Hoping for a Change In the Curve

Employees in the corporate sector who have been victims to the bell curve appraisal recall their stories, and hope that it changes soon

Published: 31st July 2015 05:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st July 2015 05:38 AM   |  A+A-


HYDERABAD: Unless we are talking about Kim Kardashian’s curves, nearly everyone ‘hates’ the curve  they face at the end of each year – the bell curve appraisal. Unlike Kim K’s curves which make news frequently, the bell curve makes news post appraisals. That is the time when companies up their ante and get on a firing spree. Headlines scream ‘ABC firm sacks low performers’ or ‘Appraisals give sleepless nights to employees’ and recount the sorry tales of those fired. This time, however, bell curve is in news as IT giant Accenture has decided to axe the assessment tool.

The system that picks the ‘hero’ and ‘zero’ and pushes the majority of employees into  average grade, has haters aplenty but it continues to be the most widely used assessment tool. But when big players like Google, Cisco, Microsoft, and now Accenture are turning away from the westernised statistic driven employee unfriendly appraisal system, hopes of lakhs of Indians working in smaller firms have risen too.

‘Thank god!’

Euphoric that finally firms are realising the damning effect the bell curve has on innovation and teamwork, by fostering bureaucratic and political culture, Junaid M, a retail manager (south) with a watch company feels that a sense of relief has washed over those working for these companies.

“Bell curve assessment is not at all transparent. It is widely practiced as no better model of appraisal is available at the moment, ” says Junaid adding it is driven by nepotism and favouritism. “Appraisal should be purely based on what has been achieved and what should be achieved going forward,” he says.

From hero to loser

Amita Nag has been on both ends of the curve during her five-year long association with an IT giant. Leading a team of 35 members scattered across the world, the 35 -year-old says, after two consecutive years of being a top performer she was put in the last 10 per cent. “And this was despite getting appreciation from the client I was working for. Even after working 14 hours a day when I got a poor rating it was very demoralising. I went into depression and fought with my manager who claimed that my performance was good but my team management skills pulled down my ratings. This explanation wasn’t even logical,” she recalls.

The sandwiched lot

But it is not just people like Amita who suffer. Even managers who are responsible for assessing their teams, hate the bell curve with equal vengeance. 

“Bell curve appraisal is faulty and forced rating that is not done on the basis of performance but on sick leaves and behavioural issues. The lowest 10 per cent are not necessarily poor performers just like the top 10 per cent are not the best,” says Neelam Sangra, an assistant manger with an MNC bank. Neelam is of the view that appraisals should take into account the entire portfolio of vice-presidents and assistant vice-president and not just individual managers’ portfolio. “Otherwise at the end of year managers are sandwiched between their teams and management,” she rues. 

Easier said than done

While a lot of corporate employees feel bell curve makes the work of HR easy, the HR fraternity begs to differ. Naveen Deb, (name changed on request) HR manager says though the tool is supposed to aid them, it only adds to their misery.

“Often managers are not very open about their teams’ assessment. They find it difficult to forcefully categorise their teammates into the criteria of bell curve. This makes our work difficult. And then sacking the bottom 10 per cent again is not easy,” he quips.

 It is a known fact that bell curve has, for years given sleepless nights to the assessees and assessors and has lead to great dissatisfaction among workforce by impacting remunerations, but there is hope that eventually a more fluid methods of assessment will be devised.

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