Analysis: Still Thinking About Meritocracy?

A great rundown about the flaws of using meritocracy while hiring. Meritocracy is an oft-sited method by some to “counter” diversity…. “if we base everything on the exact same metrics, then we should bypass bias and therefore fill our coffers with the most qualified people.” The difficulty is that you aren’t measuring apples to apples in the first place.

Original Article: Meritocracy is a Chimera

Our friends at Aleria give a great rundown about the flaws of using meritocracy while hiring. Meritocracy is an oft-sited method by some to “counter” diversity…. “if we base everything on the exact same metrics, then we should bypass bias and therefore fill our coffers with the most qualified people.” The difficulty is that you aren’t measuring apples to apples in the first place……

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Our friends at Aleria give a great rundown about the flaws of using meritocracy while hiring. Meritocracy is an oft-sited method by some to “counter” diversity…. “if we base everything on the exact same metrics, then we should bypass bias and therefore fill our coffers with the most qualified people.” The difficulty is that you aren’t measuring apples to apples in the first place.

Kate Brodock

Our friends at Aleria lay this out perfectly in this piece, “…arguing that a company is run as a meritocracy, typically involves one or more characteristics: laziness, naïveté and dishonesty.”

The biggest problem, in my book, with meritocracy is that it completely ignores the hurdles (or lack of hurdles) that someone has had to get them to the seat in front of you to even be assessed on merit. In our last newsletter, we highlighted the plight of Asian Americans applicants to Harvard, and how the numbers under question seem to suggest that they were summarily rejected at a higher rate than their non-Asian counterparts.

Keeping with this anecdote and using very simple math, this means that you could have two resumes in front of you – a white male who went to one of the best private high schools in the country and moved on to Harvard and an Asian-American who went to the same high school, but was only admitted to a “lesser” school. Based on meritocracy (in this case, education), you could deem the former more qualified than the latter. But, of course, the latter may have been subject to a discriminatory application process, and therefore was not admitted to Harvard, which is how you arrived at your decision in the first place.

Again, this is a very simple example, but it demonstrates how exactly naive a meritocratic process really is, and how it may be simply perpetuating existing biases.

PS Can you tell we aren’t exactly fans of meritocracy?

Matthew Yazzie

No company or person has the formula for human success figured out. Our entire system for evaluating success and performance is subjective. Meritocracy does not exist. Until individuals and companies start the conversation at that level, we won’t even begin to untangle and understand the cultural factors that may actually be better indicators of success within an organization.

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