Which side of the bell curve did you land on this year? How did that conversation go for you? Did you buy it? Most don’t, and for good reason; it’s broken. The system doesn’t work and everyone knows it is a joke, but we all keep marching in line.
Even if you landed on the upside of the performance bell curve this year, do you feel good about it? Beyond the larger bonus or the merit increase, how do you feel? How do you feel knowing that to get that spiff, it came at the expense of someone else? You worked hard, and yes you earned it, but that’s not the point. The point is that you have friends who have worked just as hard, and they were given a sucker punch to the ego.
Here’s how I’ve heard it, “Well, you had a good year. You know we had to trim the so called ‘fat’ this year. So it was only the good ones left. It’s why you’re still here. But, you also know that we’re only allowed to give a certain number of “exceeds expectation” ratings. And, well, you were placed into achieves this year. But, I really want you to know that I think you’re doing great work. To be honest, we don’t really give out exceeds. I’ve only seen it done on a few occasions, so keep up the good work.”
Inspirational isn’t it? Hardly the practice of Employee Engagement that many describe as best practice. I can’t tell you how many employees I have heard from about how demotivating this message is to them both personally and professionally. Would you go to war with or for a boss like that? Do you really feel appreciated by your company when you hear that? Even on the upside of the conversation, you have to be thinking about all of the support from the ‘achieves’ group that got you where you are. We’re not in this alone, and yet we have a system that is designed to undermine the most valuable asset available, relationships.
If you run the numbers (and I have in the past for more than one organization) you might be surprised to find that the higher you get to in the organization, the higher the average yearly rating employees receive. Why is that? Because the “fat” has been trimmed? Why, because only the cream rises to the top? I don’t buy … especially since I have had to sell it before in my career. It’s time to get real. Let’s put a system in place that we can all march behind, and feel good about the cadence being called. Forward, march!