DO MERITOCRACY POLICIES WORK?
Sloan School of Management at MIT researchers found in The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations study that using a policy of meritocracy might do the opposite of expected results and result in management bias and disparate treatment for women and minorities.
Conventional wisdom suggests that if people perform better than others, they should be rewarded better. Instead, when study participants in what they believed was a meritocracy based company evaluated employees, they gave men an average of $50 more in bonuses than women in a study experiment. Further, women participants were as likely as men to discriminate against women according to the research reported in Human Resources Executive magazine (9/2/11). There was no evidence of bias when meritocracy was not mentioned. The study was co-authored by Emilio J. Castilla, an MIT/Sloan associate professor and Stephen Benard, an assistant professor at Indiana University. Castilla says the unequal treatment that he found in meritocracies could extend to minorities as well.
Despite the results of his survey, Castilla says that businesses should continue meritocracy -- after all, when it's implemented correctly, it's effective. "Although our findings identify the potential side effects of certain meritocratic conditions," he says, "businesses shouldn't abandon efforts to promote workplace fairness and equality [based on merit]."
How can managers avoid being too subjective in their evaluation decisions? Will using hard numbers solve the problem? Will hard numbers present the complete picture of factors that need to be evaluated? In addition to training for managers, giving a voice to employees being evaluated should help to bridge the gap and lead to better results. Please share your thoughts.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com