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forced distribution

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Is a technique used by some organizations when evaluating the performance of staff. Typically, in performance evaluation systems, managers will rate the individual performance of each member of staff and place them in a performance category (usually on a 5-point scale) ranging from exceeding performance expectations to seriously underperforming. A forced distribution or ranking requires managers to put a designated percentage of staff within each category and this is designed to prevent managers from taking the ‘easy option’ by rating everyone in the middle (the central tendency bias). Advocates claim that a forced distribution or ranking can raise performance and help organizations retain control of total salary costs because the proportion of employees receiving a given level of salary increase can be calculated in advance. Critics argue that not everyone is placed in the correct category, so at the top end some will be deemed high achievers when they are not, whilst at the bottom end some will be classified as underperforming when in fact they are adequate. The technique of using a forced distribution becomes particularly contentious if performance evaluation is linked directly to reward. [See bonus, bouncing, performance-related pay, and ranking and yanking.]

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