Egalitarian Folly

I recently read a blog posting from someone holding themselves out as a “contrarian” HR professional (consultant, of course).

Now, I consider myself something of a contrarian myself, as many have used words like that (and sometimes even MORE colorful) to describe my rants, thinkings, and positions on various issues, and I’m OK with that.

This particular blog entry, however, brought a couple of things to light…

1. Can you really call yourself a contrarian? Isn’t that for others to determine? Kind of like calling yourself “easy to get along with.” Yeah, maybe… but who says??

Someone else, that’s who.

2. The specific “contrarian” issue was about performance evaluations and pay. We can argue for hours about the concepts and ideas surrounding this, but the most significant (I’m guessing “contrarian”) comment was:

“I am an advocate of ‘when the team wins, we all win.’ In my opinion when you reward individuals for their individual effort you can unconsciously promote a zero sum game where I win at another employee’s or the company’s expense.”

Huh?? “When the team wins, we all win?” Maybe, but what if that “team” is being carried by just one or two super-performers? And of course employee pay is a zero-sum game; dollars (including payroll dollars) are fungible, not infinite. Dollars spent in one direction are potentially at the expense of another direction. Not everyone can be a star employee, and those who are should be rewarded — those who aren’t, well, shouldn’t.

Let’s not dumb-down performance management — and subsequent pay initiatives — to the lowest denominator. We should manage performance responsibly, and pay appropriately for the results and accountability defined.

This isn’t rocket science. But it’s not “everyone is the same” either.

Rant over…


Kevin Berchelmann


  1. says

    And I believe we will see the “everyone wins” philosophy implode as some of our children, who have been blindly led to believe that there are no losers in sports or other competitions enter the workforce and are forced to realize that if they produce inferior results, they are going to be losers in this game we call “career advancement”.

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