James McGregor discussed the softening of the employer performance appraisal process, in an article Feb. 2 in the Washington Post, “Why performance reviews like Yahoo’s are out of favor”. Yahoo’s system of “stack ranking” has even led to litigation from a fired employee, with a complaint (embedded pdf) published in the New York Times.
I had heard about the practice back in 1980 while working for a Blue Cross consortium in Dallas, A coworker told me about how General Electric fired 10% of its people every year, way back in the 1960s when he had started working in Phoenix.
But GE dropped its notorious plan recently, as explained in this April 2015 story in “Quartz”.
Today, the practice is seen as contradicting the idea of teamwork ("total quality management" or "team handbook") if employees are competing with one another to stay.
But the practice is very old. My own father lost his very first sales job in Chicago for failing to meet quota.
My own experience was narrative appraisals with ranks from 1-5. A "3" (even a "C") was considered OK. Employers could have "performance improvement programs" or "PIP's" that could come with "great expectations" or become "very abbreviated".