Coinbase is testing a real-time employee feedback system. Sounds rough.

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Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is testing a real-time workplace feedback tool called Point Collectorcreated by hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates.

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Letting go of a colleague to say hello? You may be rated as not working. Talking too much in a meeting? You will get a low performance rating. Tired after a sleepless night with a baby? This is a low enthusiasm rating. At any point during your workday, you can rate and receive grades while watching your scores fluctuate up and down.

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According to a report from InformationCoinbase has been using Dot Collector since the first quarter of the year, emulating a less intensive version of Bridgewater’s practice.

Dalio is known for promoting culture “radical transparencyin Bridgewater. The foundation is known to videotape almost everything that happens in the office for reference, and employees walk with ipads to evaluate each other for their commitment to the Dalio Principles, a collection of over 200 rules for business and life.

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With the help of the Dot Collector software and the Zoom plugin, any company (like Coinbase) can invite their employees to evaluate each other’s performance in real time, even when working remotely.

“It’s hard to have an objective, open-minded, and emotion-free conversation about performance when there’s no data to discuss. It’s also hard to track progress,” Dalio wrote in tweet about the product. “That’s one of the reasons I created the dot collector.”

But this data-driven, “emotion-free” management approach ignores the humanity of the people behind the products.

Feedback fatigue

Using Dalio’s Dot Collector app, Coinbase employees rate their peers based on how well they adhere to Coinbase’s cultural principles, which include “positive energy”, “effective execution”, and “clear communication”.

Samir Nurmohamed, an assistant professor of management at the Wharton School, told TechCrunch that there hasn’t been much research done on such feedback systems, but if a system works in one workplace, it doesn’t guarantee it will work effectively in others. . In addition, different jobs and industries have different employee turnover standards. In Bridgewater 30% of employees leave within 18 months from the start date. While Dalio may agree with this, other managers may find it embarrassing.

Bridgewater strives “Diversity Championbut Nurmohamed says that in the workplace, people are more likely to favor people who share similar views, which can affect how they evaluate their colleagues.

“So if people from marginalized backgrounds make comments that are not in line with my values ​​or ideology, I can suddenly punish them when it comes to these rating systems,” he explains. “Then the question arises, how do they look at these ratings? If there is a systematic bias across the board, how would they rate this data?”

Proponents of Dot Collector argue that the system levels the playing field by allowing lower-level employees to honestly give feedback to managers. But this transparency is achieved through constant observation.

“From a managerial point of view, it can be useful, right? We know that sometimes those with more power are more likely to dominate the conversation in meetings rather than listen,” says Nurmukhamed. “But those with less power are already worried about the impression they make. This can create a sense of fear in the organization.”

These systems can also cause a feeling of “feedback fatigue,” where employees become desensitized to criticism and are less likely to benefit from such constant feedback.

“Sometimes people just have a bad day – something went wrong at home last night, or maybe it’s a virtual meeting and their technology wasn’t good,” adds Nurmokhamed. “It can be very tiring for people at work to get this feedback all the time.”

“Cauldron of Fear”

Dalio credits Bridgewater’s unique and divisive corporate culture as the secret to success – his hedge fund is the largest in the world. Coinbase is also known for its corporate culture, which controversially forbids employees political activity.

In June 2020, a group of Coinbase employees hosted go out in response to CEO Brian Armstrong’s refusal to support Black Lives Matter. Then, a few weeks before the 2020 US presidential election, he introduced this apolitical policy and proposed severance pay for those who didn’t want to stay.

At Bridgewater, Dalio’s “radical transparency” is also not always effective in practice. In one high-profile case, an employee filed a complaint against the company, calling it “cauldron of fear and intimidation“. It doesn’t seem too surprising to describe a workplace where employees are given iPads for the express purpose of judging each other.

Based on 2016 data report in the New York Times this employee supposed that he had been sexually harassed by his superior but kept it a secret for fear of not being promoted. He abruptly withdrew the complaint jointly with Bridgewater, but then the National Labor Relations Board filed a separate complaint, alleging that Bridgewater does not allow employees to talk about negative treatment because of the strict non-disclosure agreements they sign when they hire. Bridgewater reached an agreement with the National Labor Relations Board on the complaint, but as with most hedge fund cases, the final agreement secret.

Dalio denied these claims. noting that “if Bridgewater really is as bad as the New York Times describes, then why would anyone want to work here?” (Money, probably.)

“It might seem mean, crazy, or iconic to people who don’t know what it really is.” – Dalio said in Business Insider in 2016. “Some people describe it as an intelligent Navy SEAL. Others describe it as spending time with the Dalai Lama for self-discovery. To me, it’s a great community of people who work their asses off to be great.”

Whether Coinbase will continue to use the Dot Collector is not yet known. For now, companies using this tool must decide whether they hope to emulate Bridgewater — a profitable but intense company — or hone in on a culture where employee happiness is a priority.

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