# The victimization ratio

Interesting, if cynical, post over at next-microsoft. He mentions part of his criteria for chosing a job is how much power he would have to solve problems that impact him.

Basically the idea is this (a now corrected paraphrase of his post):

A= Number of problems you see

B= Number of problems you don’t have the power to solve

B / A= Victimization ratio.So if you work in an environment where you can point out 10 problems, but are only capable/empowered to solve 4 of them (you are powerless for 6), your victimization ratio is 6 / 10 = 60%

I think this should be modified to include **C)** problems you can get someone else to solve for you. If you have a good manager, or even a good team of peers or reports, they may have the power to solve problems that you can’t.

I’d argue that a good manager solves problems for their team all the time that the team doesn’t have the power to solve on their own (e.g. poltical/upper management issues).

Then of course there’s **D** – Problems that initially you don’t have the power to solve, but can obtain if you ask for it, fight for it, or prove you’re worthy of. There’s going to be a trend line for **D** – how easy is it to demonstrate you’re worthy of more, and how fast is it granted to you? I think that’s more important than how much you start with.

I’d invert the value and call it **The empowerment ratio**. And call **D **the **rate of empowerment**.

Isn’t a true ratio though more like A / B?

D’oh – Yeah, I guess your right. But whatever you call it, ratio, number, factor… I think you get the idea regardless of the label. Mr. Next-Microsoft, the guy who came up with it, must have jumbled it up.

Could you derive D by plotting (A+C)/B over time?

(Evil flashback to years of calculus and derivitives long forgotten)

Sure – one thing I just thought of is that all this ratio business makes it seem an external thing. That the ratio is defined somewhere by some manager, and the individual is just victim to it.

Instead I think the way you (or I) behave influences the ratio you experience. So it’s not an abstract thing. Person A might recieve one ratio (or ratio trend) while person B experiences a different one.

Scott – it makes more sense to express this as a ratio, rather than as an absolute quantity (number).

Lets compare two situations

(I)

A = 200

B = 194

(II)

A = 10

B = 4

Both end up with a victimization value of 6 if you go by quantity. But if you go by ratios [(A – B) / A], then you get 0.03 or 3%, and 0.6 or 60% respectively. Huge difference! Especially in terms of perception (if you gloss over the fact that the inability to solve *different* problems results in *different* levels of dissatisfaction/discontent).

On the topic of C – C is essentially a subset of B if you accept the premise that your job does not involve merely solving problems directly (technical skills/aptitude), but also involves people skills, getting people to do things for you. *Especially* if you consider it from the viewpoint of the employee, C and B are pretty much the same – the problem gets sorted out, thats all that matters (glossing over the effort involved in dealing with people here, thats assumed to be part of the job :)).

Elaine –

It doesn’t make sense to add A and C (one is a total # of problems, the other is a # of problems solved under specific circumstances). So I’m guessing you meant (B + C) / A over time. Thats problems solved over total problems, over time. The slope of that graph gives you the rate of change of the individuals problem solving ratio…can sample it at any point in time.

So what I get the feeling you were implying is essentially that D is connected to the change in the value of B + C over time….I’d think you could quietly eliminate C here, and just look at the change in B over time. In other words, D gets assimilated in B – one just needs to look at B2 – B1 to get D at point 2.

Scott – I would believe that if you fight/struggle/push for it, there are absolutely no limits to the extent you could grow within your company. So D is in essence a very personal factor. Not something that the company alone determines. What matters is the effort/friction involved in growing the value of D. A company which is aligned with your directions/purpose/goals would make it easy for you to increase the value of the D-factor by allowing you to push your limits in a harmonious fashion, smooth and irritant-free. Thats something to look for! And that isn’t something that you can metrize.

“Instead I think the way you (or I) behave influences the ratio you experience. So it’s not an abstract thing. Person A might recieve one ratio (or ratio trend) while person B experiences a different one.”

For sure. Which is why individuals calculate the ratios for themselves before making the decision. Ratios are just a (sterile or useful?) tool that people use to allow for a more balanced perception of the scenario about which a decision is to be made.

Scott,

what you write here does not match the linked blog on two accounts:

1) the original gives a ratio, not a difference

2) the original uses the phrase “Number of Problems you are powerless to solve” as the numerator of the fraction, which is opposite to your B, more like your result, but your version lacks the denominator (which would be A)

I would also claim that both C and D are subsets of B (if we keep mixing sets and their cardinalities ;-) ) — if you can get someone to solve a problem or find a way over time you had the power to solve it in the first place. I don’t see why “having power” implies something hands-on.

Just my 2c of course :-)

Bleh / Peter: I cleaned up the post to reflect the mistakes I made that you caught – thanks. I’ll be more careful next time.

(Anyone know what the good blog ettiquitte is for correcting mistakes in a post? I noted it in the post, but wonder if there’s a better, simpler way to note things like this)

One of the things that I’ve found strange in entering the tech world is this utter sense of victimization. I’m not sure quite what causes it, but my intuition says it’s strongly tied to perfectionism (which I assume correlates highly to people who take to programming).

I think the quickest route to empowerment is realizing that not all problems can be solved, but rather devoting time and effort to the ones that most directly affect a given management chain. Sometimes this involves refining your listening skills to see A as problems that are affecting your entire group (or company), rather than just problems that affect you.

Is it really that much worse? I’ve worked mostly in tech so maybe I’m biased. I just know lots of friends who work in various kinds of offices/professions, and just thought anyone who works for someone else feel taken advantage of from time to time.