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Seniority vs. Merit

Updated on September 4, 2016

The two arbitration decisions and the website and library readings for this module (located in the Module Five Module Resources folder) offer differing approaches to the application of seniority.

In the back and forth of an organizing effort, proponents of the unionization effort may cite the need for a seniority system as a way to ensure fairness in situations of layoff and promotion. On the other hand, opponents may argue that seniority systems sap individual initiative and that people who work hard should be rewarded for their efforts, not for their length of service.

What is your view? What factors shape your point of view? Include references to this module’s readings in your responses.

I personally feel that seniority and merit should both be considered when deciding on hiring and promotions. Seniority is an employee’s length of service in a position, job grouping, or farm operation; while in contrast merit refers to "worth" or "excellence" of an employee (Billikopf, 2006). When deciding on who to promote management should consider employees in order of seniority, but base their decision off of merit. For instance management should make a list of employees with those with the most seniority at the top of the list and those with the least seniority at the bottom of the list. Next management consider the merit of each employee starting at the top of the list and working their way down until they find a pool of employees who would fit well in the position. Management should then interview all the employees from the pool and make the decision based on which employee would be the best fit for the position. The system should then be explained to all employees because “when workers understand the logic of decisions made, morale is less likely to drop” (Billikopf, 2006).

In the case of layoffs I also feel that both seniority and merit should be considered. Management should create a list of employees with the newest employees at the top and the most senior employees at the bottom; next to each employees name should be a list of their merits and demerits. Management can then choose the employees who are newest to the company and who have the least amount of merit to layoff. This could result in senior employees also being laid off if they are found to not have much merit to the company. Unlike the system for promotion this system should not be explained to employees because layoffs are often temporary and laid off employees are hired back if they become needed (Billikopf, 2006). If the employees were aware that they were chose to be laid off because of their lack of seniority and merit then they might not want come back or they might come back and work with less motivation because they would feel slighted.


Billikopf, G. (2006, August 11). Promotions, Transfers & Layoffs. Retrieved May 12, 2016, from


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