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A harmful evaluation process is finally ending at Microsoft

November 14, 2013

Ding-dong, the brutally unfair “stack ranking” process is dead at Microsoft. The company announced that it would be using different methods of evaluating employees. As this NY Times piece notes, not only did this process discourage some recruits from joining the company, it also kicked out plenty of good employees.

The central flawed assumption behind stack ranking is that it assumes that 20% of your workforce is always doing an unacceptable job. It’s comparing employees to each other instead of to clear, measurable performance standards. It’s the opposite of the “Lake Wobegon Syndrome,” where “every kid is above average.” How many very good employees lost their job because, well, somebody’s got to be at the bottom of the pile? How incredibly sad to have to push potential out your door.

Another heart-breaking part of this: star employees not wanting to work together because only so many people get to be at the top of each manager’s rankings. Could Microsoft’s dearest rivals have concocted a shrewder policy: don’t let your sharpest people collaborate! I am delighted to hear that stack ranking is on its way out.

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