Thanks Carol, you validated my observation. The performance rating is that of the employee performing to a met level regardless of what others are doing. For example, if the standard is “no substantive errors” and you had no substantive errors, then you met the standard of performance to its highest achievable level, which is “excellent”. This is, in fact, the standard and pretty easy to document.
I invite your attention to 5 CFR 430.208 (B) (a) (1) which states “A rating of record shall be based only on the evaluation of actual job performance…” Paragraph 2 c further clarifies “methods used to make distinctions among employees or groups of employees such as comparing, categorizing, and ranking … may be used for purposes other than assigning a summary level including, but not limited to, award determinations and promotion decisions.”
Your statement suggests employees are in competition with each other. How does any manager reconcile that against the goal of promoting teamwork? I believe the regulation was intended to eliminate internal competition and back-stabbing to promote harmony and teamwork by encouraging performance against your personal best and measuring against an impartial and documentable standard. Ranking and distribution go beyond the impartiality of objective measurement of an individual’s performance and measures against a subjective standard of performance of other employees. Such measurement is either completely undocumented or unavailable to the affected employees (sensitive HR or supervisory records) and are thus in the position of being evaluated against an unachievable standard because nobody knows what it is, and the supervisor can’t reveal it due to the sensitivity of performance relations with other employees.