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The Nordic Dilemma - Should Top Talent Get Special Treatment, or Does That Go Against Equality Values?


In the corporate corridors of Nordic countries, a complex debate is simmering below the surface. Imagine running a company where the top 10% of your talent pool is responsible for over 50% of innovation and drives more than 30% of the total team impact. The instinctive managerial response might be to reward these star performers with higher compensation. However, in cultures deeply rooted in the values of equality and fairness, such an approach is easier said than done. Welcome to what we call the "Nordic Dilemma."

The Case for Special Treatment

Retention of Top Talent

First, let's consider why top talent might deserve special treatment. Rewarding high performers financially often leads to better retention rates. Companies invest substantial resources in grooming talent, and losing a high-impact employee can be both financially and strategically debilitating.

Motivating Peak Performance

Moreover, a performance-based reward system essentially serves as a mirror reflecting the value contribution of each employee. Those who bring the most value to the table feel acknowledged and incentivized to maintain, or even exceed, their current performance levels.

The Case Against Special Treatment

Risk of Demotivation

However, every coin has two sides. A compensation system that overtly rewards top performers can have a ripple effect of demotivation among other employees. Even if they're not in the top 10%, the remaining 90% still contributes significantly to the company's success and should not feel undervalued.

Perceived Inequality

There's also the question of perceived inequality. Within an organization, a sense of community and teamwork often fosters the most productive work environment. Compensatory inequality could potentially harm this balance by creating divisions between employees.

Cultural Conflict

Finally, there's the matter of cultural conflict. Nordic societies place a high value on fairness and egalitarian principles. A system that rewards top talent disproportionately could be at odds with these societal norms, creating a discord between corporate practice and cultural values.


The Nordic Dilemma presents a conundrum with no easy answers. The debate between rewarding top talent and maintaining a culture of equality is a nuanced one, requiring a carefully balanced approach. We can conclude that there is no one-size-fits-all solution; the right path likely lies somewhere in the middle, blending business imperatives and cultural sensitivities.

Share your perspective

We want to hear your take on this complex issue. Please vote in our LinkedIn poll on whether top performers should get higher compensation in Nordic work cultures. Your insights are invaluable in navigating this dilemma.

Please share your opinion here