Stay away from bell curve!

Vinod Kumaar R
2 min readMar 21, 2018

If someone asks me ‘what question to ask during an interview with a HR person’, I readily tell them to check how they treat people during appraisals and if they answer anything remotely connected with the bell curve then I advice them to stay away from that place.

Bell curve damages morale, breeds politics, makes managers over hire and overstaff, makes people play safe. How does it manage to do?

Morale — Force ranking 10% of people as non performers even though they did well or were on bench during the time and exiting/demoting/penalizing them creates distress and damages morale of people who barely managed to escape. The recovery and sustenance is often painful.

Politics — Fans of the bosses usually tend to not fall in the non performer category irrespective of their performance. This creates a bad culture of agreeableness to the people above, healthy creative tension goes for a miss and people will try to pull each other down to avoid the seat at the bottom.

Over hiring — Managers will staff more than required number of people because they know that there will be exits for sure irrespective how someone performs. They waste a lot of money and time on preventing understaffing.

Playing safe — Any tough question above the hierarchy is going to be either shot down or going to boomerang as a bad rating. Unless there is a creative abrasion or healthy conflicts there won’t be any new ideas. It is the conflict of ideas that has to be welcomed, but managers see that as a conflict of people and penalize people who raise issues as they seem them as troublemakers. Eventually people play safe.

The effects are more pronounced and toxic in smaller companies, bigger companies get away with it for a long time before effects start showing up.