Our underlying beliefs and values drive our behaviors. Jack Welch believed, “If you’ve got 16 employees, at least two are turkeys.” From this belief flowed the talent management systems at GE. One of the most controversial (and unfortunately emulated) practices was that of cutting the bottom performing 10% of employees annually.
Judy at the Employee Factor, who also questions the practice, posted some statistics showing that these beliefs and practices are still common.
Systems telegraph values and drive behavior.
In addition to, “two in 16 employees are turkeys,” what does the practice of cutting the bottom 10% of employees annually telegraph and drive? (Hint: It’s not trust nor engagement.)
Cutting the bottom 10% annually is a defensive, compensatory system for lack of understanding of work levels, human capability and managerial leadership.
If you believe that: I’m OK. You’re OK. Let’s fix the system, you would design your organization accordingly. We need to equip, train and support (through systems design) line managers to successfully discharge their managerial leadership duties.
We wouldn’t let our untrained neighbor perform surgery on us in our backyard with a hacksaw, a hardback copy of “What Good Surgeons Do”, and a pep talk. Yet we put employees in managerial positions, offer them some platitudes, the latest best-selling book on leadership, and send them off to lead “our most valuable asset” in polluted environments with inadequate tools.
Jack Welch is brilliant, and I admire many things about him, this is not one of them. I have a more positive belief set regarding human nature and our desire to do meaningful work. All we need to do is create work-enabling systems that eliminate conflicts of interest for employees, and send them off to work.
I’m OK. You’re OK. Let’s fix the system. In my next post I will discuss how I would take an offensive rather than a defensive approach to low performance.
Have you ever been the victim of a bottom 10% cut? Have you ever been forced to cut an employee who didn’t deserve to be cut?.