We don’t give 5’s… and other antiquated management techniques.


imageI was talking to a friend of mine last month that had just had mid-year reviews at his company. I received his permission to relay some of our conversation and my response to him here.

“So I walk in to sit with my manager for my mid-year review… we’re ranked on 12 different categories on a scale of 1 to 5, there are 9 of us that report to him”

Sounds normal, makes sense.

“First thing my manager says in going over my review is, just so you know, and I’ve told everyone this: I don’t give 5’s”

Wait what?! Um, if that’s the case then why not just have a scale that goes from 1 to 4? Let’s think about that for a minute. No really, let that sink in. Why call it 1 to 5, if it’s really 1 to 4?

A 5 does not mean perfect, only one person in history was ever perfect. Nor does a 5 mean that’s there’s no room for improvement, there is always some room for improvement.

A 5 (or whatever your top score is) means that the person that you are reviewing is awesome in that category. That they completely exceed your expectations on that metric, nothing more.

Also, rank is relative.

A 5 for a “fresh out of school” with a fresh out of school paycheck … might be the equivalent performance of a 3 for a more seasoned developer – because more is expected from the seasoned person.

“He went on to say that his boss… the senior VP of our group, told him that he automatically bumps 5’s down to 4’s anyways.”

Oh, so it’s a systemic problem with the culture of your company, not just one manager… good to know. One more thing on that, I would push back, because at least if your manager went to his boss and said, this person is excellent at this, then, even if the VP bumped it down to a 4, he still heard the praise from your boss first.

Here’s my thought, if you are a manager, and there’s not one person on your team that is awesome in any of those 12 categories, then you hired the wrong people.

That’s worth repeating…

If there’s not one person on your team that is awesome in at least one of those areas, then you hired the wrong people and it’s your fault.


Here’s a tip

if you want people to perform at their best, recognize what they are doing right, reward them for it, and they’ll want to do more of those things plus they’ll want to figure out how to excel in more areas. Nothing takes the wind out of your teams’ sails like effectively telling them, “no matter how hard you try, or how much work you put in, you’ll never be excellent, because I don’t give 5’s” Talk about demotivating!

I let my friend know that culture change at a company is not easy.. but it is a worth wile endeavor and can have huge payoffs.

Finally, I will leave you with this little gem that was posted on SlideShare
it’s worth the read.



About Caleb Jenkins

Caleb Jenkins is an international speaker, author and 6 time Microsoft MVP award recipient, he currently works for Solera as a Director of Software Development. An entertaining and informative speaker who approaches software from a fresh perspective that spans UX, agile practices and technologies for enterprise customers from across the globe. Leading UX product design teams, coaching multi-team agile transformations and architecting and mentoring at some of the largest companies in the world, As a long time community leader and former Microsoft Developer Evangelist, Caleb is well known for his engaging speaking style, depth of knowledge and creative energy. Founder and Principal Mentor of Proaction Mentors, former UX Manager and Agile Coach, Senior Architect for Six Flags Corporation, Product Architect on a Cloud Marketing Platform, Caleb has made a career out of empowering others while building products and teams that delight customers and solve business needs. You can follow him on twitter (@calebjenkins) or his blog, DevelopingUX.com and if you're still reading this, then you could also subscribe to his blog RSS feed or sign up to receive updates by email