Of boxing world cups and performance appraisals!…

Today was a momentous day in the day of boxing with the ambitiously named “fight of the century” taking place in Las Vegas and occupying central position across media all over the world.

The boxing match saw the two contenders fight 12 rounds and the financial outlay generated around half a billion usd – no doubt, the costliest boxing affair on earth. A gruelling fight befitting a match featuring two of the best boxers in the world today.

Mayweather won (aptly during the month of May!) and amidst the celebrations, something that really caught my attention was the defeated Manny’s post match conference. Manny said he thought he had won the fight! Indeed, he also hinted that had he known he was losing, he would have probably been more aggressive in the last few rounds!

Now just think about this for a minute. These are not words from an ignorant audience member (like me!), but from a champion boxer (who reportedly would take more than 100M USD!). And why couldn’t he gauge if he was winning –  – here’s me putting on my thinking hat:


  • The scores weren’t displayed at the end of every round – the whole audience is left imagining who’s the winner (unless you have a knockout of course) through the 12 rounds
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  • There are rules – but not necessarily exact – 2 judges came up with an identical score and the 3rd judge with another (though they all unanimously declared Mayweather the winner)

Now let’s switch models and think about how typical annual performance systems compare to this scenario. They have mandated percentiles to adhere to too (in the boxing match someone has to win and someone has to lose, in the performance world its often a case of fitting people on a bell-curve to preordained numbers). Regular feedback doesn’t always happen (of course managers are encouraged to share feedback often, but quite a few do the annual thing alone!). And what’s more, the judges in the boxing world are super experienced (though they may still disagree on the scores!) – often times managers are often poles apart in their evaluations of candidates.

No wonder annual appraisals leave many folks unhappy. Of course to address this, the more caring corporates are now doing a lot to make the system more robust (defining goals that are more objective, formally insisting on more frequent reviews, multi-evaluator and supervisor normalization to ensure consistency across large groups, and so on). They do make the system a lot more effective – there’s no doubt about that. Some corporates are moving to different systems (real time feedback, 360-degree feedback and a lot more) – evidence has yet to come in if these are super successful as well.

So I’ll leave you with that thought – and another. The next time, you feel your manager didn’t do a good enough job on your appraisal sheet, just remember – you have the world-no-2 boxing champ for company!