‘Zero drag hiring’: A common practice, but not a good one

Highly motivated employees with zero personal responsibilities are sought after by most employers as they can put in extra hours, travel frequently and are comfortable relocating, but do they really perform better?

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‘Zero drag hiring’ is a discriminatory way of hiring people without any responsibilities, that is, unmarried and childless people with no family obligations. Whenever required, such employees can be given extra assignments, can be contacted in case of emergencies, can be asked to report at short notice and can even be asked to relocate anytime, anywhere.

‘Zero drag’ is a physics term implying frictionless movement of a physical object. That is why it is apt to describe employees who have no familial obligations, and is surprisingly a very popular term amongst the Silicon Valley employers in California.

Zero drag employees are typically young, single and childless, bereft of responsibilities towards aging parents and capable of putting in long hours at work whenever the company demands. They will put the needs of the company before anything else. In turn, the company provides them with services to occupy their leisure hours. This way, zero drag employees end up perceiving the company as their primary community.

Abhijit Bhaduri

“Diversity gives different perspectives to an organisation and discrimination on the basis of gender, cast or marital status of a candidate will have higher implications on the organisation in the form of losing out on potential talent”

The term, ‘zero drag’ was first mentioned in a 1999 New York Times article, where it had become a new economy slang for the ‘no spouse, no kids’ way of life.
Over time, the term has been gradually morphed into one that identifies employees who, regardless of financial incentives, easily give up one job for another. Finally, it has come to mean employees who have no attachments or obligations.

According to Abhijit Bhaduri, former chief learning officer, Wipro & founder, Abhijit Bhaduri & Associates, it is a very common practice in India where it totally depends on the mind sets of the hiring managers who are the decision makers at that point.

“Diversity gives different perspectives to an organisation and discrimination on the basis of gender, cast or marital status of a candidate will have higher implications on the organisation in the form of losing out on potential talent,” says Bhaduri.

Sudheesh Venkatesh

“Organisations come down very heavily on managers who are found practising such kind of discriminatory hiring. This can impact an organisation in the long term, and can lead to a monoculture”

It might be logical on the part of the organisations or the hiring managers to evaluate the spouses and kids as a drag coefficient for candidates. But a study by the Centre for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina, United States shows that being a committed parent can improve a manager’s performance, and parenting adds a lot of skills in an individual — compromising, conflict resolution, negotiating and multi-tasking — which help at work as well.

The study covering 346 managers found that the performance of parents, spouses and committed partners was rated higher by their bosses and peers as compared to other people working in the organisation.

Sudheesh Venkatesh, chief people officer, Azim Premji Foundation, mentions, “Organisations come down very heavily on managers who are found practising such kind of discriminatory hiring. This can impact an organisation in the long term, and can lead to a monoculture.”

Amit Das

“Such a discriminatory practice will send a very wrong message to the people and youngsters. It will encourage people to harbour a negative attitude towards getting married”

Amit Das, director HR & CHRO, Bennet Coleman & Co. Ltd (Times Group) adds, “Such a discriminatory practice will send a very wrong message to the people and youngsters. It will encourage people to harbour a negative attitude towards getting married.”

The competitive atmosphere in the corporate world will seek such people who can completely devote themselves to work. It is, therefore, common logic for organisations to have a heavy demand for such people in the sales function, because it involves a lot of travelling, uncomfortable working hours and tough locations.

Zero drag hiring can have several implications in terms of diversity and finding the right talent. Hope HR and hiring managers consider ‘zero drag’ as just another corporate term and not adopt it as a practice.

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