FlyTitle: Bartleby

How not to give employee feedback

如何避免给员工反馈

经济学人双语版-排名仇怨 When rank leads to rancour

IN DAVID MAMET’S film, “Glengarry Glen Ross”, a group of American property salesmen are forced into a contest to maximise sales. The top two will get prizes; the bottom two will be fired. The play comes across as a critique of the corrupting effect of “dog-eat-dog” capitalism and putting performance above all else. But is competition between employees an effective way of improving overall outcomes for business?

在戴维·马梅特(David Mamet)的电影《大亨游戏》(Glengarry Glen Ross)中,一批美国房地产销售员被迫参加一场竞赛,以最大程度地提高销售额。前两名有奖,后两名将被解雇。这部戏给人的感觉是在批判资本主义“狗咬狗”的堕落后果和唯绩效论。但是,员工之间的竞争到底能不能有效改善企业的整体绩效呢?

Jan Woike, from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, and Sebastian Hafenbrädl, of the IESE business school in Barcelona, try to answer the question in an article* for the Journal of Behavioural Decision Making. They tested whether performance ranking helped or hindered group effort.

柏林的马克斯·普朗克研究所(Max Planck Institute)的杨·沃基(Jan Woike)和巴塞罗那IESE商学院的塞巴斯蒂安·哈芬布拉德(Sebastian Hafenbrädl)在《行为决策期刊》(Journal of Behavioural Decision Making)上发表的一篇文章*中试图回答这个问题。他们检验了绩效排名对团队工作是有利还是有碍。

Their approach was to use a “public goods” game in which participants are given tokens which they can invest. They had the choice of investing in an individual project or investing collectively. Two different versions of the game were played. In both games returns were higher if everyone collaborated. But in one version, investing in the individual project improved the relative ranking of the participant, even though the returns to both the individual and the group were lower.

他们开展了一项“公共品”博弈实验。实验参与者获得可用于投资的代币。他们可以选择个人投资或合作投资。实验有前后两个版本。不论哪个版本,只要每个人都选择合作投资,就都能获得更高的回报。但在其中一个版本中,选择个人投资可以提高参与者自己在所有人中的排名,不过个人和整个团队的回报都会比合作投资低。

Participants in the game included some students and some experienced managers. The researchers observed no significant difference in the way the two groups played the game. What mattered was the form of feedback. In one version of the game, individuals were told how well they scored and how well they were performing relative to the rest of the group. In another, they were informed about how well the group as a whole was performing, relative to the maximum possible return.

参与者包括学生和经验丰富的企业管理人员。研究人员没有发现两类人在博弈方式上有显著差别。造成差异的是反馈的形式。在一个版本中,参与者会得知自己的得分和在群体中的排名。在另一个版本中,他们会得知相比可能的最大回报,整个团队目前的总体表现如何。

Predictably, the second feedback mechanism led to more co-operation. Less obviously, information on individual performance relative to fellow group members led players to favour moving up the pecking order over not just their group’s collective returns, but also over their material wellbeing. They were willing to forgo guaranteed financial gains; achieving “status” was more important.

正如所料,第二种反馈机制促成了更多合作。不太明显的一点是,当参与者获知自己相较于其他小组成员表现如何时,不但会把提高自己的排名优先于团队整体回报,甚至还会优先于自己的物质利益。他们愿意放弃有保证的财务收益——获得“地位”更为重要。

As the authors note, this result has implications for most organisations. “Ranking feedback, which is often used in organisational settings, prompts people to perceive even situations with co-operative outcome structures as competitive,” they write. People may not be innately co-operative or competitive; they may simply respond to cues set by the organisation they work for.

正如作者指出的那样,这一结果对大多数组织机构都有启示。“组织设计中经常使用排名反馈,这会让人们把即便是鼓励合作成果的组织结构也视为是竞争性的。”他们这样写道。人们也许并非天生就是合作型或竞争型,他们可能只是在所在组织的引导下做出了相应的反应。

Destructive competition would be a particular problem for those companies which use so-called “agile” management approaches, in which staff from different departments are organised into teams and asked to work together. Instead of being agile, such teams may wrestle themselves to a standstill.

对于那些使用所谓“敏捷”管理方式的公司来说,破坏性竞争尤其会是个问题。在这种管理方式中,来自不同部门的员工组成团队,受命一起工作。破坏性竞争会让“敏捷”的追求落空,令团队因内斗而陷入僵局。

The research also raises more questions about a management approach, dubbed “rank and yank”, under which all employees are rated yearly and those who fall into the lowest category are liable to lose their jobs. Ranking systems of this kind, associated with Jack Welch’s tenure as boss of GE, an engineering giant, from 1981 to 2001, have been the subject to increased academic scrutiny. Study after study suggests that they hurt overall performance, not least by lowering productivity.

这项研究也对“末位淘汰”这种管理方法提出了更多质疑。按照这种方法,所有员工都要接受年度考核,那些考核结果垫底的员工有可能饭碗不保。这种排名制度是杰克·韦尔奇(Jack Welch)在1981年至2001年期间执掌工程巨头通用电气时提出的,已经成为越来越多学术研究的课题。一项又一项研究表明,这种方式有损企业整体绩效,尤其是因为它会降低生产率。

Businesses need to compete with their rivals but within the firm, co-operation is normally much more useful than competitive rivalry; a house divided against itself, cannot stand, as Abraham Lincoln said. Competitive ranking seems not just to reduce co-operation and foster selfishness but also to discourage risk-taking. Such findings have prompted many bosses to yank “rank and yank”. Microsoft abandoned it in 2013.

企业需要与竞争对手角力,但在企业内部,通力合作通常都比竞争对抗有用得多。正如林肯总统所言,家不和,则不立。竞争性排名似乎不仅会减少合作,滋长自私,还会抑制冒险精神。这样的研究发现促使许多老板淘汰了“末位淘汰”。微软在2013年停用了这种方法。

The Economist is a genuinely co-operative place (although Bartleby is locked in a Darwinian struggle with Schumpeter for the right to a full-page column). If it wasn’t, journalists would be reluctant to pass on contacts or story tips to their colleagues, and section editors would constantly rubbish the suggestions of their peers [as it is, we only do it occasionally, ed.].

本刊是一个真正的合作型机构(尽管巴托比与熊彼特专栏为争夺整版专栏的权利深陷达尔文式的斗争),否则记者们就不会愿意与同事分享联系人方式或新闻线索,而栏目编辑就会不断贬低彼此的建议(其实我们偶尔这么干,主编大人,只是偶尔)。

In “Glengarry Glen Ross” two of the salesmen conspire to rob the office, steal some of the best sales leads and sell them to a rival business. If you set up a dog-eat-dog system, you risk having the hounds turn around and bite their owner.

在《大亨游戏》中,两名推销员密谋从办公室窃取一些最有价值的销售线索,出售给一家竞争对手。如果建立了“狗咬狗”的系统,狗就有可能反咬主人一口。

* “Rivals without a cause? Relative performance feedback creates destructive competition despite aligned incentives”

*《无故竞争?排名式绩效反馈导致破坏性竞争,令共同利益失效》