I am quite intrigued with the 10/80/10 rule when working through group dynamics.  When I say this in an informal setting, I hear…”Oh, you mean the Pareto principle of 80/20?”  The Pareto principle is popularized by the common strategy of 80% of something (sales, problems, solutions, etc) come from 20% of something (customers, employees, ideas, etc.).  No I reply, the 10/80/10 rule speaks to a percentage breakdown of how employee groups typically behave/produce/get along in any organization.

First, you always have the natural favorites of every Leader.  These are the “higher” 10% of your Team who are engaged, loyal, dedicated, and always your top performers.  This is the employee you always come to rely on and trust with the keys to your kingdom.

The other “lower” 10% is the group that keeps you awake at night.  Someone once called them the “malcontents”, or the “negatives”.  They are always below standard, but doing just enough to keep their job, but more than enough to irritate you beyond patience.

The 80% represents that quiet group that comes to work every day on time and you seldom hear complaints or issues. They put in a hard day’s work and, are sometimes the contributors that get the least attention from their Leaders.  They exemplify the opposite of the idiom used to convey the idea that the most noticeable (or loudest) problems are the ones most likely to get attention.  The squeaky wheel always gets the grease, and too many Leaders focus on the noisy 10% that keep us awake, or the noisy 10% we love to hang out with.  Leaders seem to forget about these Lost Sheep which represent 80% of their Teams.

Listen for the seemingly silent noise from the Lost Sheep.SONY DSC

  • Where is your turnover?  Not from the bottom 10%, since they seem to do just enough to save their jobs.  Turnover doesn’t typically come from the higher 10% since they are treated like heroes of your success.  Employees  in the middle 80% who are ignored for both their performance challenges, or for their higher potential seem to quietly disappear, requiring more time and expense of replacement, on-boarding, and transition.
  • Where is your Innovation potential?  Certainly the lower 10% have nothing to offer.  The higher 10% seem to have the same boring “in the box”, always making the boss happy, contributions disguised as innovation.  But the Lost Sheep; 80% of your Teams quietly think through possibilities of efficiency, quality, on-time delivery, and sales opportunities, but are never asked for their ideas, or taken seriously.  Imagine the lost opportunity from ignoring them.
  • Where else do you hear the silent noise form your Lost Sheep, indicating lost opportunities, or lost efficiencies?

Thinking through the top 10 issues facing employers (from employees), where is the noise coming from?  Who is the squeaky wheel for you?

  • Higher salaries and compensation.
  • Benefits programs.
  • Pay increase guidelines.
  • Favoritism.
  • Pay equity.
  • The Human Resource myriad of issues
  • Excessive management.
  • Inadequate communication.
  • Over-work.
  • Workplace conditions and cleanliness.

Perhaps this really is about the Pareto principle being correct.  80% of your time is spent with 20% of your employees. But, is it the correct 20%?

Like the famous bell shaped curve in traditional education models or employee performance assessments, the attention seems to always flow to the failures, or the high achievers.  And what happens then?  The middle of the curve gets flattened, as the ignored Lost Sheep move themselves into either the lower  noisy 10%, or are seldom given a chance to join the higher achieving 10%.  Your Lost Sheep are seeking you out.  This is your chance to capitalize on great opportunities!

Do you Lead a 10/80/10 Team?

What are the dangers of Ignoring 80% of your Team?

What happens to the Lost Sheep in our Teams

How can we engage these lost sheep in our Teams?


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