What percentage of workers at your company aren’t worth having even at $0/year?

A friend is a mid-level manager at one of the FAANG companies that enforces religious orthodoxy here in the U.S., e.g., by deplatforming those who fail to respect the rainbow flag. She expressed dismay that her division was being trimmed by 20 percent in order to shore up profits. I asked “What percentage of the people you work with aren’t worth having around even at a $0 salary because they’re either unproductive, annoying, or both?” She thought for a few moments and then answered “About 20 percent.”

So maybe the slim-down in the tech industry won’t change much.

Readers: What percentage of folks would you get rid of at your company even if these people were available at no cost to the company?


13 thoughts on “What percentage of workers at your company aren’t worth having even at $0/year?

  1. At FAANG currently and have been impressed with the caliber of people. It’s probably less than 20%. At previous roles I’ve seen higher than 80%.

    At the FAANG company ineffectiveness seems more due to over engineering and the constraints of working at a company with onerous internal security and tech.

    Previous companies some combination of incompetence coupled with lack of will to do anything. Also Ennui in the workforce, “how did I end up with these clowns?”

  2. The Pareto distribution says that 80% of the outcomes are the result of 20% of the causes, which would seem to suggest that most people on this planet are pretty useless, not just in tech.

    • Back in the days when Computer Associates was chomping its way through the mainframe business like Godzilla in Tokyo, Charles Wang’s business model seemed elegant in its simplicity. Upon completing an acquisition, a memo would go out to the acquired managers; 1) Rank order your people by productivity 2) Cut the bottom 20%.

      What’s quite so bracing as a whiff of the proverbial grapeshot?

  3. FAANG is outdated.

    Netflix inserted themselves in there as a marketing strategy. Their revenues and relevance are tiny compared to Apple etc.

    I believe the correct term is MAAA. Not as catchy, is it?

  4. So, what you’re saying is that even private companies in a free market economy don’t behave according to free market economy rules?

    But to answer your question … 0 of about 50. Would the company be better performing by replacing some due to laziness or incompetence? Sure. If it were easy finding better people. Which it certainly isn’t. Because there are limits to how much you can educate and train a society.
    At the end of the day, a good boss/manager will need to work with people to deliver as best they personally can, however low/poor that may be in the big picture compared to the best. A bad one thinks getting rid of 20% solves problems.

    • > So, what you’re saying is that even private companies in a free market economy don’t behave according to free market economy rules?

      I worked as a software engineer at a FAANG for ten years. It was in no way similar to a free market:

      * The company has a monopoly in one product. It hides that monopoly by funding small teams to compete in areas that are unlikely to be profitable any time soon. This allows them to argue that they are in a bigger market. They are not a monopoly in the larger market, lowering regulatory risk.

      * The company talks a good game about open standards. They build things that implement those standards. They pay employees to sit on standards committees. For some reason, standards in the W3C and IETF that would harm their main revenue stream don’t get implemented correctly in their software. In this way, they can keep other companies from building things that would cost them money.

      * The company buys labor in something entirely unlike a free market. Indian nationals have desks with calendars that mark the exact number of days in the last year the desk was used: The employee must not be in the US more than N days a year. SJWs stage events where silverware is thrown away to protest whatever the outrage is this week. The company buys machines that use giant magnets to remove the silverware from the garbage heap, rather than fire these people: They are members of protected classes (mostly woman).

      The sad part is that what I said describes at least two FAANGs, probably four of them…

  5. IT consulting. 25% of business analysts are useless, but harmless. Another 25% are harmful, in that all their sloppy/incomplete/inaccurate work products get redone by others. Competent BAs seem mostly to have STEM or business degrees, not so much the others (eg: English lit, former math teacher, etc).

  6. The number of producers is the square root of the number of employees generally. So if you have ten people, 3 or 4 are carrying the operation. At 25 it’s 5 . At 100 it’s 10. Usually glad that at least 20% are incompetent and can’t succeed because they are constantly doing things that would be harmful if they were successful. So there is that about lack of productivity. Sometimes it’s a good thing.
    I’ve owned a business since the ’90’s. I do not have a good solution for this. We have had better numbers than this, but it’s been tremendous effort. In my previous places of employment, this has been an unfortunate reality.

  7. @Philip, you got the headline of this blog posting wrong. May I correct it for you? How about:

    “What percentage of government workers at your Town, City, State and Federal level aren’t worth having even at $0/year?”

    I think that would be a much more interesting discussion to have.

  8. There’s just the 1 animal who writes blog comments all day, so 5%. Everyone else works their asses off. The problem is whether the startup is worth having at $0/year. Lions don’t exactly get into top tier companies.

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