It's common practice for the senior management in any organisation to appraise their staff periodically over the course of their careers. In fact, it would be odd if they didn't.
What is less common is when that power is placed in the hands of rank-and-file staff, who are asked to score their company and their bosses.
What might seem like an outlandish model to some is the norm at comms VAR Chess, where employees are regularly asked to boldly rate the performance of their employer and sugar-coat nothing.
The model at Chess is pioneered by CEO David Pollock (pictured), who declared it the key to Chess being named the best place in the UK to work by the Sunday Times.
"It is called upside-down management," he explained.
"We're constantly getting analysis back from our people telling us how we can do better, and you have to listen.
"We try to run this place as flat as we realistically can and we're always engaging with our people."
Pollock founded Chess 25 years ago above a coffee shop in Cheshire's affluent Alderley Edge, but the firm is now a very different beast to the one born in 1993. The CEO has steered the VAR through consistent growth and lifted it to a revenue of over £110m. The coffee shop has been swapped for six sites across the UK.
But despite the growth in headcount and revenue over the last quarter of a century, Pollock's belief in upside-down management remains as strong.
Broadly speaking, the model sees the typical managerial pyramid flipped on its head - putting junior staff at the top and senior management at the bottom.
These employees are given a greater say in how the business is run than they might usually be, and are encouraged to make recommendations rather than wait to be told what to do by their bosses.
The theory is that these employees are at the coalface and interacting with customers more than senior executives, and are therefore better placed to advise on client-related issues.
To put this theory into practice, one-to-ones are held at Chess every month, with employees asked to score the company out of five across different areas of the business. This includes rating the performance of their managers.
Pollock said the structure creates a democratic atmosphere within Chess, rather than a dictatorial structure that would see the CEO hand down instructions.
The result of this is that staff feel confident and valued - qualities that are likely to filter into their relationships with customers.
"It's the power of the crowd," Pollock explained. "If you've got 600 people telling you what you're doing wrong or what you can do better, it's easy decision making.
"It's all about listening to your people because they have the best ideas; they're doing the job every day. If you're not listening to them and you're sitting on high, it's a disaster."
Pollock practices what he preaches and is held to the same standards as every other Chess employee. Just before speaking to CRN, the CEO himself had just had his own appraisal with one of Chess' directors and was given advice on how he can improve.
The important thing, Pollock said, is that employees are encouraged to give negative feedback where applicable, and are not scared of the repercussions of doing so.
He explained that staff are more comfortable providing constructive criticism because they know that Chess will not retaliate.
"If somebody scores something ‘poor' they don't get castigated, we go and talk to them and ask what we're doing wrong," he explained.
"Invariably the people who are bold enough to score something you're doing as a one or a two [out of five] are exactly the people you want to talk to, because they care. You shouldn't hide bad reviews, they should almost be celebrated because you know what you need to sort out. You need honesty."
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