Facebook’s ridiculous review process (Stack Ranking)

SUMMARY: Facebook’s stack rank review process is creating a “cult-like” culture where employees feel the need to appear happy in an attempt to win favor with colleagues. Receiving two consecutive reviews of “meets most” expectations will ultimately result in an employee being fired.

Leave it Facebook to use an outdated review process that rewards people who suck up and agree and hurts people who challenge the status quo. It’s no wonder they are in trouble.

At Facebook, two consecutive reviews of “meets most” expectations will result in an employee being fired after being put on a “performance plan”. In other words, get along with co-workers and don’t rock the boat or else you’ll get fired. It’s no wonder that Facebook is in serious trouble with so many lapses.

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Stack ranking is a practice in which managers are asked to rank employees on a curve according to their performance with those at the bottom placed on “performance improvement plans” or fired straightaway. Stack ranking can work well for large bureaucratic companies, but only when it’s applied temporarily.

However, for small innovative teams that are racing against time to put out a product — such as the typical startup — pitting employees against each other is a bad idea. Creating a cutthroat culture inside your company may seem productive at first, but sooner or later it’s bound to catch up

A study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that the number of companies using stack ranking has fallen from 49% in 2009 to 14% in 2011. The practice is clearly moving towards obsoleteness and there are multiple reasons for that.

Stack ranking is hard to understand. It introduces fear and shame to the workplace. While fear can be a positive force, when employees feel anxious about losing their job or speaking up, they quickly end up feeling dissatisfied and unproductive.

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Stack ranking is harmful because it creates an environment which encourages unproductive behavior. Instead of teamwork, it tacitly rewards backstabbing. The fear of losing one’s job makes people unlikely to speak their mind, leading to a closed environment, in which innovation suffers.

Finally, it leads to the emergence of “brilliant jerks,” who don’t recognize or care that running a successful business is more than just hitting quarterly targets.

The Annual Performance Review Is Antiquated

The annual performance process is quite outdated and ridiculous. The performance review should be an ongoing process with managers giving feedback to employees on a regular basis. No employee should feel that, by speaking up, they are going to take a hit on their review. Business today needs disruptive people not head nodders.

As a manager, I scheduled bi-weekly one on one meeting with my direct reports. At these meetings, I would give them feedback and, more importantly, coaching. I would ask them to talk to me about potential bottlenecks and how they would approach problems. I would then ask them “how would you measure success?”.

No employee should be surprised or anxious when it comes to their performance review. It’s a chance to help people become better employees and learn from their challenges. It’s easy to see how Facebook has been having so many problems. People live in fear and are afraid to speak up about potential missteps. In the end they are going to pay the price for this antiquated system.

Originally published at newmanagementandhr.com on January 17, 2019.

Written by

Marketing contrarian with over 15 years of developing leading edge and award winning digital marketing initiatives.

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