Managing numbers or leading people?
Microsoft is under the gun and some people are claiming poor management technique. According to the article, they used stack ranking to assess performers and this turned into creating a competitive environment from within as opposed to focusing to surpass the external competition.
It may be so. I have worked with companies where we used such a system . I can’t say it was all that bad to have everybody competing to be in the top 20%. On the other hand, I have also worked for companies where there were no such systems and where managers were comfortable to rate everybody average or everybody as a top performer. This may not create an unhealthy internal competition but it very often allows for mediocrity to slowly become the norm. Too often we don’t like to push the envelope.
However the best systems I have known all had one thing in common: Performance is the responsibility of the employee and if one is not engaged on a growing path where outperforming self is the goal, then there is no amount of ranking or assessing that will change that.
Likewise, if an employee’s efforts, contribution and aspirations are not known, acknowledged and nurtured by the managers, there is no amount of self-motivation that will endure the lack of recognition and encouragement.
Systems are not necessarily the guilty parties. Lack of attention to the individuals often is.
How you lead yourself, and others, matters.