The System

The performance evaluation system adopted by Microsoft was a Vitality Curve system or a Forced Ranking system. This means that no matter how good the employees are, a part of them must be rated as Underperformed.

Yeah, I know. It doesn’t sound nice but this is how the system works. (You will find additional info regarding this system if you will check the Mini Microsoft Blog which is administered by an anonymous Microsoft employee).

Ok, but why me?

The 3 main points upon which the system is build:

1. Inside Microsoft there is a legend: it is said that Peter Browne, a former manager, sued Microsoft because he was forced to rate groups of employees without objective criterion and to favorite those individuals with whom he socialized with.

2. On this site we can find the definition of the Suckritology which is the core of the evaluation system. “As Geoffrey notes, forced firing of underachievers is not the same as performance improvement. Far from it, in fact, because perceived “achievement” is often a perceived state rather than a concrete fact. As the quick-witted Edith Waltz and Mike Yablonski observed, some organizations heap awards on those who are the most effective in ‘sucking up’ high-profile opportunities and taking credit for successes accomplished by others (thus the term ‘Suckritology’), while casting doubt and blame on those who focus on the getting the job done.”

3. As a Mini Microsoft blogger once said: “A bad manager can give you a mediocre review with no justification, a good manager can give you a bad review with no justification.”

Now, you might have guessed why I was rated as Underperformed by good managers.

On April 21 2011 Steve Ballmer has sent an email regarding the new Evaluation System. He announced the company would retire the Vitality Curve model of performance evaluation: “We are making this change so all employees see a clear, simple, and predictable link between their performance, their rating, and their compensation.” This info can be found on Wikipedia also.

According to the same site, the system was in place since 2006. As far as I understand, the employees could not see a “clear, simple, and predictable link between their performance, their rating, and their compensation”.

I ask myself… Who is responsible for the fact that the employees didn’t have a “clear, simple…” over the last years? Yeah, another one of my stupid questions…

But this is not important. Only the employees were affected, not the company. Even if an employee was not satisfied with his workplace, he had to keep the customer happy and the company’s revenue got bigger because those lazy Underperformed guys didn’t receive bonuses. And since nobody important was affected, let’s play the old music for the masses. “Let us focus to the future.”

Officially, we do not have the Vitality Curve system in place anymore. But did you wait to see the first results?

Based on my experience I am afraid to define the word “clear” as mentioned by Steve Ballmer.

If “clear” can be defined in the same way as “Transparency” was, then it is Clear to me now what will happen next.

If the “equality of treatment” is defined again as “all employees have the same targets”. And it does not matter if you have better results compared with your team and you are rated as Underperformed.

It is all so Simple now. It is easier to rate even more employees as Underperformed because now you have the official statement that the Vitality Curve is not longer in place. So from now on, officially, the employee has all the responsibility.

But the good Samaritan inside me tells me not to be so mean and to assume that this “clear and simple” principle will be applied. What about the conditions behind it?
Scenario no1:
I will give you 10$ if the bus will be at the bus station at 10:00 AM sharp.
Do we have Clear and Simple conditions?
Yes: bus, bus station, 10:00 AM.
Can you control that? No. The bus is late.
Result: Sorry, according to our clear and simple procedure you are Underperformed.

Scenario no2:
Today you must work on ten customer problems.
Clear and Simple: one day, ten cases.
Can you control that? No: four hours spent on a critical case, and the next four hours on two or three other cases.
Result: Sorry, according to our clear and simple procedure you did not perform and you are Underperformed.

And there you go. You have the freedom to do whatever you want to do with your employees and officially you do not apply a Forced Ranking system anymore. Therefore it is not the Manager’s Fault that you didn’t reach the Achieved status.

And so, the geniality of this system goes beyond itself.

The bus didn’t arrive at 10:00 AM sharp and you could not work at ten cases in one day. But your boss can tag you as Achieved because he has the “impression” that you have a great potential. And your potential is our mobbing passion.

Even if you are lucky and the Bus arrived at 10:00 AM sharp and if you managed to work at ten cases in one day, you can be rated as Underperformed because you didn’t have “the right behavior”…

C’mon Stevie! Who da’ Punk is buying this? If you put a racing car sticker on an old dirty car and you are driving it with 90 mph, the sticker will not make that car a real racing car.

Of course, if someone will try to look under the hood (as I did), maybe the only proof that he will get is: “It is a racing car ‘cause I say so.”

And if an employee will call a Government Authority to check that car, the Company would not allow it.

If you think, you will ask questions. You are not here to ask questions. If you ask questions, you will be mobbed. But at least this way you will have the chance to see how deep the cancer goes.

The term “Mobbing” was first defined by the Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann. Leymann defines mobbing as hostile and unethical communication, which is directed in a systematic way by one or a few individuals mainly towards one individual who, due to mobbing, is pushed into a helpless and defenseless position, being held there by means of continuing mobbing activities.

Feel free to perform a research about Mobbing. Unfortunately not so many countries have adopted Anti-Mobbing Laws. Among them: France, Germany and Sweden.

If you have read my blog until now, you might have asked yourself why the Header of this blog contains this picture.

Some of you might have found it repulsive, some of you might have found it catchy. Somehow funny, this picture was sent by one of the Managers mentioned before.

You may consider this Picture the short version of this blog or another definition of Mobbing at Microsoft (Mobbingsoft).


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