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Mediocrity is not a skill ! Or is it ?

This may sound really stupid at first. But then look around you and you’ll find this happening almost everywhere.

It was in early 2009 when worldwide economies nose-dived, and despite efforts and measures by governments worldwide, have been snorkeling ever since, generally below the line.  The more visible repercussions of this phenomenon can be seen in the job market worldwide. While the job market in the West is at an all time low and shall continue to stay low, the situation is similar or even worse elsewhere. Asia on the other hand, tends to paint a brighter picture, with its hugely populated nations and the ‘demand drives supply and supply means business’ explanation. But we couldn’t be farther away from the truth.

Recession is here to stay and the sooner we get this into our heads, the better. Yes, there is most certainly more demand for everything in countries such as ours and China, but it most certainly does not mean business anymore. 2012 would mark my 10th year in the education industry and its sad to note that people no longer have the same zeal to study and progress as they had 5 years ago. Weren’t we taught to ‘study, study and more study’, right from the moment we popped out into this world ? Then why are people shying away from it ? As I see it, it’s a viral phenomenon. Per capita expenditure continues to decline due to stagnant salaries, fall in income and surmounting debts. Less expenditure means, less investment on education as well. More than money, people have lost the morale and motivation to progress. Positivity drives progress. Yes it does ! The lack of it means otherwise.

All of this is sadly giving rise to a subculture which, for the lack of better explanation, can only be described as the final nail in the coffin. It has been hammered into our heads that ‘Mediocrity’ means that you have less opportunities in life. If you are not an ace in something, you would be shunned by society, almost as an outcast. You wouldn’t get a job and that meant that your chances of settling down in life in a family would be near zero as well. This was because the general and logical convention was that businesses wanted only the best workers, not only because they brought value, efficiency and progress, but they drove these values into the very fabric of the enterprise. So by whatever means, everyone aspired to be the best and things were fine and dandy. Of course no one expected Mr.Recession to knock on our doors one day.

As business volumes go down, a lot of companies, especially SMEs have started hiring a rather different kind of talent, one which does not shy from the fact that they’re not aptly skilled. And what’s stranger is that these individuals are proud of their ‘mediocrity’ !. Their low CTC means that companies can hire them easily without burning a hole in their balance sheets. Mediocrity, especially amongst Indians, also tends to bring forth a unique aspect of personality – Ego. The worse you are at your work, the more you try and cover it up with your ego. Unfortunately many companies are so engrossed in their balance sheets, that they’re not looking at the bigger plot here. It is true that these low cost egomaniacs can deliver low cost goods much much faster than the quality conscious but really expensive aces, but it also means that you’ve introduced a virus in your system. One that will slowly eat away the culture and ethos that you’ve built up over the years. Your balance sheet may go up but it will not keep going that way.

Poor work culture, zero motivation and politically charged work environments where mal-intent and inflated egos are rife, are often the outcomes of hiring mediocre talent. It directly translates into a slow and persistent lack of focus. And focus on providing quality services to the consumer is the ONLY way that any business will ever survive, recession or not!

I’ve seen so many companies who’re letting go of skilled talent in favor of mediocre talent that its alarming. Sooner or later these companies will realize the fact, however by then it would be too late. If companies hire mediocre talent, it creates a perception that mediocrity is good enough, which means ‘practical aspirations to excel’ do not matter anymore. And this gradually kills everything!

My advice to companies would be to continue to put their faith in human values and service quality. In the current economy, it may not produce immediate financial results, but expect resounding success, long life and loyal patronage. Always favor quality over quantity. It has been, is and will be the only way that any business survives. Create a positive work environment first. Motivation and respect for employees can do far more than an annual appraisal. Positive workers will deliver what it needs to turn your dying business around.

My advice to students and employees is to stop worrying about the recession and debts and focus on your work and your own skill. You have to be an ace and there is no shortcut to being one. Be patient and persist. If your co-worker earns more by being a mediocre and flashing his ego around, he’s not supposed to be a role model for you because this seemingly winning streak will not last forever. Victory in life is not all about money, its about the little things that make you up as a good human being. Yes, it is tough to stay positive in these times, but try being one and you’ll see changes for good.

Mediocrity is NOT a skill !

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