, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 77-91
Date: 05 Mar 2009

Reactions to Different Types of Forced Distribution Performance Evaluation Systems

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



We isolate and describe four key elements that distinguish different forms of forced distribution systems (FDS). These key elements are the consequences for low performers, differentiation of rewards for top performers, frequency of feedback, and comparison group size. We examine how these elements influence respondents’ attraction to FDS.


Undergraduate students (n = 163) completed a policy capturing study designed to determine how these four FDS elements influence their attraction to FDS. We examine the relative importance of these elements that most influence attraction to different FDS, as well as individual attributes (i.e., cognitive ability, gender, and major) that may affect those preferences.


Respondents were most attracted to systems with less stringent treatment of low performers, high differentiation of rewards, frequent feedback and large comparison groups. Consequences for low performers were nearly twice as influential as any other element. Respondents with higher cognitive ability favored high reward differentiation and males were less affected by stringent consequences for low performers.


Before practitioners implement FDS, it would be prudent to consider all four elements examined in this study—with the treatment of low performers being the most salient issue. Future accounts of FDS should clarify the nature of these elements when reporting on FDS. Such precision will be useful in generating a knowledge base on FDS.


We add precision to the discussion of FDS by identifying four key elements. This is one of the first studies to examine perceptions of FDS from a ratee perspective.

Received and reviewed by former editor, George Neuman.