Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Business
Pursuits

Microsoft Kills Its Hated Stack Rankings. Does Anyone Do Employee Reviews Right?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the opening of new Microsoft headquarters in Berlin, Germany on Nov. 7
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the opening of new Microsoft headquarters in Berlin, Germany on Nov. 7Photograph by Britta Pedersen/dpa via AP Photo

At the same time that Yahoo was taking heat for adopting a new system that forces managers to rank workers on a curve, Microsoft reportedly decided to back away from its own practice of so-called stack rankings.

Microsoft has been known as the ur-example of pitting employees against one another in an attempt to reward the excellent and weed out the weak, which gained widespread popularity in the 1980s after then-Chief Executive Jack Welch brought the ranking system to General Electric. The problem is workers generally aren’t thrilled about having to play Game of Thrones at the office. David Auerbach, a former Microsoft employee, recently told Bloomberg Businessweek that the practice had employees feeling helpless and “encouraged people to backstab their co-workers.”