PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY2012, 65, 79–119
ERNEST O’BOYLE JR.Department of ManagementCollege of Business and EconomicsLongwood UniversityHERMAN AGUINISDepartment of Management and EntrepreneurshipKelley School of BusinessIndiana University
We revisit a long-held assumption in human resource management,organizational behavior, and industrial and organizational psychologythat individual performance follows a Gaussian (normal) distribution.We conducted 5 studies involving 198 samples including 633,263 re-searchers, entertainers, politicians, and amateur and professional ath-letes. Results are remarkably consistent across industries, types of jobs,types of performance measures, and time frames and indicate that in-dividual performance is not normally distributed—instead, it followsa Paretian (power law) distribution. Assuming normality of individualperformance can lead to misspeciﬁed theories and misleading practices.Thus, our results have implications for all theories and applications thatdirectly or indirectly address the performance of individual workers in-cluding performance measurement and management, utility analysis inpreemployment testing and training and development, personnel selec-tion, leadership, and the prediction of performance, among others.
Research and practice in organizational behavior and human resourcemanagement (OBHRM), industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology,and other ﬁelds including strategic management and entrepreneurship ul-timately build upon, directly or indirectly, the output of the individualworker. In fact, a central goal of OBHRM is to understand and predictthe performance of individual workers. There is a long-held assumptionin OBHRM that individual performance clusters around a mean and thenfansoutintosymmetricaltails.Thatis,individualperformanceisassumedto follow a normal distribution (Hull, 1928; Schmidt & Hunter, 1983;
A previous version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meetings of the Academyof Management, San Antonio, Texas, August 2011. We thank Wayne L. Winston for hisinsightful comments regarding data analysis issues.Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Herman Aguinis, De-partmentofManagementandEntrepreneurship,KelleySchoolofBusiness,IndianaUniver-sity,1309E.10thStreet,Suite630D,Bloomington,IN47405-1701;firstname.lastname@example.org.
2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.