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article imageOp-Ed: Are you hiring A class or Z class people? It really does matter.

By Paul Wallis     Jan 20, 2021 in Business
Sydney - There’s a very old story that A class people hire B class, C class hire D, etc. The problem with this is that it doesn’t work at all well. By the time you get to Z, you’re hiring sub-idiots.
I've done a lot of work in the employment sector in the States and Europe and I’ve been watching in disgust ever since. The theory and practice of hiring the inferior/ no threat guys has been much in evidence. The result is a slopfest of failure. I’ve seen companies setting themselves up for legal disasters with “clever” hiring and repositioning of employees, bullying, long after the cows came home.
If you check out “hiring” on Google News, you’ll see a lot of myths, interspersed with horror stories and best practice for everything, which seems to be entirely ignored. I’d like to focus on who’s being hired, not the theories.
This theory of hiring lesser beings goes back to C.N. Parkinson, the guy who wrote Parkinson’s Law, which is as current now as ever. Parkinson’s theory was that the top guy hires inferiors, who hire people inferior to them. The application of this theory is that lawsuits are expensive, win or lose.
A lot of Americans sue their employers. Half of the workforce are now prohibited from doing so by “mandatory arbitration agreements”, but the message remains. (Whether these agreements are constitutional seems to be one issue; can you sign away your constitutional rights? Probably not.)
This environment has created the defensive model for employers. The employees are the enemy. It goes well with the hate the customer/hate the shareholders/hate the employees thing. It’s also a result of true mediocrity. Instead of recognizing failures, the idea is to just not be sued, and that can’t always work.
The mediocrity comes from an obsolete, arguably parasitic, culture. “The boss is coming for dinner!” This means the rich freeloader is actually taking food and money out of your mouth, but what the hey?
(The problem with this idyllic image of subservience is that like slave labor wages, it’s totally unrealistic. Low wages prevent money circulating in the economy. They slow growth. They cripple consumer spending. But let’s get on with the fun of hiring idiots.)
Reasons for hiring idiots, explained
Say you’re a no-talent nobody. You face a lot of competition. You want to look good and in charge. You want to impress, however unlikely that may be. You can’t do that with talented people looking smarter and more competent than you. So you hire morons.
This is an expensive option. Idiots are great at losing competent staff. They annoy those people to that degree. They lose skills and the new staff have to be trained in what the lost staff used to do. The productivity inevitably goes down as the productive people leave.
There’s also the fact that the idiot, with no competent people to help, gets into idiotic situations. The damage is done, can’t be undone, and may take months or years to fix. This is what really happens when you hire idiots.
Hiring the A class
A class, or Alphas if you must, are exactly what they seem to be. They don’t have to pretend to be smart. They are smart. They don’t have to look good at their work when they happen to always be good.
The problem is that they don’t adapt well to being anything but A class. They aren’t suited for C class work, for example. They’ll do it, do it well, and then have nothing else to do. They’ll leave because they’re not challenged and getting enough career protein in their diet. They’re not getting the high performance fuel they need, and they can easily start to resent it. You can’t make a skateboard out of a Rolls Royce and expect it to be a Rolls Royce and perform like one.
Alphas argue, too. They do so because they know their stuff. That’s an acquired taste, but it comes with a sweetener – You won’t get the stupidity of the idiots. What they say will be right, at least to the extent they know it is.
They’re much harder to argue with. They can’t be intimidated because they can go out and get a job a lot easier than others, particularly the C class and lower.
They’re not always right, of course. They can’t know the entire picture, although they can take a good guess at most of the big picture issues. Just bear in mind that when arguing they’re at least trying to do their jobs, unlike the morons who’ll go along with anything.
Emotional IQ isn’t a high priority with A class people. Nor is “tact for no reason”. They’ll be civil, they can’t avoid it, but wrong is wrong, according to them. This irritatingly accurate but necessary world view may just also be what stops you from finding cliffs to jump off.
The other problem with all this unprovoked competence is that they can anticipate trouble. The “clever move” from the D class moron in Accounts will look very iffy to them, for any number of reasons. The petty penny-pinching initiative that’s getting staff to look elsewhere will be considered criminally stupid. Losing high-value trained staff is one thing they’ll always see as stupid. If you’d also like an instant lecture on the values of staff, you’ll get it from these guys, whether you like it or not.
If all this seems a bit negative…
The saving graces of the A class employees are:
• They’re experts. They can give good practical advice at the drop of a memo. Their advice will work.
• Their criticisms are founded on facts, not office politics. They usually don’t give a damn about office politics, and despise it. They think office politics is for weaklings, and lets’ face it, most of the time, that’s quite right.
• They’ll tell you what nobody else has the guts, or sense, to tell you. They’re your surefire way of avoiding dangerous levels of ignorance.
• They’re performance drivers by example. The Real Top Guys are exactly who everyone else wants to be. Your younger and smarter employees will learn, and learn well, from them. They’ll even take career advice from these guys and actually listen to it.
• They’re expert problems solvers, too. They like solving problems. These are the guys who WILL solve problems, not just whimper about them.
• When you’re right, they’ll back you up. Again, this isn’t politics; it’s the need to get things right that drives them. They’re better than a third-party audit when it comes to money. They’ll pin down everything that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t stack up and probably save you from that little obligatory trip out the 25th storey window.
So – Are you hiring A class or Z class? It does make a difference, you know.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about employment hiring practices, A class employees, Alpha employees, Management hiring style, hiring competence
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