Downsides of Meritocracy

I’m afraid that in my last post I may have come across as advocating for a system of true meritocracy.  That isn’t what I want.  Meritocracies are fair, certainly, but they lack an important human element.

Consider the following, two candidates apply for the same programming job.  Candidate A is a better programmer, but Candidate B is a better fit for the office.  They aren’t that far apart talent wise.  In a meritocracy, Candidate A is hired.  The overall productivity of the office drops because Candidate A is a backstabbing dirtbag who assumes everyone else is incompetent and useless.

In real life, the interviewer would be able to tell (probably intuitively) that Candidate B will get along better.  B contributes less in code, but the sense of camaraderie means that all the other programmers are able to perform at peak efficiency.  The office as a whole does better.

It’s true that sometimes Candidate A will be picked because he is the boss’s nephew or something, but that isn’t really the kind of place Candidate B wants to work anyway.

Real meritocracies get around the problem of filling workplaces with Candidate A by discipline and training.  Strict rules keep workers from interacting with each other in an unprofessional manner.  Freedoms are sometimes curtailed.

I’m willing to live with a bit of nepotism to avoid that.

Posted in Philosophy.

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