Dear Manager,

More challenging economic times clearly validate one very significant aspect of our business. More than at any other time, each member of our team must individually carry his or her own weight. Anything less and the weight of either one person or group of individuals can literally sink the ship!

Outside of yourself, and perhaps inclusive of yourself, can you think of a single individual more important than the organization as a whole and all of its team members? Too often I’ve seen management side step this perspective, allowing their decisions relating to individuals to impair their vision, putting their entire organization in peril.


Challenging economic times demand of us as managers to insist upon staff members whose single focus is being “part of the solution.” We can try to get away with less when the pipeline is full; we most certainly can’t when the well begins to run dry. By accepting less, we’re now part of the problem. Often management is looked upon to have and/or implement “all of the answers” to solve current challenging economic times. Excuse me, but it’s only the heroic efforts of the full team that holds the greatest potential for solving challenging economic scenarios. Each member is personally accountable, each member holds personal investment and ownership. Part of the problem…Part of the solution!

There are two fundamental and at times conflicting factors that provide significant advantages, while simultaneously creating conflict in our ability to manage our staff on a day-to-day basis.


This is certainly a decades-old, if not centuries-old debate. While most of us might think of systems based tenure and merit in terms of education or civil service, these systems apply to business as well.

First of all, I’d like to assume there are significant advantages inherent in tenured employees. Many of these individuals instill a sense of heritage to ones organization. As managers, we can rely on their experience to assist us in leading our organization in its forward direction. They may understand the rhythms of our organization having survived and excelled in both the good times as well as the more challenging. They may also act as a source of stability for those who have not yet matured within the organization. There is no greater virtue than loyalty in its purest form.

Having said this, I’ve noted instances where tenured employees are no more than dead wood and a full-blown anchor to the organization. It can appear on occasion that these individuals have exaggerated their self-importance far beyond any reasonable perspective. They soon take for granted their full responsibilities to the whole of the organization. They may even take personal advantage through the knowledge and susceptibilities of the organization that they’ve been entrusted to protect. They’ve paid their dues, and are coasting toward retirement. Tenure based solely on a foundation of “entitlement” should not be rewarded through sustained employment by any organization.

I recently came across a word that really caught my attention: meritocracy. When compared to the concept of tenure, I believe its meaning becomes fairly clear. All organizational members from the sweeper to the President hold the fundamental responsibility to bring merit to their profession as well as to the company.

There is no greater pleasure for any manager than to have an individual who excels in their position. Is there any better reward than to see such an individual advance within the company? He or she has worked hard, gained knowledge and experience to strengthen the company as a whole, and has been rewarded on merit. Why else would we choose to do what we do, if not to enjoy the satisfaction in this process? These are the paybacks for the substantial responsibilities that we hold, and they can only be fulfilled with a staff that is focused and absolutely committed to bettering themselves and the roles they play on behalf of the organization.

I would suggest that in debating the value of tenure versus merit there are no black and white conclusions. All members of our staff must be a positive influence regardless of event or circumstances, merit or tenure. Failure to address the dynamics of this issue on a case-by-case basis is only delaying the inevitable, while creating needless additional risk to the organization as a whole.

You might ask how this is possible. Certainly a manager wouldn’t intentionally make a bad decision of this significance, but intentions and reality are two very different action points. Managers want to protect and nurture. What they often fail to account for is the “chain of events factor” in their tenure versus merit calculations.

Each situation has the potential to set off a chain of events that will continue to impact the company over time. Managers must use their “gut” and experience to think in terms of second, third, and fourth generation with regards to the ramifications of the decision at hand. In most cases the decision is not the issue (it’s obvious!). The issue is the ability to take action that will continue to move each individual and the organization as a whole productively and enthusiastically into the future.

This ties into the decisions we make as managers in less stressful times. The greatest difference is that we have much greater control of the timing, the players, and have a much larger window of opportunity. If we’re unwilling to put this level of significance into the thought process and the actions we must make on an ongoing basis, it would suggest we are also fully entitled to the outcome.

To finally address the answer to my earlier challenge: No, there are no individuals more important than the whole of the organization. I believe this would and does include all of us as well. We’re here to create a successful environment not only for today, but also for future generations to improve upon. All members should feel risk in the event that they fail to bring benefit and a positive influence to this institution.While this topic is very fundamental, its premise is all too often ignored in a business climate. Using the academic concept of tenure versus merit, apply this to your organization. Your sales and office staff are the educators of your clients and caretakers of your company’s promise for the future. Are you more likely to succeed with a “teacher” who feels entitled to their job and is simply putting in time, or with one whose enthusiasm, creativity and loyalty, regardless of length of employment, merits them their position? Solve the equation.

It reminds me of a television commercial I recently saw for Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers, and it absolutely applies to this discussion: “This is why logic makes sense!”

Personal Regards,


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