Truth is often bitter! When we know it at heart, many of us hesitate to speak it!! Same seems to be true of relevance of mediocrity in companies and societies.
Leaders and preachers alike are often engaged in bashing and banishing mediocrity or mediocre persons to earn ovations from their followers, completely forgetting that the survival their status depends upon them. Fact is a leader comes in limelight only when the audience applauds him/her, though the audience by itself may constitute of mainly mediocre! So, mediocrity merits due respect!!
Let us face the facts – at micro level, for every positive (charge), a negative (charge) is necessarily created. The combination of two becomes neutral and that is why every atom is neutral. At macro level, every good creates its opposite i.e. bad; extremely good would create its mirror image i.e. extremely bad. Either the two would come close to make a deadly combination or conflict to damage each other or they can be kept away by neutral people, who are classically mediocre.
If you lock 2 strong leaders in a room and give them a topic to discuss, they would rarely reach a consensus, even if one happens to be spouse of another! Leaders of leading companies like GE, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Apple, Siemens etc. may claim that their organizations are leadership factories; but reality may be very different! There is a threshold on % of leaders depending upon nature and structure of an organization, beyond which it can only become a laggard! This threshold is not more than 10 % of total employees. So, if an organization has more than 10% leaders, it is likely to be unstable and chaotic; it would witness high turnover of leaders! It also implies that 90% or more employees are average or mediocre with some being above average and some below. It would be interesting to know that more than 55% of employees, whom companies declare as their present or future leaders on an average are not real leaders. They are either blue eyed boys/girls of bosses or it is number filling game to please top management!
If you look at closely, you would discover that through process of evolution, nature continuously strikes balances. Mediocrity or average quality plays a very important role in such balancing to avert major upheavals!
On the face of it, many may not agree; but fact is that modern technologies are churning out more mediocre than before!
Why mediocrity is an essential evil in companies and societies!
- Meritocracy actually survives on mediocrity!
Imagine if we do not have mediocre to compare with, how would merit look like! Merit would lose its sheen. Extraordinary lose its meaning without ordinary!!
- It is expensive and futile to develop big number of people with big merit. They would not survive together!
- Mediocrity encourages competitive spirit.
- It makes changes in organizations an imperative.
- Mediocre people are back bone of an organization. They are loyal to their job and hence horses of long race in company’s history.
- They represent continuity.
- They are less ambitious and hence least controversial.
Their expectations can be managed easily.
- They may not be very smart; but are sincere and hardworking.
- They have much better work life balance and hence, level headed!
- They dampen polarization, if an organization, community or even country has higher number of stronger personalities or high headed people.
So, they do stimulate state of equilibrium, which is indispensable for continuous growth!
So, it is a blunder to write off or give a raw deal to mediocre people.
Managing Mediocrity or mediocre people
Above analysis does not mean that we should glamorize mediocrity; need is to give a good look and guide it towards merit!
- First and foremost is to embrace and empathize with mediocrity.
Remember that the biggest merit of mediocrity is that it does not have its “negative opposite” and hence, always harmless!
This would create acceptance of the fact that it exists, had existed and would always be present, that too in majority!
- Institute a continuous development program, which they can digest easily.
- Set your expectations and guide them how to meet same, if not exceed.
But, never make a mistake to penalize them for under performance. Instead, make them aware where they slipped and help them to salvage.
- Raise the bar of your expectations, once current ones are met.
The best thing an organization can do is to systematically raise performance bar for merit and mediocre alike! This would help mediocrity to inch up to a new normal!!
To conclude, a right balance between mediocre and meritorious people (90 to 10 or less) would bring startling results for organizations or their leaders. Then, raising performance bar systematically for both would add sparkle and pride for mediocre people!