Dick Grote, Forced Distribution, and the EEOC Compliance Manual: Forced Distribution Must Show Compliance with All Civil Rights Laws and Regulations

Forced Ranking, its main apologist is Dick Grote, is a blunt management tool, one that does not work in an imperfect world. When imperfect human beings, named as managers, deign themselves to be perfect judges of “performance” by virtue of their position and power over other human beings, the result must be tragedy. See, for example, the Vanity Fair article on Microsoft or read the many articles on the failures of Enron.

This tragedy is compounded with one of the United States of America’s great shames and weaknesses–chattel slavery of African Americans and all of the negative results visited on those human beings considered as mere property and their descendants. The United States has barely started the recovery process on this indelible stain on the society and its governmental institutions, yet careful and conscientious observers witness consistent backsliding on true equal opportunity. Such weakness is magnified greatly with reckless use of forced distribution, with all of the negatives of the terrible procedure, such as

  • being emotionally abused through unchecked abuse of power,
  • finding new paying work,
  • having to explain the firing in neutral terms repeatedly in interviews with potential employers, and
  • losing access to money to pay for life’s necessities (food, shelter, and clothing) for oneself and his or her family.

All of the bulleted items (above) are thrown onto the target (the so-called poor performer, c-bucket employee) who does not know of the extent of the management’s wicked actions in “calibration” meetings.

Grote, in his writings (analyzed on this blog) on forced distribution, never directly considers the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Compliance Manual and its effect on the use of forced distribution in the workplace. Obliquely, there is one example, that I contrast with an example from the EEOC’s Compliance Manual (below). Employers must be aware, however, that all aspects of processes affecting employees must be without bias.

Dick Grote Quote Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Manual
“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 (a quote from a previous post)).

(Note: Consider this statement from Grote with the ever-present and persistent legacy of slavery and Jim Crow subjugation in the United States of America.)

2. Performance Evaluations

Performance evaluations frequently serve as the basis for numerous other employment decisions, such as pay, promotions, and terminations. They should be unaffected by race bias.


Daniel is a customer service representative, and the only African American in his unit. Until recently he has received uniformly stellar performance ratings, received performance awards, and earned a good reputation among his customers and colleagues.

Things began to change, however, when a new supervisor was assigned a year ago to manage his unit. While Daniel had long been rated one of the best employees, the new supervisor began rating Daniel as below average, which has affected Daniel’s quarterly bonuses.

He files a charge alleging race discrimination. A review of the performance evaluations of Daniel and others in his unit reveals that while Daniel’s overall performance rating has dropped markedly, the ratings of his counterparts have gone up. Significantly, on the most objective part of his performance evaluation – “quantity of results,” which measures the number of accounts serviced – Daniel was rated below average when in actuality he serviced more accounts than persons with higher ratings in this performance category. In addition, there is evidence that the supervisor undermined Daniel’s professional standing with customers – for example, by taking over meetings Daniel was supposed to lead, and refusing to correct a customer’s clearly mistaken belief that Daniel was responsible for an error. This treatment is markedly different than that of Daniel’s colleagues.

The investigation reveals no evidence of a nondiscriminatory reason – such as a pure personality clash (i.e., one not rooted in the alleged bias)(147) – that explains Daniel’s treatment. There is reasonable cause to believe Daniel’s performance evaluations, and thus his pay, were racially discriminatory.(148)