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Fast Company Article on "Stack Ranking"

Fast Company Article on "Stack Ranking"

It’s hard to believe but Stack Ranking has found its way back into corporations as a means for motivating employees. What will it take for leaders to understand that this practice doesn’t work and in fact produces the opposite effect of what was intended? I tackle this topic and offer tips for what organizations should do in this latest article in Fast Company: The Evils of ‘Stack Ranking’ and What Companies Should do Instead. I encourage you to not only read it but share it with others and engage in a discussion about what truly motivates employees to give their best.  

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Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.


Hi Aubrey, We stack rank at my company and it appears to me to be a motivator. It is clear feedback, that is either negatively or positively reinforcing. I think as long as the metrics are within the control of the performer, it can be motivating. Thoughts?

The problem with stack ranking is not that it doesn't improve performance as negative reinforcement improves performance but in the level of improvement attained and the side-effects of it. The most damaging side effect is that it is a competitive system. Your competition should not be inside your company. The damaging effects of competition are insidious and are rarely admitted by the employees affected or seen by managers. From an organizational perspective, long term the stack ranking produces just enough performance improvement to stay in the top group or if you are not in the top group, you become complacent and resigned to your place. It does not cause people to do their best or to share what they learn about how to perform better with other employees. These are not the only problems with the system. I discuss them in more detail in my book, OOPs, under performance appraisal. If you have further questions, let me know. @

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