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Summary:

And they said it couldn’t happen: Microsoft is nixing the stack ranking system by which it has promoted and fired employees for years.

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If there was one thing that united the very — ahem — fractious employee population at Microsoft it was their hatred of the stack ranking system by which employees were judged as worthy either of a promotion or the ax.

Now, that system, under which business unit leads had to grade subordinates as top performers, average performers or poor performers, is being dismantled, according to this Verge report, citing an internal memo from Microsoft HR poobah Lisa Brummell.

The change is being made in accordance with the “One Microsoft” strategy laid out by CEO Steve Ballmer last summer. Ballmer subsequently announced his plans to step down as CEO which sort of threw that strategy into question. After all, if there’s a new CEO, chances are there will be a new strategy.

But none the less, getting rid of this system will be greeted with relief at the company.

Just two weeks ago a long-time Microsoft veteran who left the company a few years ago told me that the primary reason she was thrilled to be out of Microsoft was that she no longer had to deal with the dread stack ranking process, which fostered intra-group back stabbing instead of collaboration.

  1. A friend of mine who works for a large agbiotech corporation that has this kind of system tells me it works about as well there as at Microsoft, which is to say, badly. The effect on employee morale is atrocious. It’s particularly ironic when a technology-centric company adopts such a system, because presumably management hopes to attract and retain highly intelligent employees, yet the system insults the employees’ intelligence.

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