Years ago, I saw this sentence at the bottom of an employment ad:
We discriminate solely on the basis of merit.
I've always liked that line. It encapsulates what the employment process should be all about and yet I wonder if any employer can honestly say it. This is in no way meant to excuse the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" old boy (and old girl) selections that you see in many firms, but is merit always the key factor?
Consider this scenario: There are two top candidates for a position. One is a person you know; an employee who is not a brilliant performer but who is far above average, dependable, and well-liked. The other is an outsider who outscores the internal candidate on all objective criteria. The outsider seems nice enough and the references say nice things.
Barring some crisis that may favor selecting new blood, which one do you select?
My guess is that in most cases you'd pick the internal candidate. Is your pick based on merit or is it because:
- You want a known commodity;
- The outsider poses some risk;
- There is little danger of criticism if you select the internal candidate; and/or
- You can cite upward mobility as an added benefit?
Perhaps rather than claiming selections are based on merit, we should state that "The criterion for all selections is the good of the organization."
That may be vague but at least it is far more honest.
Labels: discrimination, personnel selection