It's probably best to start with the definitions before the details.
Main Entry: mer·i·toc·ra·cy
1 : a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement
2 : leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria
For those who are new to hearing the term "Meritocracy" I can testify in saying that when you work for an employer, many times this is the crutch
they use to explain why people are in the positions that they are. They then proceed to account for all your time and work explaining why it is
inadequate for advancement, then explain an 'action plan' necessary for you to achieve more.
Our system of work and education is set up with the promotion of "if you work hard and do the right things, you'll really go places!" Let us
examine this statement and the reasons why this isn't the case in a side-by-side comparison:
A.) If you've never lived life as a Janitor, Fast Food worker, Construction worker, Miner, or Factory worker (or similar jobs), I would recommend
spending one day side-by-side with them. More often than not, you'll physically see just how feverishly hard they work either with speed, strength
or both. Why is this? Because they know this is the only job they have, that it's rough finding a new one, and their supervisors demand it on a
daily basis by threat either subtlely or overtly.
B.) If you've ever sat next to a Director of a bank and see what it is they do, We can see a lack of things such as speed and strength. It's a
different job. It has stresses, surely, but comparatively speaking when we pull up the old adage "if you work hard and do the right things, you'll
really go places!" we realize just how disjointed this statement truly is.
Is A not working hard? Is B working harder than A? Is A achieving less than B? Is B more intelligent? Is A less 'talented'? How are you basing
The 'truth' of the whole matter dates back to a modern variation of what Plato had set up merged with a capitalistic view of 'how things ought to
be'. The revelation comes when examining jobs and their payscale:
Office Manager: $31,000
Manufacturing Supervisor: $47,000
Human Resource Manager: $63,000
Plant Manager: $85,000
Managing Consultant: $104,000
The above are all managers. Are we saying all Management Consultants achieve more than Office Managers? Are we also saying a Human Resources Manager
deserves twice the annual salary because they are more talented or have a greater intelligence?
Other interesting demographic:
Back to Plato then. In my readings, it seemed for his ideal republic, those of the greatest power would be those who are the most learned of men (or
women in our more equalized society). Here's where his idea comes into the picture:
Average salary earned by a Bachelor's degree graduate (all fields included): $56,000
Average salary earned by a Master's degree graduate (all fields included): $60,000
Average salary earned by a Master's of Business Administration graduate: $76,000
Aha! A fraction of the pie is now revealed. Educational degree has a play in annual salary. Increasing order, just as Plato has discussed how long
one spends in education versus what role in society they hold. In our country (and many capitalist ones) money is power. Please do not
misunderstand, I'm not advocating any different form of government, merely examining pseudo-principles that need to be discarded so that we can 'get
real' with what's really going on here.
Education is not merely staying in school and going to college, it's just not that simple. I wish it were. To get the educations listed above, one
must do one or more of a number of things: 1.) Have parents pay for it 2.) Get scholarships (essentially being top in your graduating class to have
1/2 or 3/4 of it paid for) 3.) Apply for government and bank loans to go to be placed into a great deal of debt for a number of years. Hmm....
interesting. Although I can attest to the 3rd to be a worthwhile investment, it's isn't the easiest route to get things done and must be willing to
accept this life-long responsibility of re-paying.
Your annual salary, however, is not all there is in determining your position in your job and/or how you're treated. There's a myriad of others
that complicate the issue. These can include: who you know, your race/gender, sociological affinity/compatibility. Although these wedges may not be
as great as the carte blanc "here's you're education, therefore here's your salary" mode of thinking, it would be a great injustice to reality to
pretend they do not exist. Since my statement probably powder-kegged the discussion, I'll try to sum up more precisely what I mean.
Who you know: As a parent, I can say that I want the best for my child when s/he grows up. It is a family and friends kind of thinking to do all in
our ability to put them into a comfortable position. Whatever advantage or edge we can use to get someone into it, we will use. Is that right? I
don't know for certain. It's a battle between wanting to help and straight principle of being awarded for efforts.
Race/gender: It is an unfortunate reality that there are laws in place that require companies to fulfill certain demographics or quotas in regards to
race and gender. EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Act was a great idea to ensure people of all races and genders were included, but turned into a
mere 'meet the quota' game. Companies have to account for how many males versus females they have in various positions, how many minorities are in
each level, and ensuring the company is racially meeting the template of the community they're physically located. What came from a good idea turned
into a severe imbalace of hiring 'the right person for the job' it seems.
Social affinity and compatibility: Going back to the old 'teacher's pet' idea, it's not difficult to witness those who butter the toast of their
supervisor are those who are most trusted and mobile in the workforce. One cannot merely walk into a workplace and begin to show a little corporate
schmoozing to get ahead though. This supervisor goes through a process of selecting who they like and the reasons why. If the reasons are justified,
then perhaps we have what many describe as a 'fair boss'. If it isn't justified however (or even perceived as justified) then of course there's
favoritism. But, is favoritism bad? I suppose it depends on the qualities the supervisor is looking for in their 'favorite pick'. In one
interview, I'd gotten a 'heads up' before walking into a director's office. When I sat down and said hello, I asked, "Do you already have your
pick for the job?" The candid supervisor answered, "We do have someone in mind". After that we had an excellent relaxed conversation knowing full
well I wouldn't be seriously considered. Although many may point fingers and say how wrong that director was, I appreciated the straight-forward,
honest answer instead of an hour discussion of "things I need to achieve" in order to "earn" the position.
I've talked about a lot here and hope this presentation isn't misunderstood/misconstrued. I'm a person who bought into the idea of "meritocracy"
but to say that is the truth of daily life is simply not the case. It would be nice to have the right person for the right job, our salary based upon
merit, and equal opportunity for all, but that's not the way it works.
What's the cure?
1.) Work as hard as you can to have a clean conscious at the end of the day (not to chase after an invisible carrot your company is trying to wave in
front of you). Know that personal satisfaction means more.
2.) Try all you can get the greatest degree possible. A degree gives salary justification without those other biased funky wedges of advancement.
3.) Do all you can to simply be happy with the job that you do. We spend a good portion of the day at work. It'll make time go by faster and life
4.) Try to get with a good working group of people. People can make all the difference. A relaxed, easy-going, and fun work environment reduces a
great amount of stress a corporate driven society can yield.
5.) Look for upgrades and apply, apply, apply. Be sure you have something better before leaving one job for another. Don't get discouraged for
being turned down, don't take it personal. If the company needs people, they'll figure out the details on your training/education. If they don't
like you after an interview, you probably don't want to work for them anyway.
Always interested in meaningful feedback, questions and opinions, so the floor is open to the forum. What do you think?
[edit on 10-7-2008 by saint4God]