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Against Elitist Hiring Myths

Posted on:January 28, 2024

The saying “A players hire A players, B players hire C players” never fails to make me roll my eyes. I see this attitude all over the business world, with people constantly talking about tier 1 companies or elite firms. It’s so arrogant and counterproductive that I feel compelled to write something about it—and I think more people should push back. Don’t get me wrong, I still respect many of the folks who throw these phrases around. It’s just this particular idea I can’t get behind.

First of all, have you ever heard anyone repeating these views who doesn’t consider themselves one of the elite? That should be a red flag right there. It’s odd how those who embrace these beliefs always cast themselves as the A players, assuming they have the authority to judge others. This mindset reflects an obsession with ranking individuals, creating unnecessary divisions, and spinning false narratives.

The criteria for these labels are vague at best, relying more on subjective judgment than objective assessment. People are dynamic, not static labels that can be reduced to a report card. An A player in one context might struggle in another, showing that performance is often situation-dependent. Some people excel in a particular environment and falter in others—it doesn’t mean they lack inherent worth or ability. Instead, it highlights the significant role external factors play in our success.

Ignoring these elements and pigeonholing people into rigid categories is reductionist. This mindset shares divisive undercurrents with identity politics—by identifying an in-group and an out-group, it perpetuates an us-versus-them mentality.

If your company struggles with fostering a collaborative and inclusive work environment, don’t be surprised if you find individuals who think this way. And your diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts probably won’t change this root problem.

Now, I do want to be open about the paradoxical nature of this (I’m creating an “in-group” of those who don’t think this way right now, you could say). So I’m aware of the irony in what I’m saying. These things are complicated in this way, and I don’t want to add to the overgeneralizing. But regardless, I’ll continue to make my point.

Of course, it’s undeniable that some individuals or companies excel in certain ways more than others. Working alongside highly competent colleagues is desirable and beneficial. I’m not trying to deny that some people are better at things than others—of course they are. But making the leap from acknowledging skill disparities to endorsing a rigid hierarchical labeling of workers seems unnecessary and harmful.

The beauty of this ‘A player’ mindset, though, is that it reveals a lot about the people who use it. First off, it’s like a neon sign flashing their arrogance. And second, their narrow view creates a playground for the rest of us who see the bigger picture. Life and work aren’t just about fitting into neat categories; they’re about finding where you can shine and making the most of it.