is a system that is properly avoided by rational firms. In addition, employees are not rated against goal achievement (absolute comparison), they are rated based on their relative worth to the company compared with another employee (relative comparison). Grote deceptively skirts the issue knowing that deep analysis of relative comparision will lead to people rejecting it.

Thus, I was disappointed, but not surprised, that Grote uses double talk to present rank and yank’s inherent negativity (displayed in red font color) as positive (dark blue font color).



Yes, it is. And what forced ranking is is a pejorative term, and actually, organizations have almost abandoned the use of the term, forced ranking, because it carries so much negative baggage. But the fact is, what forced ranking involves is relative comparison. When we look at evaluating how well a person on a job is done, there are basically two ways we can do it. One is, absolute comparison. How good a job did George do against his goals and objectives and expectations? The other way we can evaluate the performance is through relative comparison.



How well did George do compared with how well Mary and Sam and Bill did? And I think both of those are important spectacles to have in the lens, to understand just how well someone has performed.

The issue that causes rank and yank to be a flawed system is managers are given absolute power (in secret) to rate others without facing any sort of accountability. Indeed, Grote expects that the managers will determine for themselves whether they are objective and fair in giving their opinions over a subordinate. The power disparity in the relationship permits rampant, unchecked abuse of the employment relationship in the rank and yank process. [Note in the discussion, below, how Grote pivots from the observation that a supervisor's opinion is subjective to a nongermane discussion of objective and fair. Without accountability for their "opinions" on subordinates, "opinions" from these supervisors will most likely be unobjective and unfair.]



Yeah, well, let’s take a look at the fundamental question, what is a performance appraisal? And the answer to that question is, a performance appraisal is a formal record of a supervisor’s opinion of the quality of an employee’s work. And right away that word opinion seems to vibrate in neon lights because people believe that if it’s someone’s opinion, then it’s necessarily subjective.



And, Frank, every time I hear someone say that, I feel sad because what that says is that the person doesn’t know what the word objective means, what it means to be objective. What it means to be objective is to be uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices. It means to base your opinion on facts and present those facts — present the examples factually. It means to be fair. And so of course what we want our supervisors to be is to be fair in rendering their opinions.

In order to be truly objective and fair, one solution is to have the subordinate rate the supervisor. This check will resolve the power disparity and provide instant accountability.

Performance Management, Civil Service, & Merit Principles: Discussions Must Be Guided with Sober, Detailed Research and Commitment to Fair & Equitable Treatment; Management Abuse of Authority Must Also Be Addressed

All discussions of performance management within the federal government’s civil service must be done with in-depth, sober, and detailed research and analysis in order to ensure that any system proposed

  • is faithful with the merit principles and all laws of the United States of America,
  • fair and equitable to all those who are subject to the system, and
  • addresses management abuse of authority toward subordinates.

Moreover, vague mentions of “poor performers” must be avoided and replaced with substantiated and detailed examples.

The focus of the Government Executive article, “Wielding the Ax,” seems to be based on the “trials” of the manager trying to fire an undefined “poor performer.” Yet, the article merely passes over a tremendous problem identified by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB): The managers cannot identify proper standards. (Emphasis, added, mine.)

In a 2009 report (quote is from the press release), MSPB said that complexities involved in performance management—not the law—present the greatest challenge to handling poor performers. “The agency is required to articulate a performance expectation, measure it and document the extent to which the employee has failed to meet expectations,” said the report. “According to an MSPB survey of proposing and deciding officials, this is where the actions become difficult. Our survey respondents told us that supervisors have difficulty creating standards for performance and documenting how well employees are meeting those standards.”

If management cannot identify standards, how can they rate performance? Lacking standards, it seems that managers are rating on whim, a situation that is unfair to employees.

The managers cited in the Government Executive article seemed to be focused on removal rather than coaching proper performance. Moreover, both managers cited are no longer with their government agencies. [John Palguta, vice president of policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. Palguta also has worked at the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board, the agency that adjudicates appeals from employees related to their job status. Henry Romero, who was associate director for workforce compensation and performance at OPM during the Clinton administration and was reported to be a senior adviser at Virginia-based consulting firm Federal Management Partners.]

In addition, and in fairness, the issue of managerial abuse of power toward subordinates must also be considered in any discussion of performance management. There are very few avenues for redress for suffering employees (especially if the avenues of redress–human relations, EEO, upper-level agency management–agree with or do not care about the employee’s suffering of abuse). Strengthening managerial power to discipline or remove–with severe financial consequences to the affected employee–without considering the plight of these affected persons would be a tremendous injustice.

Moreover, the discussion of performance management flies off in a tangent upon mention of “poor performers.” Yet, this mention of poor performer is not substantiated with clear, specific definitions or examples. The discussion will be best served with serious and detailed research and analysis identifying all of the issues from all viewpoints and with pinpointed, transparent, fair, and equitable solutions.


Futility of “Colorblindness”: GOP Demand that Black People Concentrate Only on Today and Forget the U.S.’s Continuing Bias Towards Whites Unreasonable

The “race card” is a term that usually is used to note that race is being discussed in a way that questions the “legitimacy” of the U.S.’s practice of White hegemony. Kathleen Parker, in a Washington Post opinion column, uses this worn-out race-card term.

I am not sure why this race-card terminology has such a hold over discourse on race; social imbalance has been and continues to be a problem. Supreme Court Justice John Harlan spoke openly about White supremacy in his dissent in the court case Plessy v. Ferguson.

The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens.

Because of this history, race-card discussions, like discussions of “colorblindness,” are useless, as they are really another example of White hegemony. In this case, using the term to reaffirm the superior position of Whites.

United States (population: 308,745,538) (2010 Census)


Percentage of population








Native American






The Republican party (GOP) has a firm view on Blacks in their party–to be acceptable you have to accept all of the GOP’s tenets. Questioning any GOP position makes that person a target of a media devalue and discard campaign (like Parker’s column).

The seeming logical argument of the GOP that I think spurred Parker’s column–

  • The GOP is “colorblind” and has policies that benefit all people, including Black people (who avoid the GOP for some reason) [regardless of what anti-Black racial injustice happened in the past (or currently) in the United States].
  • The GOP supports Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (as well as Dr. Ben Carson) (all three of them follow GOP tenets closely)
  • Thus, Black opposition to the GOP is baffling.
  • Critique of GOP’s Black standard bearers by Blacks who are not members of the GOP is unacceptable because it is in opposition to the supposed norm of “colorblindness” and, thus, such activity is “racist” because criticism of a Black person that holds complete fidelity to GOP beliefs is a denial of their freedom to sustain such fidelity.

With this foundation, it becomes apparent that a Black person who holds a non-GOP view (here, Alabama State Representative Alvin Holmes) is not welcome. His statement to critique the wisdom of Thomas and Scott being faithful to the GOP, therefore, had to be condemned.

This expectation of unquestioning support of the GOP in order to be a member of the GOP is itself disturbing.


Futility of “Colorblindness”: The Struggle Continues


Most disturbing is the persistence, breadth, and depth of White hegemony in the United States of America. Recent interaction with Russia concerning Ukraine has sometimes elicited comments that the society of the United States is diverse and free. These claims always provokes a deep concern because the United States has its own issues with race that it has never resolved (all proclamations to the world otherwise notwithstanding).

Hence, it is good to have more articles further explaining where the United States has been, where it is now, and what is to be its future.

Dick Grote: “Poor Performance” as Cover for Persistent Unstable Employment and Institutionalized Managerial Bullying

Dick Grote, of Grote Consulting (“strategy-based performance management”), is an apologist for a forced-rank performance evaluation. While a system that is used in large private-sector organizations, whose main purpose is to provide profit to the shareholder, it seems that the practice is entering other organizations, government, health care, or education, whose main purpose is to provide service to human beings. As a result, use of the bell curve system in any non-private-sector organization is akin to a hammer looking to make nails that it could strike.

The whole system of performance appraisal is destroyed with bell curve systems. The goal of such systems is not the improvement of staff but rather the assurance that a certain percentage of staff will be fired each year through assignment of employees to so-called buckets by line management and those choices are reinforced by upper-level management. Fair treatment of the rated employee goes out the window because the only concern is the rigid consistency of the bucket assignments regardless of the workplace situation, including managerial abuse or incompetence.



Percentage(amounts can be adjusted) Effect
A 20 Lavish rewards, encouragement
B 70 Little to paltry increase
C 10 Pressure to quit or firing

If the selection seems to overload the firing group with protected class members, there is no failsafe; the filigree of “poor performance” is used as a justifying and protective cover. This cover can be questionable with the overwhelming of protected class members in the group slated for firing without any substantive review by any member of management, to the insult of all the civil rights laws, which were all hard won.

But what if a company’s forced ranking procedure, honestly and objectively done, reveals that the blacks or women or disabled employees just aren’t as talented as the white ones? Should they do what some Harvard professors are said to do and award A’s to all the blacks, just to keep them from squawking?” (Grote, page 4).

If the concern is to ensure a rigidly applied performance system, then you cannot have a truly honest and objective forced ranking procedure; the only concern is the ranking process itself, not its effect on the targeted employee, which can include the (secret) managerial targeting of protected class members to be placed in the C bucket and fired.

Nowhere in any of Grote’s writings does he address managerial misbehavior, which is quite likely given that the C bucket people do not have any realistic chance of reversing the (secret) decision (Grote, page 11) and the script for C bucket personnel is so witheringly negative such that it encourages abusive, bullying behavior toward the people forced into the C bucket (people who are dehumanized consistently in Grote’s writings) in order to support and justify the rigid, top-down, take-it-or-leave-it system.

For example, the manager documents the C bucket employee’s “failures” for an extended period,

Phase two is execution. One of the most important things here is to keep an ongoing performance log. As much as we talk about that, it is one of the toughest things for managers to do on an ongoing basis. A Web-based system is so powerful because it makes it easier for managers to do this. When we designed the Grote System, we created an email reminder system that signals managers to do this on a regular basis. By doing this throughout the year, you overcome the most serious of all rating errors, recency effect. With the recency effect you only base your rating on the most recent outcomes that you can remember. Managers should also update goals and objectives as conditions change. My third tip is to conduct a tough mid-cycle review. We know that a review half way through the year is important. If a manager has a particularly tough employee, the mid-year review is the opportunity for them to lay out difficult expectations before the end of the year. Managers should err on the side of being excessively tough in the mid-year review as a way of building performance.

but the targeted employee is given only short notice for a “performance review” meeting.

The final stage of the performance appraisal is the performance review. One tip I have is to give the appraisal form to the employee for review an hour or two before the meeting. By doing this, employees have a chance to review the comments and prepare a list of questions to help them fully understand the evaluation. This helps to reduce the defensiveness that tends to come out in performance discussions. Another quick tip is to gain understanding from the evaluation process, not agreement. The tougher a manager´s expectations and demands are, the less likely you are going to get full agreement from an employee. That´s OK because your purpose is not to gain agreement, but to gain understanding.

Finally, remember the words of John Dillinger, the bank robber. He once said, “Before you rob your first bank, knock off a couple of gas stations.” If you´ve got one person amongst your subordinates that is going to be a particularly difficult review, do not start with the tough one. Start with the easy employees and work your way up.

Employees of all organizations need to be aware of the negative consequences of secretly applied forced-rank performance systems.

President Barack Obama and “Colorblindness”: Disappointing, Unfair, and Harsh Statements concerning Blacks Made in His Morehouse College Graduation Speech

President Barack Obama made statements at the Morehouse College graduation that immediately caused concern upon hearing him state it. I am disappointed with this speech in general as a result. Apparently, the President attempted to cover-up these thinly veiled attacks with feel-good stories in the speech. Hence, I was initially on the fence about it. But once I applied questions to the statements, the speech started to fall apart (to my dismay).

The statements to which I refer follow.

“I understand there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: “Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.”  Well, we’ve got no time for excuses.  Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not.  Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there.  It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil** — many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did — all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned.  (Applause.)

Nobody*** cares how tough your upbringing was.  Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination.  And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them.  And if they overcame*** them, you can overcome them, too.  (Applause.)”

My comments for the asterisked (mine) words indicated in the quotes are below.

**First, what Black person ever expects that he or she will be given anything in the United States of America, where for many of them their ancestors were in bondage as slaves or suffered under the Jim Crow policies? Spreading this idea worldwide with the insertion of students from BRIC countries does not make the assertion any more apt because those students are likely to find jobs in their own countries. Brazil, in particular, has its own issues with race, so easily glossed over with the President’s broad-brush statement. Black (and mixed-race) people in Brazil face the same systematic discrimination issues as Blacks in the United States. The college students in the jobs competition President Obama speaks of in his speech are very likely to be light skinned and wealthy.

 “Going to university in Brazil is not a mass experience, as in the United States. And only a quarter of places are in public institutions. Other government education programmes, such as creche-building in poor neighbourhoods, better literacy training for teachers and subsidies for poor students who attend private universities, will improve the lives of many more black Brazilians than the quota programme. But public universities are more prestigious—and barred from charging fees by the constitution. That their places have long gone disproportionately to the 12% of Brazilians who are privately educated, most of them rich and white, is hard to swallow.”

***This paragraph of the President’s speech is exceptionally harsh, especially considering the fact that no matter how hard a Black person works individually, that person (being a college graduate is understood to be hard working) will not be able to overcome the disproportionate distribution of social power (which heavily favors the White population). This reality has been covered many times in this blog. The words “nobody cares” and “overcame” in light of the racial reality being discussed is therefore excessive.