The 80/15/5 Rule

By Jim Whitt

You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 rule of business — 20% of your customers account for 80% of your revenue. So, you pay close attention to the 20%.

I discovered a variation of this rule years ago that applied to organizational development that I call the 80/15/5 rule of people. It goes like this. 80% of people who work in an organization have a pretty positive attitude and show up at work every day to work hard and do a good job. 15% tend to be lukewarm. They have good days and bad days. 5% are so negative they poison everyone they come in contact with their attitude.

The problem is that the 5% are recruiting for their group all the time. They actively prey upon the 15% which are most easily influenced. If unchecked, the 80% suffers from this growing cancer.

The solution in an organization is simple. Leaders should never tolerate the 5%. They should be sent packing. This results in the morale of the entire organization being increased dramatically. The 80% are elated that the cancer has been removed. The 15% start having more good days than bad with the negative influence minimized. The culture experiences a positive shift. The bottom line improves because performance improves.

Unfortunately the 5% are like weed seed. They lie dormant and manage to crop up periodically. Leaders need to watch vigilantly with hoe in hand. Because once the 5% get rooted it doesn’t take long before they overtake the garden.

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