BELL curve is nothing but a forced rating

BELL curve is nothing but a forced rating

A patient is asking the doctor about the disease she/he is suffering with, doctor replied there could be plenty of reasons and it is confidential and should not be disclosed to you. Sounds crazy?

Friends, this is not anyone’s imagination, this is just happening in and around your workplace. Yes, just substitute the doctor with a TCS management and substitute the patient with the trashed TCSers. This is just the narration out of the termination process ongoing in TCS since December last year, just a few desks away from you.

It is true that, in the termination process, the HR replied an employee “could be plenty of reasons and it is confidential and should not be disclosed to you” for asking the reasons for termination. How pathetic is this, if the reason cannot be revealed to the employee who would be the right person to know. I am sure the process owners are not educated with ethics, principles and humanity.

My friend’s case:

My friend wanted to resign from TCS a year ago, TCS convinced him for a better growth and better opportunities as he was the key resource then and he also accepted it and withdrew the resignation process. In a year, he is given a pink-slip now. Can it be classified as start-of-the-art cheating? How can a PCCM (People Capability Maturity Model) level 5 company indulge in such an activity? Is it not the right time to revoke PCCM level 5 for TCS?

Do we still want to believe that only non-performers are asked to leave TCS?

TCS spokesperson statement:

“As a performance driven company, workforce optimisation is a continuous process which happens throughout the year taking into account employee performance, business needs, and people aspirations. This leads to some amount of involuntary attrition in the company.”

The above mentioned statement is often repeated in the news media which never refutes the retrenchment of employees but claims it based on the employee performance and business needs.

One could easily understand from the term “business needs” is the recent workforce optimisation is merely to show case more profit in the coming quarter and towards greediness in earning more and more money.

We have to carefully evaluate the terms ‘employee performance’ and ‘involuntary attritions’.

Let us discuss more about performance appraisal process followed in TCS and how it gauges an employee performance.

Appraisal process of TCS:-

To evaluate the performance of the employees, TCS follows two cycles of evaluation for a financial year i.e. H1 and H2 translates to half-yearly 1 and half-yearly 2.

BELL curve (curve fitting) makes this appraisal process more interesting and brings the completion along with plenty of compromises.

End of appraisal process, employees are provided with performance rating A, B, C, D and E.

‘A’ means outstanding performance

‘B’ means More than expected

‘C’ means 100% contribution

‘D’ means Scope for improvement

‘E’ means poor performance

Annual increment in salary is being decided based on this performance rating.

BELL curve is nothing but a forced rating

Pictorial representation of a BELL curve.


The above bell curve explains the distribution of performance rating for employees. It leads to plenty of questions; let me explain a case study.

A team has 5 members, 3 male employees and 2 female employees.  One female employee, a star performer, is going on a maternity leave during appraisal team. Any employee who goes on long leave gets released from the project. In this case, how the project manager would distribute the performance rating. Easiest, happening across TCS, way is to award this female employee the lowest rating because she would not have known about this for a long time and by the time she comes to know about this the whole appraisal process would have completed.

Demerits of BELL curve:

  • There is simply too much room for error
  • The curve has the potential to foster unhealthy
  • Forced ranking is such a limiting concept there is no continuous development
  • This distribution number is always static across years, why so. Why it is not dynamic in this dynamically challenging and changing world


In reality, accommodating the employees in the BELL curve is compromised to the fullest. How it is compromised?

  • Employee who wants to take-up onshore roles for financial constraint
  • Employee who gets promotion in the same appraisal cycle
  • Employee who is looking for transfer to a different branch or location

Easy Targets for lower bands:

Irony, there are few cases being targeted for accommodating the employees in lower bands.

  • One who gets released from the project
  • Employee who always communicate in low decibels, literally who cannot fight
  • Employee who goes on maternity leave/Long leave
  • One who has difference of opinion with the management
  • Employee who are not willing to join late-night parties
  • Employee who is part of a project where man power is enormous.

For example: – There are two projects, one with 20 team members and other one with 4 team members. Targets would be from this 20 team member’s team. Reason is if the low rated employees wants to leave the company or the project, her/his work can be easily shared with other folks.

This list gives impression that compromise is better than target but both are unacceptable.

Few obvious questions to CEO of TCS:

  • In a country like India where we have favoritism towards religion, caste and gender what kind of actions been taken to ensure unbiased appraisal process.
  • There are few companies like Microsoft and Google dismantle this bell curve based appraisal, why Indian IT companies still sticking with this process
  • TCS has a robust (?) PIP process, why PIP is not deployed before the termination of employment.
  • CEO also should go through this performance evaluation process and should be fit into BELL curve. Who are CEO’s competitors?
  • Why 360 degree is not introduced in the appraisal process?
  • If these trashed employees ,according to TCS this termination due to business needs, will they be employed again in TCS once these business needs are met
  • If these trashed employees, according to TCS this termination due to business needs, apply for a job in TCS  after few years, how would TCS treat them?

This current appraisal process is such a limiting concept and the IT management should strive hard to bring out a model to encourage “continuous development” for organizational success.

I personally believe that everyone can be a “top-performer” when the conditions are rightly provided.

I’m an ex-TCSer with 9 years of experience, when I was young in TCS I asked a senior of her  motivation for sticking with TCS for many years. She stated that how could a child leave a mother. This is a true incident, hence, plenty of seniors lived with TCS not because of lack of competitiveness it was since TCS was looked up as a mother.

According to me, the recent situation in TCS can only be seen like this – Operation/Surgery is tremendously successful but the patient is murdered with intention.

(The author, Vasumathi is an ex-TCSer and FITE member, currently working in a major IT Company in Chennai. She can be reached out via