When I first managed people, just as I’d taken over a troubled retail sales department and had to do performance evaluations, I got a great piece of advice from my then mentor:

> If all your reviews are a 5 you are doing it wrong. You may have reasons to rationalize such scores, but you do no one – especially yourself – any favors by doing so.

We, my new team, turned the department around quickly. I ignored my mentor’s advice and went ahead with my “All 5” reviews (the best possible) and … they were rejected. I had to do them all over again, this time with supervision.

My mentor rightly chastised me for ignoring his guidance and then gave me the next nugget:

> If your team is all 5s, they’re all 2s.

Meaning if your baseline is so high and everyone gets the highest level, normalize the baseline. And it’s probably still too high.

> If people don’t have a challenge to overcome they will tend toward complacency.

I was lucky to have smart leaders. They saw my naïveté as an advantage. My short sighted management style was converted into a galvanizing experience for the team. Meanwhile, I reassessed.

Fast forward to today. We rank all kinds of things: Amazon purchases and podcasts and Lyft drivers and restaurants and beers and so on. How many of us default to 5 stars or equivalents? What about vapid or useless “me, too” comments? And how about the essay review? My approach is evolving, but in short:

> Am I adding value and what value am I adding?

If I experience something enjoyable but otherwise unremarkable, am I doing anyone any favors by assigning a 5? Better to make 2.5 the baseline.

What about the skew toward high scoring? Am I not making it worse for some things?

I try to add content to the review. A 3 beer, for example, is better than the average mass produced brew. If I give a beer such a score I will add the context to the score. Maybe it’s dry or fruity or hoppy or has some other attribute placing it above the norm.

Until this becomes normal I do not rely on straight up scored reviews for anything substantial. Again with beer or food I will trend toward the high scores with high review counts.

I suggest all embrace circumspection in scoring of things, services & people.

Let me know if you can identify the post’s title reference.

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