How employee evaluation criteria could hurt companies - Management

I'm not sure if that's new or it's always been like that, but every other day I get the same feedback from many friends who are working in different companies.

It seems like the promotion/performance evaluation criteria used by many companies is defective by design!

It doesn't matter if your work is good or not, you instead need to follow how the work and achievements are measured! In other words, there are many evaluation criteria force employees to gaming the system instead help them to do what really matters!

I have some examples here that could explain it a bit more.


  • Relying only on what could be measured (even worse, what's only measured) could hurt companies as not relying on them!
  • Promotion and performance evaluation should also include those small enhancements which have a good impact but hard to measure in numbers!
  • The employee could be in a tough situation where they have to choose between what benefits them or what benefits the company! (and no, it's not always the same!)
  • Optimizing work for the promotion could hurt many companies, especially midsize ones.

SEO, when what's important isn't actually that important!

Looks like the current promotion/performance evaluation criteria and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) have a lot in common! So what does promotion/performance evaluation have to do with SEO?

Let's assume you have a website, and you created great unique high-quality content about certain topics. Your work is great. It should appear as the first result in a search engine like Google search and get more visitors.

However, that doesn't happen and some other websites show in the first search results even their content isn't necessarily better than yours! Why? Because there is something called "SEO", or how to give the search engine exactly what it's looking for!

Then why does that happen? Because it's hard to measure what's considered as "high-quality content", but some other measurements could help with that (but not necessarily equals to high quality).

So if you are already creating great content, why not also do the SEO part? Simply because time and resources are limited! It's hard to do both!

The problem with that could hurt the company in the long run! Because many things are important for the company but hard to measure or even unmeasured in the first place! This leads to a really bad situation, the people could be forced to choose between doing what's right or what gives the promotion!

Getting the measure of success wrong!

Let's assume a company has 2 products one of them worth $1000 and the other worth $2000. The $2000 product could give more instant revenue, however, the $1000 product is actually a strategic product for the company and will give the company better revenue and situation in the market!

So if the company gives its representatives a commission per deal (e.g. 10%), and if I'm a salesman, I will probably select the $2000 product because it gives me more money even the $1000 product is actually better for the company! Do you see the problem here?

Well, it's not a fiction story! It actually happened! It's part of a book called "How Will You Measure Your Life" and it happened with a company called "SonoSite". (and probably still happens every day with other companies)

Big companies could handle it, smaller ones probably not!

This issue actually happens in many companies, even big modern ones like Google, and that what happened with Michael Lynch. He described it in his blog post "Why I Quit Google to Work for Myself". I totally recommend you to read that post, it's not just another "Why I left Google" post!

But the most important point here is that could be fine in gigantic companies like Google! But on a smaller scale like in small and midsize companies, something like that (forcing to gaming the system) could be severe for those companies! (especially in some critical phases like the growth phase). I will not add more here, just take a look at that blog post and get the problem.


So this is the problem, what is the solution? There are many! But that could be another blog post :-)

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Hello, my name is Ahmed AbouZaid, I'm a passionate Tech Lead DevOps Engineer. 👋

With 16+ years of open-source contributions, 12+ years of professional hands-on experience in DevOps, and an M.Sc. in Data Engineering from Edinburgh Napier University (UK), I enjoy facilitating the growth of both businesses and individuals.

I specialize in Cloud-Native and Kubernetes. I'm also a Free/Open source geek and book author. My favorite topics are DevOps transformation, automation, data, and metrics.

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