I'm having a bad week at my job. I was an Account Specialist in our company for four years before getting promoted to a management role in our divisional HQ this past February.
They recruited me into the management role from my position in the field. I didn't even know the job was available.
I went to two days of training on corporate procedures before I started my new job.
I already knew most of the folks who became my team members. Since February we've been rocking and rolling and hitting our goals. It's a fantastic team and we work hard.
Last week my manager sat down with me and walked me through our annual performance review process. I'm supposed to write annual reviews for the whole team during December. Of course, I had gone through annual reviews myself when I worked in the field, so the form and the process were familiar.
Then my manager said "You will evaluate each employee on their own and then you'll complete an online form that ranks your employees from top to bottom. You'll submit the form to HR, and that ranking will play a big part in determining bonuses."
I wasn't sure I heard her correctly. "Rank them from top to bottom?" I asked. I thought she meant top to bottom in terms of their pay levels or years of service.
"From your best employee to your to worst employee, basically," she said.
I was shocked. I have friends who work in companies that used to do stack ranking of employees, but they don't do it anymore. Stack ranking was not part of my review process when I was working in my previous job, in the field.
"You do stack ranking here?" I asked her. "I never heard about that before I took the Manager job."
"Some of our divisions do it," she said. "It's up to the individual VP."
I guess our VP likes stack ranking.
I said "I don't want to speak out of turn, but I don't believe in comparing my employees to one another. It's impossible to do it responsibly. They are apples and oranges. They all have different roles and different talents. I need every one of them. No one is a bad performer. If they were, you would already know about it."
"I'm sorry," she said. "It's required."
"I don't want to make this a heavy conversation," I said, "but I'm not going to do it. You can move me into a different position if you want, or we can talk about a transition process if you want me to train my replacement and move on. In my opinion it's unethical to compare employees to one another. That's why the practice of stack ranking is disappearing all over the world. I'm shocked that our company is still hanging onto it."
"You are a terrific employee, but this is not a battle I'm willing to fight on your behalf," she said.
To lighten the mood, I told a joke.
"Well," I said, "we know who's on the bottom of your team's stack ranking list now!"
She didn't laugh. We left the meeting and I haven't heard a thing about this issue since then.
What should I do? Of course, I haven't mentioned a word to my teammates.
I'll be pretty disappointed if I get fired a week before Christmas, but if that happens I'll go to the CEO or whoever I need to go to and state my case and try to get a good reference and a severance package, at least.
This incident is very discouraging of course, but I firmly believe that when you do the right thing, it always pays off.
What do you recommend?
Thanks Liz! You are the greatest.
It's amazing that your boss hired you into a management role without telling you that you'd be expected to line up your brilliant colleagues like pieces of lumber and stack them in order of some murky notion of "best" to "worst."
It's reprehensible, as you pointed out, and the worst imaginable leadership practice.
If your higher-ups insist on maintaining the loathsome and culture-killing practice of stack ranking then you'll be better off out of there anyway.
I think your plan to raise hell on the way out and leave with a severance package is a great plan.
The worst they can do is say no, and you can probably get a lawyer to send them a letter threatening legal action if they do that. Most companies would find it prudent to give you some money to make you go away, but it may not come to that. After all, you were a stellar four-year employee and you have the company's best interests in mind now.
If you get fired, you get fired, but don't quit if they say "If you don't want to do the job, then quit." Let them fire you if they want to.
We are all learning to find our voices and our backbones, and the learning is not always fun. I am sure you are disappointed, but I hope you also feel righteous mojo running through your veins.
You should! When you stand up for something you believe in, you get stronger.
Your team will miss you if you go, but no job is worth sacrificing your integrity over. Any company foolish enough to make its managers pit their employees against one another instead of encouraging them to pull together as a team is not an organization where you can grow your flame.
Let's be honest: your fearful boss and her fearful VP don't deserve you.
A new year is coming. Imagine the possibilities! You are growing new muscles, and setting boundaries around your values. If this company doesn't see your value, plenty of others will.
Now you have a management role under your belt and a new commitment to work for people who share your ethical standards. You only need one employer at a time!
All the best,
Originally posted on Linked In by: Liz Ryan
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@worldbridgepartners.com or 860-387-0503
Meet the Team
WorldBridge Partners earned the Best of Staffing®Award for providing remarkable service quality. Fewer than 2% of all staffing agencies in the U.S. and Canada earned the 2015 Best of Staffing Award for service excellence. With satisfaction ratings more than three times higher than the industry average, the Best of Staffing winners truly stand out for exceeding expectations. This award identifies the staffing industry's elite leaders in service quality.