Who is a ‘minimum guy’? Why does an organisation need him?

The term ‘minimum guy’ has been used quite a few times in the web series - The Family Man 2. It keeps us pondering what does it mean

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The Family Man 2 is streaming on Amazon Prime now. A scene from the series is getting a lot of attention. Srikant Tiwari, an undercover agent, played by Manoj Bajpayee, is toiling hard at his desk-job while his manager breathes down his neck. The manager keeps pushing him to not be a ‘minimum guy’ by doing just the bare minimum. He can be seen berating Tiwari for not doing enough — from coming to office on time to his work in general. The scene got many talking on social media about the very relatable scenario, and soon the ‘minimum guy’ became the hot topic for discussion.

In the real world, there is no dearth of such managers or such ‘Tiwaris’. However, the episode did raise queries regarding the definition of a minimum guy. What qualifies an employee as a minimum guy or a maximum guy for that matter? In terms of evaluation, a minimum guy ‘meets expectations’ and is content with it. The ‘maximum guy’, on the other hand, ‘exceeds expectations’ or is ‘outstanding’. A broad definition, however, is necessary to understand both further. At times, a ‘minimum guy’ may have a negative connotation —of someone who slacks off at work —which isn’t true.

“There are only about five to seven per cent top performers who go out of their way to excel in their current role and even go beyond it. The minimum guys are those who do what they are asked to do. They form the largest population in many organisations. If one takes the normal distribution of a bell curve, 50-60 per cent of an organisation will fall into that.”

Ranjith Menon, SVP-HR, Hinduja Global Solutions

In fact both the minimum guy and maximum guy are equally important for an organisation, but HR practitioners highlight a few things that minimum guys have the capability to askew.

Ranjith Menon, SVP-HR, Hinduja Global Solutions explains that the whole concept of bell curve.

“There are only about five to seven per cent top performers who go out of their way to excel in their current role and even go beyond it. The minimum guys are those who do what they are asked to do. They form the largest population in many organisations. If one takes the normal distribution of a bell curve, 50-60 per cent of an organisation will fall into that,” he points out.

In the context of the scene from The Family Man 2, he says that it shows the classic immaturity of managerial behaviour. What the scene shows is that the manager is not making any attempt to understand what the employee is saying. It’s not about a manager pushing an employee to go beyond. One can turn around anybody’s performance but one needs to understand the semantics the person is operating from.

“Minimum guys beyond a point are a cost drag for a company. The minimum guys do not accept that they are minimum. Everyone is a legend in their minds. That is how conflicts emerge in performance reviews. The minimum guys compare themselves with the maximum guys and feel frustrated. They end up vitiating the climate, thus pushing the morale down.”

Adil Malia, HR leader & CEO, The Firm

He believes the con in this entire dynamics is the proportion of these people. Too much of either would lead to a dysfunctional team. Too many maximum guys will increase competitiveness to another level because nobody would want to be second. While having a healthy mix of both is advisable, the ideal percentage is debatable.

Citing the controversial GE pioneered performance appraisal related bell curve as an example, Menon reveals that it distributed the workforce into the 20-70-10 system in the 1980s, pioneered by Jack Welch, chairman and CEO. This means, the top 20 per cent are the brilliant performers while 70 per cent of the bulk are doing what they are supposed to do. The rest of the 10 per cent are to be exempted. However, Menon believes the bottom 10 per cent need not be terminated. They can be coached, reformed or deployed by understanding where they are lacking.

“I believe both the ‘maximum’ and ‘minimum’ guys exist in everyone. We just need to have the ability to understand this and work towards bringing out the maximum guy for the right reasons, which will bring value to the individual as well as the organisation.”

Ravi Kumar, head – people & culture, SHE, Roche Diabetes Care India

Adil Malia, HR leader & CEO, The Firm, has interesting monikers for each of them. While the minimum is the narrowly defined JD guy, the maximum guy is the stretch guy, the ‘extra-miler’. He points out that one is better off being the maximum guy during the unpredictable times in vulnerable employment life-cycles, or in situations where multiple task expectations are demanded, or in a context where labour costs are becoming prohibitive. He wouldn’t prefer minimum guys although he is certain they can be given counselling, coaching and learning inputs to do better.

Malia reasons, “Minimum guys beyond a point are a cost drag for a company. The minimum guys do not accept that they are minimum. Everyone is a legend in their minds. That is how conflicts emerge in performance reviews. The minimum guys compare themselves with the maximum guys and feel frustrated. They end up vitiating the climate, thus pushing the morale down.”

Ravi Kumar, head – people & culture, SHE, Roche Diabetes Care India, is of the opinion that every individual has something in their heart that brings out the maximum guy avatar. On the other hand, one can also be a minimum guy when just doing the bare minimum suffices for certain situations. “I believe both the ‘maximum’ and ‘minimum’ guys exist in everyone. We just need to have the ability to understand this and work towards bringing out the maximum guy for the right reasons, which will bring value to the individual as well as the organisation.”

Kumar further enumerates, “The trick is to get the max guy out so as to harness his full potential. A good manager will be able to do that. It’s all about connecting the persons’ strength to the organisation’s goal.”

Clearly, minimum guys, along with the top-performers, are essential for a balanced workforce, but too much of anything can give rise to challenges.

1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent article. Of late the minimum performer are not needed in the organization in big numbers. In India it is the attitude, laziness, irresponsibility of people dragging the country down. So also the orgnizations.

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