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Don't Call It Stack Rank: Yahoo's QPR System For Culling Non-Performers

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the turns-out-you're-a-slacker dept.

Businesses 177

An anonymous reader writes "Employees don't like to be graded on the bell curve (or any other curve except for Lake Wobegon's) — we know that from the Microsoft experience. But Yahoo is struggling with what some say is vastly bloated headcount, and CEO Marissa Mayer has implemented a 'quarterly performance review' system that requires, or strongly recommends, that managers place a certain quota of their charges in the less-than-stellar categories. That sounds a lot like the infamous GE-Microsoft stack rank system. But according to AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, who (as usual) broke the latest story about life inside Mayer's Yahoo, Mayer's curve may more similar to the elaborate evaluation system used by her old employer, Google."

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177 comments

Main effect: The good ones will leave (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 5 months ago | (#45378129)

The main effect of this is to chill work-place climate, and foster distrust and back-stabbing. The result of that is always the ones that have alternatives (i.e. the best ones) leaving first. Sure, you can get rid of some dead wood that way too, but the overall effect is disastrous. A real manager know that, but Mayer has shown several times now that she does not even understand the basics of management.

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (5, Insightful)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about 5 months ago | (#45378213)

... Sure, you can get rid of some dead wood that way too, but the overall effect is disastrous. A real manager know that, but Mayer has shown several times now that she does not even understand the basics of management.

I'm guessing that by the time it has any effect she has already secured her bonuses thanks to her unprecendented cost-cutting measures... Planning beyond a quarter year is so 50's.

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (4, Insightful)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45378245)

This. Sometimes you make more money by destroying a company.

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (4, Insightful)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 5 months ago | (#45378711)

Which is why performance bonuses should be based on long term results.

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (4, Informative)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45379065)

Another argument is that performance bonuses don't work at all (basic repetitive labour excepted).

You're paying people to do a job. If they won't do the job unless you pay them extra to do it, why are you even giving them a salary? And if their game is the bonus, they will be sure to do the least possible for the bonus, rather than the most possible for the job. This is especially significant in the absence of employer loyalty.

A quick search for studies on performance related pay may be enlightening.

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (1)

russotto (537200) | about 5 months ago | (#45379253)

You're paying people to do a job. If they won't do the job unless you pay them extra to do it, why are you even giving them a salary?

You're paying them to do a job, but the exact parameters of that job aren't well defined. If pay isn't tied to performance, why would they put in anything more than the effort necessary to get "acceptable" performance? What does busting their ass get them? At lower levels there's chance for advancement (which also results in more pay) but in most companies for technical people you quickly hit a ceiling there. So how do you keep your topped-out people motivated to do more than the minimum?

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 5 months ago | (#45379161)

That's not what the owners, i.e. the shareholders, want. Quick profits then dump the stock, move on to the next victim. When the company inevitably fails it's because it couldn't retain the great CEO that saved it, indicating that everyone else should pay them even more.

the "good ones" wont even come on board (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378307)

Thanks for letting me know about these shenanigans, I will not consider joining yahoo anytime soon.

Re:the "good ones" wont even come on board (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 5 months ago | (#45378843)

Thanks for letting me know about these shenanigans, I will not consider joining yahoo anytime soon.

I'm sure they will be terribly disappointing you turned them down. [/sarcasm]

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (5, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#45378417)

I can only agree with you 90%. You can do one round of layoffs where you stack rank and dump low-performing employees: one. That won't hurt the climate, because even though the system won't be perfect, the first time you do it (a) there really will be deadwood no one will be sorry to see go, and (b) there hasn't been time to game the system.

Doing this quarterly is particularly insane. People will be so busy gaming the system, when are they supposed to get any work done?

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (4, Insightful)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 5 months ago | (#45378785)

p>Doing this quarterly is particularly insane. People will be so busy updating their resumes and scheduling interviews, when are they supposed to get any work done?

Fixed it for you.

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 months ago | (#45378521)

Absolutely, Mostly because Managers that do this crap are typically the really horrible ones that are trying to hide that they are actually medicore or even on the low ends of the bell curve.

Section Leader:"Lumpy, I'm grading you lower because your work is making others look bad. We are a team, you should do your other team mates work to help them catch up..."

Lumpy: "FUCK YOU! How about not hiring brainless toads that sit in the bathroom for 2 hours a day and texting every 10 minutes? Is this a daycare or a place where we work our asses off to make the stockholders rich?"

Section Leader:" We are not here to just work to make others rich, that is a bad attitude. We are here to make your life better, give you a sense of belonging, and you need to do the work of the others to help them feel like they belong..."

This is where I duct tape them to the chair and staple my resignation to their forehead.

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (2)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45379173)

This thread is about bad employers, but your attitude smacks of bad employee.

If you think you're the one great employee picking up everyone else's slack, I have two items of news for you:
1) You're not;
2) Mediocre employees all think the same.

Why not remove the bottom 10% of CEOs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378551)

After all, the money is paid to get "the best for the job" and the money is comensurate with the TOP 10% of executives, so they really ought to be looking to drop the botton 80% of CEOs, to leave a little wiggle room for improvement of an underperforming chief executive officer.

Bad Analogy Department (1)

iive (721743) | about 5 months ago | (#45378617)

At first the system trims the "fat" and it seems to improve the things, because corporations tend to accumulate fat. However soon the system becomes victim of its own success. There is no more fat to cut. So it starts to trim more and more "muscle" and less and less fat. This goes until the corporation collapses when it can not support its own weight anymore. In the mean time it may show symptoms of anemia and massive internal infection.

Re:Bad Analogy Department (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378655)

This is pretty much exactly what is happening where I work.

We have an annual evaluation period, and yes, for the first 3 years we got rid of a lot of useless people. Also (surprisingly) we got rid of a lot of useless managers, which almost never happens. And it worked great, we have a very effective group of people, the right level of management, everyone is busy but not too busy and doing good work.

When they first started doing it, it worked as well in real life as it did on paper. For every group of like 5 or 6 people, there were 4 that were doing great, and 1 or 2 that were dragging everyone down. It was easy to look and say "yup, there's your problem".

Now those 1 or 2 are gone and you are making a choice between 4 people who are all about the same and definitely worth keeping. Luckily the system is now mainly just driving raises and not layoffs, but it still sucks.

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (1)

msauve (701917) | about 5 months ago | (#45378687)

Maybe they should do all their hiring in Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

Re:Main effect: The good ones will leave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378699)

I disagree... If done right it can help promote career growth...

People need feedback from their managers in order to grow. I tell my boss "Hey, I want to be a manager some day." We then set up some milestones and guides to help me get to that end goal. Conversly, he tells me "I need a person that meets these N criteria". Then every quarter we meet and he provides me feedback to help me get where I want to go, and where he needs me to be. If I don't meet the expectation I'll never make manager, and if I don't make his requirements I'm bottom rung. But if I learn and grow from the feedback, there is no reason I won't make manager and no reason he'll want me in the bottom of hist list.

Mistakes include...
* Only giving feedback yearly. I love the fact that it is quarterly. It'll allow the feedback to be reinforced and the people to grow
* Management doesn't consider the employees goals. If it is only how the manager will get the employee to meet his goals, then there is no incentive for the employee to grow.
* Management doesn't take input from the employee's peers and if a manager their subordinates. Good round feedback is best.

Re: The good ones will leave..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379231)

I am sure they will use the same biometric review system for management as well.

[/sarcasm + /disgust]

no matter how high (3, Insightful)

etash (1907284) | about 5 months ago | (#45378147)

the performance of your employees is, there will always be a top 10% and a bottom 10% in the bell curve or in any other system that is.

Re:no matter how high (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about 5 months ago | (#45378279)

The problem extends beyond even that basic fact of statistics. In a large company with 10% average annual turnover, if they could selectively get rid of the bottom 10% and replace them with randomly-performing people, ranked performance would actually work pretty well.

The problem here comes comes from the sample size per manager for consideration of these rankings. Let's say you have a department with three top-level managers, each having a team of 10 subordinates. You should ideally end up ranking three of them as the bottom 10% and three of them as the top 10% - And you will! Except, each of those managers will pick a top-1 and a bottom-1, rather than picking from the pool consisting of the entire department.

As a result, even if team-A consists of all stellar performers and team C consists of all wastes of flesh, team A will have one member unfairly fired, and team C will have one member unfairly rewarded more than the average for team A.

Now, under natural conditions, that distinction between team A and C probably wouldn't exist to any notable degree - Until you extend a policy like this across the entire company. Instead of losing the bottom 10% and promoting the top 10%, you end up actively selecting for a corporate culture that favors pooling into over- and under-performing teams exactly like A and C. The high performers, by definition, will pick teams that actually get things done; while the low performers will pick teams where they feel "safe" from flawed performance reviews.


Yet another stunning win for Ms. "paid maternity leave for me, fuck the rest of you" Meyer.

Re:no matter how high (5, Interesting)

hibiki_r (649814) | about 5 months ago | (#45378447)

I've been in one of those companies. The top performers have a few options: Set things up to be the one competent developer in a team, thus getting good reviews but lots of stress and zero. They can go into the good team, and then play politics, because once all developers are pretty good, most managers can't tell who is actually the best of the lot, or just quit. Then there's option 3: Leave for a less horrible employer, and then quickly poach all those other good developers who hate the system. The lucky company gets a much better staff than average, while the other loses a good percentage of their top talent, needing even deeper staffing cuts. Repeat until all development is sent overseas, because the local talent the company has is now so bad, you are better off with an average team 10 time zones away.

Re:no matter how high (1)

russotto (537200) | about 5 months ago | (#45378713)

Now, under natural conditions, that distinction between team A and C probably wouldn't exist to any notable degree

Actually, that's not true. Because good performers don't like to work with poor performers, and some poor performers don't like to work with good performers (because it makes them look bad -- others instead choose the leech approach), there is natural segregation of ability by team. When there's strict stack ranking, managers of good teams will deliberately acquire or allow a leech or two in their team as a sacrificial lamb.

Of course in a more rational system, someone higher up would figure out that there are conveniently-segregated teams full of poor-performing people and fire (or light a fire under) all of them.

Re:no matter how high (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45379191)

Wow, all that time spent trying to rank people. Why did you hire all these bad employees in the first place? Seems like an HR/management problem to me.

Re:no matter how high (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379303)

Some details are incorrect here. In your example a 10 has team members. However Marissa's bucketing only applies to groups larger than 50. So Team A doesn't have to cannibalize itself for Team C. Perhaps the more interesting discussion is what your research says about optimal bucket size. Is 50 too big to really weed out poor performers, or is it too small forcing teams to cannibalize themselves?

I'm not sure where you got the paid maternity leave policy from. Marissa was barely gone for any kind of maternity leave. Also Yahoo provides protected, paid new child leave for everyone, fathers and mothers, up to 8 weeks. New child mothers get an additional 8 weeks of protected, paid leave for a total of 16 weeks paid, protected leave.

Re:no matter how high (4, Insightful)

Gavrielkay (1819320) | about 5 months ago | (#45378301)

I suppose by the most basic definition that is true. However, a manager's ability to actually determine where any given employee ranks is always suspect. Some people are very good at doing nothing while looking invaluable and others are very good at getting things done without boasting. Some people are good at boosting a whole team thus harming their own ability to stand out (to the oblivious manager) but are tremendous value to the company nonetheless. If managements get too ham-fisted about trying to rank everyone by some arbitrary standard, they will always lose some truly good people along with the bad.

Re:no matter how high (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378901)

This, and not to mention what happens when you have a bottom 10% person in a management position.

Do you think for a moment that a manager would ever end up in the bottom 10% bucket? Just think of the ramifications if this ever happened. For one, that managers subordinate rankings should logically be thrown out, but this would introduce an incredible amount of chaos.

No, stack ranking systems like this exist to reinforce management's masters of the universe self-image. All hail Meyer!

Re:no matter how high (3, Interesting)

Pulzar (81031) | about 5 months ago | (#45379229)

Do you think for a moment that a manager would ever end up in the bottom 10% bucket? ... No, stack ranking systems like this exist to reinforce management's masters of the universe self-image.

I've worked in a place where the company was doing poorly and they were laying off the bottom 10% from performance reviews... Senior managers and directors were included in the 10%, even one of the VPs was slashed.

The stack ranking system is not a product of some management hive mind that helps managers -- in fact, most hate it. It's a product of the CEO, HR, and usually some business consulting company. Almost everybody else is worse off for it, including all levels of management below the top couple of tiers.

Re:no matter how high (1)

MonkeyDancer (797523) | about 5 months ago | (#45378619)

the performance of your employees is, there will always be a top 10% and a bottom 10% in the bell curve or in any other system that is.

Everyone contributes differently to a project because we have come from different work-life experiences. I don't think I have ever come across a software engineer or IT employee who was able to study hard in school and then get into a position where they were not able to understand complex technical problems and come up with solutions. If you have a decent hiring process, then you should have already eliminated the "bottom 10%". At the end of the day, the output performance of an employee is based on moral and team synergy.

Re:no matter how high (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 5 months ago | (#45379331)

Why does everyone assume that performance follows a bell curve? Why not right-skewed, reverse-J shaped, or multimodal?

For what it's worth, most of the college statistics tests that I give have a bimodal distribution. Mostly A's, lots of F's, (you either get it or you don't) very little in the middle ground. I think it's best to be honest about that and not delude ourselves with manipulated data.

This is management recycling of the old concept... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378167)

FUD, but without the friend / foe distinction.

Do you actually need a CEO? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378179)

I don't think you need one. Give it a go for a couple of years: remove the CEO and see if they made any difference.

Because I suspect that you have at least one too many CEOs in your company.

Re:Do you actually need a CEO? (3, Insightful)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45378257)

Well, she is in the bottom 10% of CEOs at Yahoo.

Gets fired (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378367)

Yeah, and like the rest of the slobs who get canned because "they didn't make the cut", when a CEO gets canned, they get tens of millions of dollars to leave.

Marrissa is just aping Google and getting 60 million dollars for it - regardless of how well it works.

The rich have not earned their money - they just have better contacts.

Both good and bad (2)

TurtleBay (1942166) | about 5 months ago | (#45378193)

In a way this is bad for employee morale because nobody likes to see people fired and nobody likes to be ranked. Then again, the stories (and lack of new great products) out of Yahoo seems to indicate that employees are demotivated. I hate that it takes firings to motivate some employees, but Yahoo seems like a company that needs a "shock the system" moment and this steps combines with the work from home ban to send the message to some employees who may have been drifting along just cashing paychecks for the past few years. Hopefully they will only have to do a year or two of firings or no bonus/raises before the demotivated employees step up and the program can be scraped.

Re:Both good and bad (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378293)

In a way this is bad for employee morale because nobody likes to see people fired and nobody likes to be ranked. Then again, the stories (and lack of new great products) out of Yahoo seems to indicate that employees are demotivated. I hate that it takes firings to motivate some employees,

Employee morale never responds positively in the face of co-workers being terminated. The highly-motivated employees will simply leave an organization in response to employee ranking. If a manager cannot manage their staff either the manager is inept, lazy, or wilfully negligent.

Re:Both good and bad (4, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#45378337)

I disagree. _IF_ management could identify and fire the air thieves moral would improve.

Nobody likes to do somebody else's work in addition to their own.

But if management could identify air thieves they wouldn't hire so many in the first place.

The first air thieves to be fired should always be managers. Never happens that way.

How about simply firing those who can't build working teams and letting the remaining managers pick over the failing teams members?

Re:Both good and bad (2)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#45378441)

The key is you can only do this once. Repetition kills your company. And this seems to be a quarterly thing, which seems insane to me.

Re:Both good and bad (4, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#45378499)

I don't know about once. But not very often. Assuming you find a management group that can reasonably rate techs.

If you have to do it often, the first person to fire is the head of HR.

But that's another discussion. HR should be about compliance, benefits etc. They have (as a group) proven themselves incompetent to hires techs or engineers and should not even be involved with the hiring process.

What I have seen work is good teams defending themselves during probation periods AND being listened to. In that case between 1/3 and 1/2 of new hires didn't make it through probation. Plus you have to start with a good team in the first place. Didn't last; eventually they needed faster growth; eventually I left.

Re:Both good and bad (3, Informative)

paiute (550198) | about 5 months ago | (#45378921)

HR should be about compliance, benefits etc. They have (as a group) proven themselves incompetent to hires techs or engineers and should not even be involved with the hiring process.

I had the same job for many years, read a lot of resumes to fill many positions. Then I got laid off. One of my severance benefits was advice on resume building and such, which I had not done in decades. I was pretty surprised to find that the modern scientific resume has to pass an HR filter before a scientist even sees it.

Re:Both good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378567)

Exactly correct. "The beatings will continue until morale improves." Some people must honestly not realize who incredibly stupid they sound.

Re:Both good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379027)

In a way this is bad for employee morale because nobody likes to see people fired and nobody likes to be ranked. Then again, the stories (and lack of new great products) out of Yahoo seems to indicate that employees are demotivated. I hate that it takes firings to motivate some employees,

Employee morale never responds positively in the face of co-workers being terminated. The highly-motivated employees will simply leave an organization in response to employee ranking. If a manager cannot manage their staff either the manager is inept, lazy, or wilfully negligent.

So Mr. Awesome Manager, Please explain the system you will use, which does NOT involve some method of measuring, weighting, scoring, and then ranking employee performance.
Sure, it's easy when you have 5 people. When you've got 500 you might want a few managers to do some of the work for you, and when you've got 5,000 or 500,000 you have a serious need for a uniform set of standards measurements, especially when growth trends down and you have to start picking who goes and who stays.

Re:Both good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379379)

Agreed 100%. I was written up twice in a 3 month period at my job, while working for a buffoon that was driving the company on to the rocks.

Another project was failing due to his inept decision-making and he tried to throw me under the bus because I didn't play ball when he tried to micro-manage me. He started dictating to me how to do my job so he could blame my lack of cooperation for his failures &/or attribute project success to his micro-managing if I worked harder(despite him) for the good of the company. I'm not going to work harder to accomplish less, just to satisfy someone's ego & confirm in their mind that I need micro-management to get the job done.

After being put in a situation where it was directly against my interests for the project to succeed, I raised hell and was transferred to a new manager who actually knew what he was doing. The entire company has since pulled a 180 and everybody has been complementing me as if I'm suddenly putting in more effort(which isn't the case at all).

Truth is, I'm not trying any harder, I'm just not working for an idiot that forced to go out of my way to fail after trying to motivate me with a stick.

Re:Both good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378323)

From my armchair, both those steps look like the actions of somebody more concerned with process than with outcomes. Does Yahoo have a bigger problem with deadweight or with focus? They've struck me over the last several years as a company that doesn't quite know which direction to go in, and these "fixes" may do more to exacerbate their situation if they're shedding talent across the board rather than honing in on a couple of things they'd like to try to be #1 at.

No, it's all bad, seen it before,will see it again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378539)

It's just part of the death spiral. There simply IS NO WAY to fairly implement such a policy, anywhere, ever, period.
Brown nosers and "old boys" stick around, top performers leave voluntarily, the people left start back-stabbing, manages play favorites, and any few remaining positives in the employee culture slowly die. Of course there are a _few_ exceptionally loyal high-performing employees who stick around, but on the whole, it's a MASSIVE negative. If you ever hear of a company doing this get ready to dump the stock at the first sign of trouble because unless a miracle happens after that, major problems are on the horizon! It's happened more times than I can count, seen it from the inside and the outside, it's ugly and demonstrates profoundly incompetent management.

Re:Both good and bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378897)

That, or the remaining motivated employees will become demotivated and then leave voluntarily. You can't scare someone into becoming a high performer in a creative field.

The Reason (0)

The Cat (19816) | about 5 months ago | (#45378195)

Spreadsheets have ruined the world.

Spreadsheets gave Disney Corporation the justification to annihilate their animation division: an act which utterly destroyed one of the few truly original American art forms: the Disney animated feature. This art form quite recently (1994 to be exact) produced a billion-dollar film (the Lion King).

The people who made that film and others like it were ruthlessly fired without a word from management.

Once you give management the ability to claim (and document) the fact that you "cost more than you earn," you can never again justify your salary.

The only problem with this management theory is that anything that cannot be arranged into tabulated columns of figures is omitted from that employee's value, like the ability to teach, lead, inspire, respond to a crisis well, do research, make a decent pot of coffee, tell a billion-dollar story, etc.

Until companies abandon this hyper-paranoid obsession with shaving fractions of a cent off the necessary costs of employing people, they will always have a way to credibly claim your job is expendable, regardless of your real value to the company.

Re:The Reason (1)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#45378463)

It's not the spreadsheets - at least the spreadsheets allow people to base this BS on actual numbers instead of gut feel - it's the difference between a good and a bad CEO. Some CEOs actually earn their pay, mostly by seeing the folly of this sort of thing (and killing 2D animation did ultimately lead to Eisner getting the boot despite amazing entrenchment).

Euphemism treadmill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378215)

The name matters not. It is the threat of being layed off that is offensive.

Incessant "performance reviews" are destructive (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378231)

Having worked for an organization that decided to follow this strategy, I did what all the good employees at my company did: we left for better jobs elsewhere. Yahoo is on its way to the dustbin of history, helped along by its senior management. My recommendation to Yahoo employees: get out while the gettin's good! Otherwise, you're in for the demoralizing experience of riding a sinking ship to the bottom!

Re:Incessant "performance reviews" are destructive (4, Interesting)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45378269)

When a friend got a job as a senior admin at Yahoo Europe just from knowing the right people, but certainly not having enough experience to demonstrate requisite talent, I decided that it was unlikely to do anything interesting in the foreseeable future. That was about a decade ago.

Re:Incessant "performance reviews" are destructive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378513)

When a friend got a job as a senior admin at Yahoo Europe just from knowing the right people, but certainly not having enough experience to demonstrate requisite talent, I decided that it was unlikely to do anything interesting in the foreseeable future. That was about a decade ago.

Sooo, your friend is a robot? or a computer? Did it do anything interesting?

Re:Incessant "performance reviews" are destructive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378827)

I have had the same experience. Any company that hires my dumbass sister for 100k a year obviously has no competent leadership. She even admitted the founder of the company only shows up randomly every month or two, bitches about this or that and then leaves before whatever it was got fixed but this lack of leadership keeps my sister and her bozo clique rolling in fat paychecks. I will never invest in any company that hires her, a company that fires her though...I might have to grab a couple shares!

A real leader inspires (3, Informative)

stox (131684) | about 5 months ago | (#45378253)

A coward instills fear. In the long run, fear is a destructive force in a company. In the short run, it can boost profits. I am sure that Marissa will be long gone, after collecting an enormous bonus for that short term boost, to see the real results of her actions.

Re:A real leader inspires (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379141)

A coward instills fear. In the long run, fear is a destructive force in a company. In the short run, it can boost profits. I am sure that Marissa will be long gone, after collecting an enormous bonus for that short term boost, to see the real results of her actions.

Try SCRUM.....

All regimented business decisions are idiotic (4, Insightful)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about 5 months ago | (#45378273)

Case in point is an example from the article about how a manager was forced to ding a well-performing employee simply because the implied curve system requires someone to get a negative mark. What's ironic is that these 'systems' were created because executives assume middle management can't be trusted to make consistently good personnel decisions, thus their decisions were replaced with a mechanized process, which means management itself suffers from the same problem executives are trying to solve at the employee level.

Re:All regimented business decisions are idiotic (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378405)

Sorry to post as AC, but...

I have worked for a large American ISP and (more recently) entertainment company based in Philadelphia for quite some time.

Departments are routinely forced to bucket X% of their full-time staff into the "needs improvement" category regardless of the performance of the department or the employees involved. It leads to horse trading among the departmental managers where mid-managers take turns accepting one or more of these dings (on behalf of some member of their team). If it was only a check mark in the employee's personnel file, I doubt many would care. However, it directly impacts the annual raise (for cost of living adjustments) and annual bonus amounts paid to the poor sap who gets hit with the NI rating and that impact can be quite substantial. This makes no real sense and is devastating for morale for smaller departments that tend to be very careful with hiring in the first place. Every year, the company has a public catharsis where employees are encouraged to vent and this comes up all the time, but the policy continues. And I would agree that it leads to employees with the most options to explore those options more regularly than they would otherwise.

If the goal is to strive for mediocrity, then it is being achieved.

Re:All regimented business decisions are idiotic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378609)

That's exactly how it goes in EVERY company that even attempts anything so stupid, but they never learn. The upper managers pulling this crap usually tend to e short-timers from the outside who haven't been around long enough to have already seen the same idiocy fail multiple times in the past, be "adjusted" and then anothe moron gets in charge and starts the cycle over. Repeat until the company fails and/or is broken up and sold off, etc, then the pieces start to get big again and some pathetic loser tries the same thing there.

Obligatory (1)

eclectro (227083) | about 5 months ago | (#45378297)

who (as usual) broke the latest story about life inside Mayer's Yahoo, Mayer's curve may more similar to the elaborate evaluation system used by her old employer, Google."

Stack rank for grammar = 0.

it depends... (1)

another_larson (1684820) | about 5 months ago | (#45378303)

If you have a staff full of time-servers, implementing a no-exceptions rank-n-yank that kick out the bottom 10% without exception is the right thing to do. God knows I've worked in a few companies that would have benefited from a few iterations of that. But if you on the other hand have a staff that is essentially competent and motivated, a rigid system like that is going to do more harm than good as the staff compete to stay on the top of the pile by whatever means necessary. And in the process, not much useful work is getting done, but everyone looks very alert and busy. It's a hard problem, with no perfect solution. Solving such problems is why companies pay smart, experienced, successful people big bucks. If only more of them could sort out problems like this...

Even SpaceX does this. Good people leave (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378361)

The whole performance review one's got to go quota system has been going on at SpaceX for a couple years now as well. Elon passed down a "one from every group" quota where at least one person in each group would be given 90 days to improve or get fired. Some of the managers refused to put any of their team on a "process improvement plan" but others just picked someone. It's shitty to watch good employees who are working long hours and getting it done get scared into working harder and faster. The real problem this creates is some of the fluff groups with good managers hold onto their crap employees because the manager will stick up for them whereas the hardcore groups that have bad managers will lose someone who's making good contributions because it's gotta be someone.

There isn't much concern from the top about losing the good ones though, there seems to be a general consensus that some smart kids from college will replace them in a few months once they're gone.

Re:Even SpaceX does this. Good people leave (1)

hibji (966961) | about 5 months ago | (#45378953)

That's depressing to hear. I thought SpaceX was one of the good companies. :(

Mayer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378383)

Yahoo! simply is trying to get rid of non-performers. There are many. She is using a "system" so as to lay the groundwork for the terminations and avoid EEOC problems and/or law suits. Good for her.

Done at Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378387)

There seems to be a lot of vitriol for Mayer in these comments. But, how did this go at Google? Did it work? How did morale change? Reference please.

I worked for a large defence company a few years ago. I got an excellent review, as I had each year. Senior management (external to the project) moderated it down - criteria unknown. 3 months later I was relieved - my replacement was "a good friend of the CEO". The company was down-sizing.
Each review system is a rigged game, even when there are specific measures.
I just wonder if this vitriol has anything to do with Mayer wearing a skirt? I would agree she doesn't seem To have a plan, but I don't feel she deserves some of the lambasting being handed out. Maybe some people are intimidated? She ruffled feathers at Google, now at Slashdot ;). Bad woman (tongue in cheek).

Re:Done at Google (1)

russotto (537200) | about 5 months ago | (#45378751)

I just wonder if this vitriol has anything to do with Mayer wearing a skirt?

Please. This is slashdot, we hate everyone in top management. Does Stephen Elop wear a skirt? How about Steve Ballmer? (If he does, please post pictures, I could use a laugh).

It's pretty much impossible to say how this went at Google because Google has rarely laid off full time employees (aside from acquisitions like Motorola Mobility, which obviously were not under Google's performance system)

Re:Done at Google (3, Informative)

seebs (15766) | about 5 months ago | (#45378799)

I know a few people who encountered this at Google. They found that it was absolutely lethal to team morale, because by definition it was actively harmful to you to help other people who report to the same manager; people worked around this at least some by forming teams of people reporting to different managers. But basically, of the people I know who work at Google, roughly 0% think the HR and staffing policies are reasonable, and I know more than one person who is being massively underemployed because of an arbitrary checklist of things that they have to do before they can be moved into a role that would use their stellar skills.

This will be a bit garbled, because my memory is vague and I want to shuffle details to keep people from being identified, but basically, imagine that you have a usual progression of programming roles from entry-level to senior, say. And similarly for sysadmin, and so on. And you have someone who is currently working as a relatively entry-level sysadmin, who would be an excellent senior programmer. You can't move that person to the programmer job because they haven't met the checklist of items for mid-level sysadmin yet, therefore they can't be evaluated for a possible change in job responsibilities. So your options are (1) acquire some meaningless credentials to do with obsolete operating systems no one still cares about or (2) look for work elsewhere, but not (3) move to a job inside Google where you'd be incredibly valuable to the company.

Re:Done at Google (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379099)

Or maybe that person is being "cock-blocked" from moving away/to a particular position, and what you're describing is the mechanism being used in order to make the paperwork all legal and tidy. Or maybe the person really sucks ass for some reason, but doesn't 'get it', and for some reason they're not yet fully willing to actually fire them.

Ok, mmmm yaaa So I'm gonna need you to, y'know, move your stuff down to the basement, alright, mmmm? Yaaa, so if you could just go ahead and get that done, that'd be greeeat, m'kay?

There's nothing wrong with ranking employees (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 5 months ago | (#45378391)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with measuring employee performance relative to other employees. That's how you identify and promote the most promising candidates for internal promotion, and eliminate people who don't measure up.

What there IS something wrong with is using irrelevant metrics to make those measurements. Goals and deliverables must be objective, reasonable, and attainable. Many companies already named in this thread have a bad habit of setting subjective, unreasonable, and unattainable goals for employees they want to get rid of.

Re:There's nothing wrong with ranking employees (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378459)

Agreed, there is nothing wrong with ranking. However, the problem is when a uniform meaning to those rankings is given throughout the entire company, without thought to individual circumstances.

Imagine a company with 10 employees in two groups. It just so happens that group A has employees that would rank 1-5 in the company, and group B has 6-10. The way stack ranking it usually applied, these will be shuffled so the overall company ranking would be:
1 6 2 7 3 8 4 9 5 10
If you are cutting the bottom 20%, you'd be cutting you're 5th-best employee. And you'd be giving a bonus to #6 which would be higher than #2.

No matter what controls you put into place, you'll end up with some effects of this kind of interleaving. And what motivation does that give to employees 2-5 to do their best work? There are only two solutions: Find another place to work, or move to the weaker group.

And we haven't even discussed management. It could be that manager B is horrible, and #6 is crap, but meets the faulty criteria of boss B better than #9, who spends time cleaning up the messes left by #6.

It's all a crap shoot for the lower-level employees at the best of times, I'll admit that. But stack ranking just raises the level of the crap.

Re:There's nothing wrong with ranking employees (4, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#45378487)

An engineer is professionally employed to game the system. If you ever make the reward higher to game the review system than to do his actual job, that's it for your company.

Yes, you will get morale problems and brightsizing and managers hiring ablative employees, but what's worse is: your engineers are now all focused on gaming the wrong system. Goodbye innovation.

No, there's a huge problem with it. Two really. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378615)

Lets say that your recruitment aims are actually achieved. Yes, that would require that your management and HR departments actually be able to do their job, but that's what they insist they can do, so lets go with that, right?

So you hire people who really REALLY DO make a contribution that means the company benefits from their work for far more than their personal renumeration costs the company.

In what way, then, are ANY of the employers actually underperforming?

They aren't.

Lets say that they have the best, the actual best, in their field.

Ranking them means you have a bottom and a top.

Yet the bottom would still be a HORRENDOUS waste to fire merely because they weren't as good as someone else.

The ONLY ranking needed is whether you're getting your value out of your employee. If they are producing excess value for the company, then you are WRONG to fire them. Even if they're shit: since you're paying shit and they bring in little, but even that little is enough to pay for your entire profit structure.

There IS something wrong with it (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378689)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with measuring employee performance relative to other employees

Yes there is, because as you allude to later, it's IMPOSSIBLE to do it consistently and fairly across teams, and rankings within a given team have absolutely no relation to each other. Is a marketing guy who produced a successful campaign more or less important than a salesperson who actually sold the products being marketed, or an R&D engineer responsible for the innovative feature that the marketing guy highlighted and the salesperson sweet talked customers with? How about the IT person who developed innovative solutions to provide R&D, marketing, and sales with the systems, tools, and support they needed to do the above? What about each of those folks' direct managers who motivated and directed their teams to excel? It's just not possible to compare those people to each other objectively.

If you want a lame car analogy, how about we get rid of the low-performing car parts, but we have the driver pick which ones to keep? You can get in the end you'll still have a comfortable seat, A/C, and the stereo, but the car probably won't actually be able to move...

Just hire competent managers, do some manager and job rotation, encourage high performance and risk-taking without fear of consequences for ideas that didn't end up being the next big thing, you often need hundreds of "failures" to get one huge success.. The biggest thing is to treat employees extremely well, show them they are valued, trust them, go the extra mile for them, and they will most often return the favor. Just be very very very very careful in hiring, and if necessary use temporary contractors for grunt-work or temporary demand spikes, etc. The goal should be zero layoffs (you can of course still fire "for cause" IF you have a true problem employee). Avoid unions like the plague if at all possible as they are incompatible with the above, they look out _only_ for themselves, and to some small degree, workers, but not for the company as a whole. You want a culture where everyone across the company is in it together, NOT us-versus-them. You will be richly rewarded if you can succeed at that. In hard times employees will band together and be willing to accept less compensation and go the extra mile because they know when times are good you'll return the favor, the company looks out for its own. There's a huge benefit to being a private company in that respect because there's less pressure from greedy shareholders for short-term quarterly profits.

Re: There IS something wrong with it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379387)

Well put mostly. The entire purpose of a union is to extract as much value from an employer as possible, just as the purpose of a corporation is to extract as much as possible from labor and everyone else. That is, as the right wingers like to say, 'fair and balanced'. Being anti union and pro corporate makes no logical sense unless you believe workers should have no rights and should be paid the minimum possible with no recourse. Not being accusative as your post is quite thougtful, but the US is generally full of anti worker types, even among working people. Propaganda is largely responsible for that, plus an insane belief in the (proven false) myth of upward mobility in our society.

You're quite correct though in that if you don't want unions, a really good way to achieve that is to not set out to screw over your employees. The rabid anti union types never seem to mention that part.

QPR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378433)

QPR has always been shit. Their last "top performer" was Les Ferdinand ...

when life gives you lemons (1)

rewindustry (3401253) | about 5 months ago | (#45378481)

you make lemonade.

this marissa person needs to get off her duff and find something for these people to do, that's all.

obesity is not cured by surgery.

Re:when life gives you lemons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378595)

I don't want your goddamn lemons

Why do managers make the same dumb mistakes... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 5 months ago | (#45378529)

Over and over and over. Yes, it seems right. Yes, it feels right. There's just that little matter of how it's failed at every place it's been tried. Used a Microsoft product lately?

There is certainly a time and a place to fire troublemakers and low performers, but forcing the firing even when there aren't any troublemakers or low performers is just a recipe for expensive turnover, lowered morale and the loss of long term institutional knowledge.

Re:Why do managers make the same dumb mistakes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378813)

Over and over and over. Yes, it seems right. Yes, it feels right. There's just that little matter of how it's failed at every place it's been tried. Used a Microsoft product lately?

There is certainly a time and a place to fire troublemakers and low performers, but forcing the firing even when there aren't any troublemakers or low performers is just a recipe for expensive turnover, lowered morale and the loss of long term institutional knowledge.

Yes, a thousand times yes. I was let go from a company that seemed bent on following the stacked ranking concept, whatever it cost. It didn't help that the Head of Engineering took a personal dislike to some engineers, and when he would meet with the team leads to review the rankings, he would unilaterally knock the ratings of those poor sods down. I was going through a brutal marital breakup at the time when he broke the news about my annual bonus: "You're getting no bonus this year" (after previous bonuses of 10% and 5%), "How do you feel about that?" I felt very sad and demoralized, but was too depressed to say anything useful. He could have asked about my situation, instead of reaming me out a new one with his total and complete lack of sensitivity. The man was a robot.

The usual HR dance followed after that -- a verbal warning, a letter with a Performance Improvement Plan, me working my ass off, followed by the inevitable "Do you have a minute?" from the equally insensitive Director of Development, and then termination. One of my mistakes was trusting that my team lead, who was a good friend at the time, would have my back. Not so much. Not so much.

In a calmer vein, stacked ranking sucks because it considers just the managers ratings -- I think the practice could be made into a more balanced proposition if employees had the opportunity to anonymously rank each other as Disaster, Needs Work, Average, Above Average and Exceptional. Guess I have to start my own company to make that happen.

ah so (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 5 months ago | (#45378549)

as Kara is not an experienced HR?IR professional - she is qualified to comment on this matter how exactly.

Re:ah so (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#45378607)

God save us from 'HR professionals'. Air thieves, every one.

Re:ah so (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 5 months ago | (#45379289)

Depends if they aren't "players" not so much - hint dont hire ones who are paper professionals with a mba from harvard. Its all fun and giggles until you end up in in court and a £1000 an hour barrister from matrix chambers elegantly ripping your guts out onto the floor and you can see your career and your mangers on the witness stand dispersing down the plug hole.

we need unions to stop BS like this (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 5 months ago | (#45378563)

we need unions to stop BS like this and make it so you can't fire demote some one with out real proof.

Re:we need unions to stop BS like this (1)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 5 months ago | (#45378729)

Oh goody, so instead of people who don't play politics with the manger get fired, people who don't play politics with the manager or the union rep get fired. Sounds like such an improvement.

Unions won't solve any of Yahoo's problems (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 5 months ago | (#45378819)

we need unions to stop BS like this and make it so you can't fire demote some one with out real proof.

A union isn't going to solve any of Yahoo's problems nor those of the people who work for Yahoo. I'm guessing from your rather glib comment that you don't have much actual experience with their being a member of a union or having to deal with them as management. Unions are appropriate in some cases, particularly when workers are being treated to truly awful and/or dangerous conditions or genuinely unfair pay. There are places where management can be described as evil for lack of a better word and in those places, that is where we need unions. While Yahoo has some serious problems (poor management not the least of them), I'm pretty sure people at Yahoo aren't paid badly (perhaps overpaid if anything) or being forced to work in hazardous conditions. In fact I'm pretty confident that working at Yahoo is relatively pleasant compared to most places I've worked. Come work in a steel plant or a coal mine or even work a heavy manufacturing assembly line sometime and get a little perspective.

Additionally I think you need to explore what at-will employment really means and why it is standard practice. Sometimes people don't perform well and I've worked directly with far too many unions which fight to protect a lot of deadwood employees. It's not hard to find examples of unions that forgot their real purpose (to provide safe working conditions, reasonable work rules and fair compensation) and instead actively work for goals that ultimately hurt the company and the very workers they were supposed to protect.

Re:we need unions to stop BS like this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379157)

we need unions to stop BS like this and make it so you can't fire demote some one with out real proof.

How many Teamsters does it take to change a lightbulb?
Seventeen. You gotta problem wit dat?

If it was worthwhile.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378585)

it would be applied to all levels from the C-suite on down.

But it is never applied to executives, and it seems to always be applied as a rigid, statistically-impossible bell curve on any group, regardless of its size or history

How can a group of 5 high-performers be ranked into those buckets fairly?

How can the inherent biases of managers be removed so that the rankings are not distorted?

How can the bell curve apply to a group after several rounds of culling the bottom 10%, even assuming it was a valid distribution of ability at the start?

The short answer is IT CAN'T

[captcha is "coddle"]

What a stupid system (5, Insightful)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 5 months ago | (#45378643)

The best it can tell you is the relative work abilities of one small group and really tells you nothing at all abou the qualities of each member. This method would have fired Pauli and Born because they ranked 'ranked' below Einstein, Heisenber, Shroedinger and Bohr.

Re:What a stupid system (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45378869)

This method would have fired Pauli and Born because they ranked 'ranked' below Einstein, Heisenber, Shroedinger and Bohr.

They were about to, but then Heisenberg pointed out that it was impossible to determine both the strength of the group and the rank of an employee within the group, at the same time.

Just do what IBM does (0)

gelfling (6534) | about 5 months ago | (#45378847)

Don't give increases except to directors and officers and fire everyone else more or less randomly according to what the accountants want.

Incentivizes throwing people under a bus. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379215)

Of course, this doesn't address the problem that in most bad groups, the biggest problem is the incompetent, dishonest manager. Stack ranking gives these little Mussolinis the perfect opportunity to cast blame for their failures on a non-performing team member.

I've got a better idea: If your project fails, you are out. The members of your team may be assigned to other groups depending on their performance, but you're definitely out, because you picked the team, set the goals and direction, and set the schedule. As you go up the ladder, your compensation goes up, but so does your risk. Manage successful projects, and you shall be rewarded lavishly. Run one into the ground, and you're out on your ass.

"Oh, but if we have performance criteria for managers, then we won't be able to attract top talent"

Fuck all (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 5 months ago | (#45379221)

If they are overstaffed, just friggen do a layoff of all the people over 40 like the rest of Silicon Valley does. If some people sue just settle.

Sad to say, but some arbitrary random process like this will piss people off only once, unlike the stupid quarterly arbitrary random review process pissing everyone off 4 times a year.

I've never met Marisa, but dang her HR ideas are completely insane.

the Microsoft experience .. (1)

codeusirae (3036835) | about 5 months ago | (#45379297)

"How did Microsoft squander the lead they had with the Windows CE devices? They had a great lead, they were years ahead. And they completely blew it. And they completely blew it because of the bureaucracy." ref [vanityfair.com]

They didn't, they could have been way ahead of the curve, when they joined the Tron consortium, but not totally owning it, they acted to supress it in the US while promoting the much inferior WinCE. A replay of the WinNT - OS/2 collaboration/war with IBM.

'Microsoft Teams Up with Japanese Group That Promotes Archrival Tron [highbeam.com]'

'Microsoft Corp said on Thursday it would collaborate with a consortium that promotes an open operating system for consumer electronics called TRON [archive.org]'

'Microsoft Corp., which was the first U. S. supplier to lobby Washington about TRON [super-nova.co.jp]'

'We don't want the Japanese to create a specification that would preclude competition, [super-nova.co.jp]', former Deputy U. S. Trade Representative Michael B. Smith

Just got the memo on our new corp's review system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45379319)

Sure enough, there's a bell curve with a diagram: 10% A, 20% B+, 40% B, 20% B-, 10% C. Seriously, HR dept.? Way to improve morale.

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