Seniority vs merit -A perennial debate

“People shouldn’t get promoted for doing their jobs really well ,they should get promoted by demonstrating their potential to do more”.( Tj Frank) Promotion refers to the advancement of an employee’s rank or position in a hierarchical structure. it is an important aspect of job and serves as a motivator so far as human nature is concerned ,besides it has also positive implications for anyo rganisation be it private or govt as it affords an opportunity to an organization to harness the potential of experience. Generally ,there is an established criteria for promotion in any organisation/ administration, promotion is made either on the basis of seniority or merit or both ,yet seniority vs merit as a promotion criteria has always been a debate .recently vice admiral Vimal Verma who on the basis of seniority should be made chief of naval staff however Karamvir Singh was made naval staff chief ,this indicates that in some places merit is preferred over seniority and vice versa. seniority refers to the length of service put in by an employee in the working organization while merit means qualification which an employee possess. Both as a criteria for promotion has positives and nigatives .Advantages of promotion on the basis of seniority include following points : first, seniority is an objective basis for promotion and each employee is sure of getting promotion. Secondly, it limits the scope of favouritism, nepotism etc. Thirdly it develops the sense of loyalty among employees and morale of employees will be higher. Moreover it encourages employes to work hard and efficiently. if seniority is accepted as a basis for promotion higher authorities/ administration cannot abuse the privilege of selecting the best man..on the other side it bears certain disadvantages that cannot be overlooked which include :it makes employees lethargic in performing their duties since they are sure about promotion therefore is a bad sign for organisational efficiency ,secondly talented and average employees are treated alike when promoted on the basis of seniority ,therefore closing the doors for the efficiency of employees.
Thirdly new employees will be left with no motivating factor for improving their performance this sometimes becomes a cause for turnover as well. Now moving to merit, advantages of promotion on the basis of merit, since efficiency and talents are rewarded it encourages the employees to increase their knowledge and maintain high level of productivity. Besides it helps in putting the most productive and competent person for specialized jobs and it results in overall improvement in organization, furthermore it encourages employees to improve their performance as promotion is made on the basis competence,capablity and efficiency. Why meritocracy should be adopted? Answer to this question lies in the fact that merit based promotions supports reward system, According to the study entitled “dopaminergic reward system” brain has a reward system consisting of group of neural structures responsible for incentive salience like motivation, desire and craving for reward when exposed to one brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine that affects emotions and more importantly the sensations of pleasure and pain ,when we get a dose of dopamine we feel more happier and motivated.
Moreover a study published in 2013 found that there is a direct positive relationship between reward and recognition, job satisfaction and employee motivation. It is also cost effective as high achievers are hard working and ambitious they seek to be valued and grow their professional spheres, considering meritocracy in promotional system will guarantee that they receive the acknowledgement they deserve for their efforts. Furthermore it also affects organisations culture positively. merit as a criteria has also it’s grey areas merit may result in partiality , nepotism , favouritism by management/ administration, moreover merit require proper method of performance appraisal and merit rating however normally formulation of correct method of performance appraisal may not be done. It is therefore clear that each criterion has its own merits and demerits .the best method of promotion should be balanced and combination of both, merit should be given primary importance but together with merit due weightage should be given to seniority of employees also. Seniority should be considered only where the merit of competing employees is substantially equal, however when qualifications are different only efficient one should be promoted. Essential need to be considered for sound promotion policy should include, proper merit rating methods should be followed to evaluate the performance of employees, and various jobs within the org should be well defined and rated. There should be orderly arrangement of jobs according to its ratings so that order of promotion can be made well known to all, promotion should be made on the combined basis of merit and seniority, proper tanning methods should be formulated with a view to prepare employees for promotion, every job in organisation should be analyzed to determine the basic requirements to such job as to ability , experience ,education and skills. Last but not the least change is key shifts taking place at different fronts such as technological, social, economic should be taken into cognizance while framing promotion policies to ensure balance and to promote effectiveness and efficiency in promotions.

(The author is counselor at institute of mental health and neurosciences. Views are his own,

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