A treatise on being average

A friend of mine recently suggested I start writing more, so I’m writing this.

It occurred to me that given a set of people, half of them will be above average and half would be below average.
If there were an odd number of people in that set, there would be one lucky soul who was actually the very definition of average.

Now let’s apply this to the workforce.

The way I understand it, an official unemployment rate of 4% is basically zero because it doesn’t take into account the
off the books employees. According to the bureau of labor statistics: http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000
the current unemployment rate is about 7.4%. That means not everybody who wants to be working is working.
This number does not include mothers staying home with their children who are not looking for work. It doesn’t include
retirees, and presumably most those people walking around at the mall during the day that you wonder “doesn’t anybody work anymore?”
about, are part of this group not reflected in the unemployement rate.

But that leaves us with lots of people who are working.

If you smear that group of working people across all the companies in the country, given an even and fair distribution, each company would
have half their employees being above average, half below average, and if there were an odd number of employees, there’d be
one average person.
But people most certainly aren’t smeared evenly. In the business field, bloomberg takes great care to hire more above average
employees than below average employees. For the moment, I’m leaving out the discussion of what traits define the position on the
scale to which somebody is above or below average, right now, I just want to present an idea.
In the tech field, google expends great energies to make sure they get the best, and thus above average people.
There are also all those mothers who are staying home with their kids who might otherwise be working, though they
may not be looking for work right now. They may be above average
or below average. There is probably some statistic somewhere that would point out that above average mothers tend to have
more or less kids, and thus be out of the workforce for longer, and it doesn’t count people who stay home because their spouse
is working and they don’t have to who also may be above or below average. Since we can’t really know, for now, let’s call them a wash.
But for the rest of them, all these things skew the smearing of people across companies from being even and fair.
Unlike bloomberg and google, there probably aren’t too many companies that go out of their way to hire below average people.
There are certainly companies that tend to accumulate them, but unless there’s some type of insurance fraud scam being run
it is unlikely they are sought out. Sorta like ‘the producers’. Even if it is true, the number is probably smaller than the number
of google and bloomberg-like companies.

(A funny little anecdote here. When I worked at one of my former jobs, one day an edict came down from on high that at the end
of some time period (quarter, end of year, whatever) all the managers would have to sort their employees, and the bottom 5% were
going to be laid off. The end result of this edict was a scramble for below average people. The idea was that if you had amassed
a group of really good people, you didn’t want to have them get laid off, so groups with too many good people, had to transfer some
people out of their group in trade for less good people so they’d have somebody at the bottom of the list to lay off. So while
there was in fact a scramble for below average people, the company wasn’t actually going out of their way to hire them.)

So now we are left with all of the millions of companies employing all these people. Since there are companies that go out of
their way to skew the working population so that there are more above average employees at their company, that leaves less
above average employees to be spread over the rest. There is no counter collection of companies trying to hire below average
employees to compensate. So this would mean that at any company that isn’t egregiously scraping away all the good people
most of the employees are below average.

Does this sound like your place of work?

Now keep in mind the “average” could mean “able to walk and talk mostly at the same time” which would mean everybody is
still competent to do most any job, which would explain how all these companies with more below average people than above
manage to stay in business.

Okay okay. So the obvious answer is that different people are above average at different things. So a competent baker might not be
a competent accountant. So he would get a job as a baker not an accountant.
In this way you can end up with companies filled with people who are good at their job without taking away from other companies
by leaving them the people not good at that job. Those people simply get a job doing something their good at.

The counter counter argument however, is that if you take only a cross section of people who are all in the same business for
your sample set, within that group, the above and below average rankings still apply. But at that point the average can
be pretty high so even the worst of the worst can still be really good employees.


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