Recently, Accenture announced that it was doing away with the bell curve appraisals for its employees. The bell curve or normal distribution of employees’ performance has never been a favourite with employees because it implies mandatory grading of people into the lowest category. It also implies that some good performers are downgraded because there are ‘no slots’ left. Here is an example of logic being overridden by system or rule. And this is actually self-defeating because it causes fear. Fear creeps in when there is something irrational. Fear leads to poor performance. In effect, a sytem that was designed to foster performance actually undermines it. It is not that the bell curve is pure evil. It is good for the few rated at the highest. But it is disheartening for most and even devastating for a few. Moreover, evaluation systems invariably leave room for errors and biases.
Good performance is directly related to enthusiasm. Driving people to perform without generating enthusiasm is not a sustainable process. It will collapse at the first hint of stress. Enthusiasm has a unique ability to cushion the blows. While happiness may not lead to enthusiasm, enthusiasm is killed when happiness goes kaput. If enthusiasm cannot be fostered, at least happiness should not get killed. Personalised mentoring and coaching are better ways to keep employees engaged. A good coach can easily generate enthusiasm in a happy employee, making him or her engaged.