Soul Talk

The good eggs,bad eggs and cooked eggs.

The “rank-and-yank” system

This was a question assigned to us by Prof David Lehman for MNO1001 module. We were asked to do a short write-up on whether organisations should or should not employ the rank-and-yank system.

In the rank-and-yank system, the work performances of employees are rated and the bottom 10% of the employees who performed poorly, are “yanked” away. I posted my short write-up below.

Should organizations “rank-and-yank”?

Organizations should employ the “rank-and-yank” system. This system will motivate employees to consistently strive for excellence in their work performances. Overall, it would bring higher returns to the company.

The Advantages

With every concurrent round, only the “survival of the fittest” stays in the company. In addition, the work performance curve would continue to shift upwards because less productive workers are continually replaced by more productive workers. This system rewards those who perform beyond work expectations and punish those who did poorly based on the grading curve. With such a system in place, the company would be performing better each year. It is innate in us that we often seek for something bigger and better. If we could trade a paper clip for a digital camera, why not trade it for something even bigger?         

The Disadvantages

However, this system could also encourage scrupulous practices in workplaces where employees are likely to cheat and abuse power to save themselves from being “yanked” by the company.

Based on a study done on high school teachers and sumo wrestlers, people tend to cheat when they are under great pressure to perform well. Also, employees who had higher work rankings are perceived to have acquired more “power” and higher social status in the company than those who were ranked at the bottom. Top performers are often thought to have, resources which are less substitutable by other resources. For instance, top university students have special and outstanding talents and capabilities which help them to distinguish from the rest of the student cohort.

The Survival of the Fittest

The rampant cheating and the abuse of power are inevitable in today’s competitive world. Even without the implementation of this system, corruption practices would still persist. The rank and yank system follows closely to one of the theories of evolution: the survival of the fittest. The “good” genes are retained while the “bad” genes are eliminated. Even if such a system is not in place, would an organization retain its incompetent workers or “yank” them?

The Debate

Later in class, we were told to share our ideas in class. A majority of the students felt that this system is too rigid and biased. Some questioned whether the top performers from the grading curve are rewarded. Some mentioned that this grading system also works for companies dealing with sales.

After the heated debate, the tutor concluded that most were against this system and held up the big sign “NO!”.   So, what happens after that conclusion? Does it implies that I should not “rank-and-yank” my future employees or that I strike against this system if I was “yanked”? 

This debate exercise done in class had led me to wonder whether it is necessary to find reasons to justify whether it is right or wrong.

Are we spending too much time trying to justify ourselves rather than finding ways to improve ourselves? Our answers are confined to “Yes” and “No”. Does a “yes” or a “no” helps in solving a problem? How does this conclusion shape the ways we deal with this problem? The “rank-and-yank” system gives you both the good eggs and bad eggs.

The question should be ” How “rank-and-yank” system could be modified in a way which is fair?”

People don’t want bad or good eggs. They just want to eat cooked eggs.

A travel and lifestyle blogger based in Singapore.

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