Birthday Paradox and Small Business Conflicts

I think I realized something today concerning workplace culture.

The birthday paradox is a cool mathematical phenomenon. If you take a group of people, the chances that there are two people that share the same birthday is much higher than one would expect. Here’s the Wikipedia article explaining the birthday paradox.

For example, in a group of 23 people, the chances that there are two people that share the same birthday is 50.7%. Pretty crazy? When you hear the problem you start thinking, “1/365” – but this question isn’t asking how many people will share the same birthday as you, it’s asking ANY two people will share the same birthday as each other. In a group of 30 people, the chances rise to 70%.

Now that you know this cool math trick, here’s what I was thinking in regards to work and conflicts.

I think the same paradox can be applied when you take a small business. I think in every workplace there is an incredible high chance that two people won’t get along. In fact, the chances that there is decent cohesion is incredibly small.

Imagine if you will, the nicest person you know. This person gets along with nearly everyone he or she meets. In fact, let’s say that person gets along with 99% of people they meet… Actually let’s be even more specific and say 99.7%.

Let’s say you are an employer and employee 30 people who are this nice. The chances that there will be a conflict is still 70%.

Obviously, people aren’t numbers – but consider people are in the workplace 8 hours a day… “Getting along” and being able to work together is imperative. Sports teams have the same issues with players. In a small group of players there is still a relatively high chance there will be a conflict between two.

So how can companies minimize this risk? Well instead of picking at random, I think recruiters and companies should incorporate chemistry as an atttribute in the job hiring. Instead of employing the person who can do the job, find the person who will be the right fit in your company.

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