Sunday, January 22, 2012


If you really had the choice, would you pick cronyism over meritocracy?  Even in today's enlightened society, where productivity and efficiency are very desirable traits in both the public and private sectors, one can still find cronyism.  In my opinion, cronyism is the undesirable side effect of relying too much on who you know, or who knows you.

Many of us have heard that it is not as much what you know that gets you a job, but instead, who you know.  So we network to increase our chances of success when seeking employment.  Living in Richmond, VA, I can attest to this notion.  The Richmond IT community is very small and somewhat incestuous when it comes to employment.  It's hard to find someone new in our IT community that a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree contact has not at least heard of or knows outright.

I have had more success researching and networking opportunities through friends then applying coldly through an online job site.  In fact, online job sites are mainly used for finding the jobs.  Once the job is located, one is better off if they research where the job is and skip the online job site, or least follow-up through networking channels.

As long as a candidate is qualified for a position, checking his or her credentials through mutual contacts is not necessarily a bad move.  LinkedIn and Facebook have become the De facto method of choice for researching contacts.  In fact, my current position was the result of a LinkedIn search, followed by a check on me by a recruiter.  The recruiter looked at my LinkedIn profile and asked folks in her office if they new me.  Luckily, someone that she solicited feedback from not only knew me and my work, but was able to give me a good recommendation.  This all happened unbeknown to me, but I would still consider it networking, albeit anonymous and unsolicited networking.

While personal contacts are valuable, they are certainly no substitute for technical interviews.  However, I have witnessed numerous times where interviews are not even granted for candidates that do not pass the litmus test that anonymous networking has become.

On the flip side, this approach goes horribly wrong when it devolves into cronyism.  Cronyism is when a person exhibits unwarranted partiality towards a friend of theirs and places that friend into a job or other position of authority based solely (or mainly) on that friendship and not on what should be considered:  technical and cultural fitness for the position. 

I recently witness unbridled cronyism.  It was so blatant that it is both sickening and comical at the same time.  In order to protect the innocent (and the guilty) I will not name names here.  Suffice it to say that it was a commercial, C-level executive that passed on an otherwise very qualified individual, in order to satisfy a false sense of loyalty to a peer that was in fact instrumental in the cronyism.  This peer was another executive that was staffing an already ailing IT organization with only folks that he knew.  No one outside his circle of contacts had a chance.  This even went as far as involving HR to interview folks, while the executives knew all along that only candidates from within the so-called "inner circle" were worthy.  At the least this was disrespectful to the candidates that came in for a false interview.  At the most, it was immoral and possibly even illegal.  Plausible deny-ability would most likely prevent the latter from being true.

At the end of the day, the process is broken when cronyism is involved.  We have all witnessed it in the news, and we have frowned on those political figures that got caught in cronyism-related scandals.  Yet, this doesn't stop some folks from exercising their rights to compromise their own integrity and that of their organizations by participating in practices that they know are both morally bankrupt and, at the end of the day, counter intuitive to successful long term execution of human resource management and staffing.

These folks no longer deserve the mantle of authority and leadership that has so falsely been granted them.  If all is right in the world, this poor decision making will, in the end, bring the house of cards that was built so haphazardly, by embracing poor hiring practices, down on their collectively empty skulls.  Moreover, they will find themselves without redress when they have to explain to their management why they ignored qualified candidates to hire poor performing friends.  It may take a while for this to happen, but "nature abhors a vacuum", and equilibrium will be achieved.  One can only hope to be around to see the imbalance between stupidity and intelligence righted.

No comments:

Post a Comment