There is a “great divide” between managers in the business world when it comes to the topic of promotions or reductions. Each side has taken a firm stand on their opinion as to which of these two measurements is the best way to decide who to promote or lay-off when the situation arises.
Many people will argue that with “Seniority” and “Experience” comes productivity and efficiency, which is due to the knowledge a person has gained through years of service. And they also say that basing promotions and reductions on Seniority also combats favoritism in the workplace, and provides for a more harmonious work environment. In the short article “The Effects of Merit-Based Promotion Vs. Seniority” by Chris Joseph, he articulates that point clearly:
A seniority-based promotion structure can eliminate the perception of favoritism. Employers typically won’t have to worry about a newer worker coming in and quickly leapfrogging them to obtain a promotion simply because they are friends with an upper-level supervisor or because of the way they dress or that they are more effective at playing the game of corporate politics. Instead, workers have a sense that if they pay their dues, they will be rewarded at some point in the future.
Promotion based on seniority can also help maintain a more harmonious workplace. Workers who know they need to put in the necessary time with the company before advancement opportunities present themselves are less likely to resent those who attained promotion because they worked for the organization longer. This can eliminate the backstabbing often associated with merit-based programs where employees may attempt to present themselves in the most favorable manner possible, sometimes by attempting to make coworkers look incompetent.
Those are some good points…. now lets look at the other side
First, take a look at this YouTube video of the Superintendent of the LA School System talking about budget cuts and laying off teachers:
The other side boasts that productivity and merit is the best measurement to use when deciding to promote or reduce the workforce, and that a company culture based upon seniority is at greater risk for problems and inefficiency. Edward Marshall of the Triangle Business Journal has a good point in his article (which was based on his book) “Balancing seniority with performance“:
Many times, the employees with seniority are not the most productive. In fact, in some companies, those with tenure may be those who are heard saying “Can’t be done; tried it ten years ago and it didn’t work.” They may also be the ones who are not considered to be “pulling their weight”, or because of their friendships with each other, get the best holidays, best shifts, and easiest assignments. This breeds resentment and conflict.
Chris Joseph (sourced above) writes this in regards to merit-based programs:
Workers possess varying levels of skills and abilities, and a merit-based program rewards those who may have the most to offer the organization in the long run. While tenured employees offer the benefit of greater experience, this does not necessarily equate with more ability. A less experienced worker possessing a greater flair for innovation or creativity may be more likely to generate ideas that help the company move forward in the future.
I’ve seen some of these seniority issues in person…where the longer the employee works for the specific company, the more they think they’ve “paid their dues” and therefore shouldn’t have to pull as much weight as those who haven’t. This perception issue on the part of the older employee (for failing to see that they are still obligated to do their job each day to the best of their ability) could not only cause the resentment and conflict stated above, but can also influence those younger employees to act the same way as they gain more years under their belt.
But I’ve also seen merit-based programs fail as well…where reports are skewed to favor other employees who have “connections” to management, and the people who are truly pulling the weight and making profitable decisions/actions are overlooked.
So Which Way is Right?
Well… in my opinion, I don’t think either camp is 100% correct. I believe it is a mix of both; that Seniority AND Merit should both be combined in the following ways:
- Seniority (as well as the experience gained) should be rewarded, and a seniority-based program should be utilized when calculating certain benefits (pay, vacation time, 401k contributions, etc).
- Merit should be utilized to reward employees (regardless of seniority) who produce the best results; improve the operations, profitability, and/or efficiency of the company; improves culture within the company. These bonuses should be in the form of monetary bonuses, gift-type bonuses, and other earned rewards.
- Promotions and Reductions should occur by seniority AND merit. Employees should be continuously and equally tested (utilizing the same information, etc), and the person with the most experience -AND- the most knowledge and ability (which honestly should be the more experienced (senior) employee) should receive the promotion. However, when the knowledge and abilities of a less-senior employee exceed the knowledge and abilities of those with seniority, the less-senior employee should receive the promotion. This guarantees that the most knowledgeable and able person with the highest seniority should receive the promotion. On the same note, reductions should start with the people who do not make a contribution to the company in seniority order. And those with less seniority but more knowledge and ability (when properly and equally tested) should be kept over a person with greater seniority but less knowledge and ability.
What do you think? Do you have a different opinion and/or reasoning for or against one of the “camps” above? Leave a comment below with your thoughts, stance, suggestions, or improvements to this makeshift policy.