Batuhan: The last great dictatorship

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By Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

Friday, January 17, 2014

THE world of business and management must be one of the last bastions of dictatorship in the world.

Whoa! Dictatorship? Really? Pretty strong word to describe what, at first glance, may be a legitimate exercise of power and influence, eh?

But management dictatorship is, as the sage Yoda would put it. And no matter what managers themselves may think, they are exercising power far and beyond what is normally allowed in other human institutions.


Consider, for example, how corporations hire their people.

Well, for a start, the rules are as fuzzy as they come. Some like tall people, some like short people. Others take only the intelligent, some go for the really dumb.

Well, now that I think about it, most like to hire the really dumb, for various reasons known only to them.

While it is true that job ads now are not supposed to post obvert discriminatory qualifications based on age, sex, gender, ethnicity, etc., in the final analysis, when a company chooses one candidate over another, there really is no telling that one was not chosen based on any of the factors that are considered to be, well, discriminatory.

To put it bluntly, organizations hire the people they want. And the people already in an organization hire even more of their kind to come in. Birds of the same feathers flock together, mirroring and matching. That’s why companies often have a “personality” associated with it. Some companies are considered arrogant, others are looked at as being nerdy, etc., all because the people who work for them are of that kind.

And it is deep within organizations where dictatorships of the highest order operate.

Sometimes couched in the guise of meritocracy, some so-called “enlightened” companies have a performance appraisal system that supposedly rewards excellence, and weeds out people who do not perform – all of course according to an organization’s criteria.

Some even have a practice of enforcing regular turnover, as for example those who say that the bottom 10 percent of their employees must leave the organization every year.

The issue, of course, is how these so-called performance appraisals are done.

Ostensibly, there are tangible goals which are set. Corporate types refer to them as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound) goals. However, the basis on which they are set can often be anything but. Dumber still is how performances among individuals are compared.

Any right-thinking five-year-old would know that comparing a cat to a dog is a pretty unreasonable proposition, correct? So when you ask your kid to choose between a pet dog or a pet cat—one to keep, and one to give away—you would probably be greeted with a howl of protest.

Not so business organizations.

Some have a system of comparing people from pretty dissimilar backgrounds and responsibilities, ranking them in order of best to worst, and then getting rid of some of the “worst.”

Think about this, for a second. Say you have three housekeepers, a gardener and a driver in your house. Would you really rank them every year, look at the lowest performer, and let he or she go? It would be a pretty insane idea wouldn’t it?

But it happens, and with a fair degree of regularity at that. (More next week.)

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 18, 2014.


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