What’s the worst thing that can happen to you in business? A lost customer? A failed project? Sabotage from a disgruntled employee? No matter what you answer, think of it happening as a surprise. I think that surprises are very destructive in business. If you’re managing people, here is one surprise that you will want to avoid.
In most businesses today, and especially larger companies, employee ranking is a mandatory process. There are all kinds of rules and requirements to plow through the process of getting people ranked. Often there are policies of forced ranking. Don’t get me started on the deficiencies of forced ranking.
Too late for that! Forced ranking rules say that only a certain number of people can achieve top rankings. When companies have this (stupid) rule, I think they need to admit that instead of “valuing” their employees, they’ve hired a bunch of dullards who aren’t worth very much. If your company does forced ranking and you think you have top talent, then I’ll point out that you can’t have it both ways.
But that’s not the only surprise. You might have some ideas on what people are looking for as a result of the ranking process. You may think that employees work hard only for the money they are paid. All they want is to make more of it. You just might be surprised at how many people are not looking at just money.
One of my clients has to work within the constraints of her company’s forced ranking policy. There’s just one problem. She’s got top performers working for her. They put in their time and produce great results for her department. She knows what they do. She has specific criteria that defines excellent, average and poor performance. Her staff all did what it took to perform at the top level and met the criteria in the excellent category. She ranked them at the top as a result. Another manager decided to go along with the corporate nonsense rule of forced ranking. He gave even his top subordinates average rankings. He was surprised at what happened.
You might have guessed what happened after some top performers were ranked as average. The fallout from the rankings got the office grapevine going. The water cooler buzz immediately turned to the ranking results and hurt feelings. That’s even though some workers were told, “The lower ranking has no impact on your pay.” Even with a lower ranking, some employees would still get raises and compensation. Money didn’t change the gossip. People were hurt that they got lower rankings when they deserved higher. Are you surprised that there are people who are motivated by something other than money?
You shouldn’t be surprised if talented people are unhappy when you “have to” rank them lower than what they deserve. You shouldn’t be surprised when people’s feelings are hurt that they will talk about it and eventually morale will suffer. They may even think about leaving. Yes, the economy is tough now, but it will turn around. That’s when those talented, low ranked employees will do what they can to leave.