PepsiCo's sick version of "Big Brother" - or how to get your fellow worker kicked out of the house!

15.11.11 blog

In Sao Paulo, Brazil PepsiCo has introduced a perverse practice effectively running its workforce like a sick parody of the flagging TV show "Big Brother".

The curiously named "360-degrees-assessment system" sees workers being told to award "performance" points to fellow workers. Each year each worker gets to score their fellow workers between 1 and 4, where 4  would be the best markand 1 the worst. The implications for those who receive low marks are presumably potentially serious, eventually risking them being sent out of the "big house" though I'm sure not after some bullying from supervisors and others to "up their score".

I have seen many curious performance-related systems introduced in companies by company people or consultants who have never done a real job in their lives but this one ranks amongst the most absurd and sickest I've come across.

The company jokingly dresses this up as something that promotes diversity and an "inclusive spirit". Seems to me its purpose is far clearer and much more insidious. Aside from obviously building competiveness between individual workers it is clearly there to put substantial pressure on workers who have difficulties or are less popular. It also directly weakens any sense of unity workers might develop that could enhance their wish to join together in a union. Knowing PepsiCo's attitude towards this particular established human right they no doubt relish that aspect as much as any other. Making it still worse they apparently plan to use the points system to determine salary raises, thus moving wages a further step away from any collective bargaining process.

From a hostile anti-worker, anti-union perspective this scheme therefore hits all the right spots and PepsiCo corporate people must love it. Maybe the idea came to one of them as they watched Big Bother contestants stabbing each other in the back and enjoyed seeing the weaker ones breaking down. I guess that's how they want to see this impact on their workforce, or rather on their "people" whom I am sure that somewhere their CSR policies hypocritically describe as their "most important asset".

The similarities to the often obscene bullying and aggressive atmosphere deliberately generated in the "Big Brother" format would be comical in the extreme if it were not so serious. As our members in Brazil say the "all against all" psychosis driven by this is destructive, socially irresponsible and has already led to at least one attempted suicide by workers who presumably scored low and feared being forced "out of the big house".

PepsiCo, a widely anti-union and anti-worker company must be wild about it. Maybe they would love it less if workers got to "judge" their bosses freely. A lot of supevisors and higher management might find themselves with low scores with plenty of workers asking "hey, any way can we give her/him less than 1?". Would they then be prepared to voluntarily "leave the house". Somehow I think not.

However we'll never know because that innovative piece of management nonsense is not going to be one PepsiCo introduces - even though many workers would certainly applaud its inclusiveness!