Merge's Blog

Forced ranking of employees is a foolish approach

It’s up!  After a short hiatus from writing for The Globe & Mail, my latest column is out in cyberspace, and this edition addresses a subject that is controversial in many of my client organizations, particularly larger ones — the topic of forced ranking of employee performance.  In Forced employee ranking is a foolish approach, I make the case for why bell-curving and forced numerical ranking have absolutely no place in high-performance workplaces.

G&M051016So … you know my opinion on this subject, but I’d love to know what you think.  Forced employee ranking – brilliant concept or stupid management practice?  If possible, please share your perspectives directly on the The Globe‘s site since your point of view will get a much wider audience than if you choose another alternative.  But I’m always open to hearing from you directly as well, so you can post your comments here on the blog, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks) with your thoughts too.

And one last thing — do me a HUGE favour – help me get the word out … share the link with your staff and colleagues (easiest directly from The Globe’s site using the share icon at the very top of the article).  My objective is always to get conversations started, so the more people that react to this column means deeper and extended dialogue, which is always a good thing!  In advance, please accept my thanks for your help.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere:


  • The “forced ranking” is a very foolish concept, as different people bring different things to the work place. Often time the effective workers, the ones who really are good at what they do and get the work done, score lower on the bell. But the people pleasers, the people who tell management what they want to hear, instead of the truth rank high on the bell curve. It may be because of their physical appearance, who they are connected to or because they fit the “image” management is looking for. My experience is often time those with high rankings are not effective job performers. (that may say something about management)

    In order for the “forced ranking” to be effective, all of the employees would have to be from the same cookie cutter mold. My experience shows true success comes from having a variety of employees who all bring different strengths to the workplace.

  • Agree the workplace ranking on bell curve and assigning employees a rating number and having their place on that scale determine amount of raise or bonus and also having an overall adjustment of the rankings to force a fit on the bell curve is damaging in the workplace. Backstabbing/being petty about other employees to supervisors that do the rankings gets rewarded and encourages bad behavior. Morale is negatively effected in a big way. thanks for stating this in a public forum-hope the message is heard and acted on to improve the work place in large corporations.

    • Thanks for sharing Deana. I of course agree with your assessment, but of course, many large corporations still employ this practice, one who time I think has come and gone.


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