Rank and Yank / Forced Distribution–Dick Grote: Giving Advice on Bad Reviews—Agree with Poor Rating

[Note:  This blog has covered Dick Grote’s wicked “rank and yank” program previously.]

Dick Grote has authored another article on “rank and yank,” “What to do when you think your performance review is wrong” (published in the Harvard Business Review (March 7, 2017)). This time the defense of the system is indirect—informing the recipient of a “C-Bucket” rating to accept it. Indeed, as Grote states in the article, nothing the employee argues against the rating is likely to change it.

Indeed that is true in the rank and yank process. The decision made in the calibration meeting for managers is final. Those in the C-Bucket receive negative ratings in order to convince them to quit.

Bucket (rank)

Percentage [“vitality curve”] (amounts can be adjusted)

Effect

A

20

Lavish rewards, encouragement

B

70

Little to paltry increase

C

10

Pressure to quit, firing

Because of the calibration meeting, where managers rank employees, changing a rating means changing it for others, given that rank and yank is a rigid, inhuman, and employee-abusive system.

rank_yank
Artist: Michael Sloan

A key Grote quote:

“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.)


Grote offers three options for an employee facing an unacceptable performance rating:

  • Accept the rating (Grote preferred).
  • Disagree with the rating (Grote disfavored this option because the manager is invested in the rating, errors look bad on the manager (rather interesting an aggrieved employee must defend unacceptable management behavior, while the employee is expected to satisfy any whim of the manager).
  • Quit (Grote advises for people who get c-bucket ratings to go on a “decision-making” leave to decide either to attempt to fulfill the impossible to meet expectations or quit. The resignation of the employee is the ultimate goal.)

While Grote thinks managers should be given absolute authority in performance appraisal, the personnel record is the property of the employee. The employee has the right to state what is allowed in that property; hence, the reason why employees must sign reviews. The company merely has possession of the employee’s property—the contents of the file.

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