Unofficial quotas: Fact or fiction

Unofficial quotas, covering a variety of situations, have been around for years. Both in industry and especially in the government. Often they are quietly imposed — right or wrong — for political reasons. Or to improve the numbers. Or to correct imbalances, to make up for past discrimination, etc.

Sometimes the quiet quotas involve dollars. For example, a long-time fed says the following:

“Our boss was ordered to (give performance ratings) based on a quota system. He will not, for obvious reasons, admit this publicly. Our agency is hurting people’s careers by this practice. Giving high performers low ratings has become the norm lately. We cannot imagine what purpose this will serve. My coworkers are looking to leave our agency (about 25 of us) for a better work environment. But it’s hard to do when you have an undeservingly low rating.

“There is no way to explain a low-rating when applying for a job. Any advice?”


We asked him why the silent quotas. Are they based on discrimination, or reverse discrimination. He said no. So what is it?

“It’s all about the money. With a rating of excellent, management will have to award money. I say let the government keep the money and give us the ratings we earned. This is crazy. Our agency has an unofficial quota policy. It has been said in private but you know no one is going to admit it publicly. We are trying to figure out how can you compete for job openings with low ratings. How can you explain that you are a high-performing employees, but that we have quotas in our agency.”

I know this person. He strikes me as solid. Not a paranoid civil servant. But …

We are not listing the agency because this is an allegation. Even though it comes from what we in the biz say is a usually-reliable-source. We checked with one of the major federal unions. They said it is often a problem, especially when agency budgets have been cut (as this one has). But they didn’t have any specifics.

We checked with a group representing federal managers. They said they had no knowledge of a silent quota on performance ratings.

So is this the end of the story?

You tell us. If it is nonsense, people ought to know that. Morale is bad enough without people being angered over something that isn’t happening. But if it’s true, that is just plain wrong — maybe illegal.

Any thoughts?


By Jack Moore

The invention of the wheel is often depicted as the great technological breakthrough that paved the way for many others. But by the time the first wheel was invented, humans had already invented sailboats and harps, according to Life’s Little Mysteries.


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