Every time the performance appraisal period creeps upon us, I try to think of some way to not be involved in it. I’m sure a lot of you readers know that feeling. The feeling when something inevitable is about to happen and you have no control over. In the past as I was part of appraisals, as a team member or a boss, I was told that in certain organizations, a forced distribution needs to be done. A forced distribution ‘is a performance intervention, which can be defined as an evaluation method of forced distribution, where managers are required to distribute ratings for those being evaluated, into a pre-specified performance distribution ranking (Cooper & Argyris, 1998)’
As a team member I had no choice. But as a boss, I was against the idea because I had good team members and why should one be sacrificed and treated unfairly because of a forced distribution? I was told that there’s nothing I can do about it. I was forced to give the four individuals that reported to me a distributed appraisal. 1 would get high, 2 averages, and 1 low. Now tell me something, how is this a fair appraisal?!
There are 8 methods of appraisals in HR Management, so why is it that forced distribution seems to be the one chosen all the time in most organizations?
First, such an appraisal method does not encourage teamwork, it defies it. My colleague had done appraisal rankings for her team and she noted that 2 individuals had given themselves the highest score. She had agreed that they both deserved it but due to forced ranking, she took one aside and tried to convince that person it has to be one person only. The magic words she used was, ‘let’s give her the appraisal for now, she’s never been promoted.’
The question that would enter my mind if I was that individual is, ‘why should I sacrifice my hard working years for another person? This is work; my career and my bonus will be affected.’
Additionally, forced ranking ‘tends to be popular with large corporations that have hundreds or thousands of employees and need to systematize their HR processes. If your workplace is one of these organizations—and if the company is in trouble and looking for solutions—forced ranking could be in your future,’ [CBS News].
Do you know what this means? It means that if an organization is looking to fire people, they have the solution to do so. They’ll just pick out the lowest ranking employees. This is a method that a lot of financial companies use, especially in the last few years during the financial crisis.
What if you had 20 employees and all 20 excellent individuals have amazing skills? Why sacrifice the career path of one because of a forced distribution and then when we question it, we are told that there is nothing we can do about it?
Let me add another concern. The forced distribution applies to the manager as well. Now tell me this, what manager will sacrifice his/her bonus and career for his/her team members. As much as I’d like to say that there are good people out there with caring hearts, I’ll also be blunt and say that some of them are simply selfish and don’t care as long as they get their careers boost.
Let’s be honest here, this is a negative way to judge colleagues and their performances. Organizations should find better ways to do handle such an appraisal format. If the forced distribution appraisal still stays as a tool then morale, performance, and productivity will be affected.
Fatma (Fay), Emirati girl, with an experience in Corporate Communications and CSR. She is passionate about anything that is traditional and Emirati. In her free time she loves to watch Japanese anime, read manga, and play videogames. Spas are not the only thing that relaxes her, but cooking as well.
Fay’s columns observe work-life experiences and balance. A lot of her articles are based on first-hand personal experiences and issues she has seen or been part of. She loves to observe her surroundings, and watch how people handle different situations they’ve been put in.Also, she is trying to balance the art of staying positive at work and helping her peers understand that not everything should be a problem. With her writings she hopes to make a difference and make people more observant of the little problems in life, or work that hasn’t escalated to a catastrophe. It’s the little things that matters.