TED Conversations

Omar Wani

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'Grades create divide' - ranking professionals at work under different categories or letters be demotivate some players terribly.

Bell Curve often puts off people. It works well for HR functions and companies that want to have a reason for one player being A and the other B. But does that really work for employees?

  • Jan 7 2013: Who cares if it works for employees. We should stop taking so much care for people's feelings over evaluating their performance. I have students at the university level who can't draw a venn diagram. I am not talking about a complex one. Why should I have to deal with this problem at this level? And this is the result of avoiding telling students that they are doing something wrong. They grow thinking that nothing requires effort. That it will be all right regardless of how much they put into it. I don't give a damn if their low performance affects their self-esteem. Damn, why don't we aim to educate people to become adults and be able to confront their problems and deal with them instead of being too careful that they might feel bad when they underperform and are told so? Why should we treat them like little kids forever? When are we going to aim for maturity?
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    Jan 7 2013: The bell curve works within a specific frame. But there is more than one frame that bell curves should be applied to.

    An employee with a specific function should be rated according to the bell curve of that frame. If you're not good at what you do, do something else or learn how to be good at what you do. You are bringing harm to the company if you do otherwise, and an employer has a responsibility to protect the company from you.
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    Jan 6 2013: Rich narrative feedback identifying strengths and providing concrete guidance as to how to improve in growth areas has been shown to be more effective than letter grading. This is true in a school setting, though I regret not having at hand a link to the research that draws this conclusion.

    I can direct you, though, to the workplace version of this result, which seems to be your main interest. Perhaps the leading researcher on incentives and motivation in a business setting is Theresa Amabile, of Harvard Business School. You might be interested in doing an internet search of her publications.
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    Jan 6 2013: Omar, I am a great fan of competent / non-competent in schools and evaluation systems. This demonstrates that you have successfully completed a module, criteria, goal, etc ... and have the skills defined in the module statement. If you wish to prepare yourself for promotion complete the path required ... basically prerequisites for courses in school. This does not define you as smarter or dumber it puts all of us in the same boat with the playing field level for advancement or further studies.

    All the best. Bob.