Comparing Workers to Each Other Can Backfire

An article titled, “Ranking Employees: Why Comparing
Workers to Their Peers Can Often Backfire,” was recently
published by Knowledge@Wharton.  The article identified
the following erroneous assumption:
Employees who are compared to other workers will
either work harder to stay ahead of others or work
harder to improve a low ranking.

Research has shown that the opposite of this assumption is
what occurs in the majority of positions.  In fact, most
people who are compared to others either become complacent
because of their high ranking or tend to give up when they
are relatively far behind their peers.  The result is that
company productivity and performance is jeopardized.

HR CONTRARIAN POINTER: Workers work best when compared to
an established standard against which they can measure
themselves.

When we have people competing against each other, they may
end up enriching themselves to the company’s detriment.

When people compete against themselves based on
responsibilities and expectations that are designed to
achieve the goals of the company, they are more engaged
and motivated.

The key to getting employees to compete against themselves
is getting managers to do that hard work of pinpointing
responsibilities and expectations.  Without this effort by
managers, companies are left with fuzzy performance
ratings and misguided rankings, both of which have a
negative impact on company objectives.

If you would like to read the Wharton article, click on
the link below:
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2567

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One Response to Comparing Workers to Each Other Can Backfire

  1. The work by Iwan Barankay addresses the adverse consequences of ranking employees from the non-competitive employee’s perspective. There are larger adverse consequences of ranking employees that affect organizations when the top performers engage in behaviors that increase the likelihood of unethical acts to maintain their ranking superiority. Some of the research by Harvard Business School Professor, Max Bazerman, and author Daniel H. Pink suggests that there are a variety of adverse consequences organizations may be establishing when they establish extrinsic motivations for employees. Daniel H. Pink in his book, Drive suggests we should be particularly aware that the science of extrinsic motivators could be counterproductive when used beyond mechanical driven task requirements of employees. Most employees in today’s technologically driven work environments require extensive cognitive driven skills and are subject to cross-functional departments and cultures in efforts to achieve goals. In this environment, monetary awards are in fact counterproductive and disruptive of organizational objectives.
    Michael W. Lomax, MLD – Strategic Leadership Systems, LLC

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