Purpose - The purpose of this research is to examine the use that critical philosophical concepts can have within management studies. Design/methodology/approach - The paper introduces the notion "performativity" from the American philosopher Judith Butler and shows its fertility for organisation theory. It applies the notion to a case of the introduction of a job evaluation system within the Dutch police. Findings - Although the notion of "performativity" has a broad range, its effects for gender are especially significant. The paper identifies what meanings are reproduced in the job evaluation system; examining what are the consequences of the system for women and how does it influence the gender division. Job evaluation, it is concluded, creates an organisational reality, which produces. Practical implications - Using philosophical reflection processes of meaning making in practice are revealed and clarified. Gender bias in job evaluation is made visible. Originality/value - Engagement with Judith Butler's work in critical management studies reveals how philosophical "moves" lead to concrete insights. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.