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  • Writer's pictureAnushruti

‘Meritocracy’ in workplace is like ‘Amygdala’ in an emotional brain

Updated: Apr 10, 2022

‘Amygdala’ is a part of the brain that is a specialist for emotional matters. Without amygdala, the brain would be incapable of gauging emotional significance of events and life will be stripped of personal meanings. All our passion depends on amygdala. Without ‘amygdala’, we will lose the urge to compete or cooperate and no longer have any sense of the social order. To me, the role ‘amygdala’ plays in the emotional brain is similar to the role ‘meritocracy’ plays in the workplace.

Meritocracy promotes the idea that people get ahead based on their own accomplishments rather than legacy or other external factors. And the moral intuition behind meritocracy is that it creates a team that is capable and effective and that it gives everybody a fair chance to succeed. But often people say- ‘Meritocracy is a myth’. Is it really a myth?

· It operates on performance reward systems: Employees are judged on effort, skills, abilities, and performance alone. This motivates employees to bring in their best to work- continuously learn, evolve, and contribute significantly. Therefore, without that, employees will lose the urge to compete, cooperate or put forth their best selves- just like a brain entering a state of emotional blindness without amygdala.

· No discrimination based on legacy: A meritocratic system aims at rewarding performance and without any recourse to sex, race, class or nationality. Employees are only differentiated based on their hard work and ideas and are promoted into positions of greater responsibility as a direct result.

· It breeds innovation: Meritocratic cultures encourage the free flow of ideas. It is an environment conducive to innovation. Within a workplace where there is an open exchange of ideas, individual interests can be identified, and those employees can be placed on those activities. The most capable people are then promoted based on their talent.

· It fosters a positive culture: In a meritocracy everyone’s views in the workplace is valued. Everyone is encouraged to express their opinion without any fear of negative consequences. And while decisions cannot be made by consensus, the idea in a meritocratic workplace is that everyone’s views are heard. Involving everyone in the workplace is the key to fostering a positive work culture.

The only potential threat to ‘meritocracy’ is the unconscious biases that may impede a fair system for all. Challenges revolve around whether people are on an equal playing field to begin with, and the possibility of biased attention given by managers to certain individuals in the business. And so, how meritocracy is used as a tool in an organization is based on the managers, and the leadership sets the tone for it. It always relies on managers and leaders acting with true impartiality. But if used well, ‘meritocracy’ is clearly a tool that breeds a culture of success and excellence.

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