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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Mailvox: Sigma vs Alpha

 A reader wonders what the likely outcome is:

It’s clear that Putin is a legit Alpha....and dealing with Biden (not sure what to categorize him as, regardless of previous state/current state), Biden is getting devastated. Generally speaking, what happens when a Sigma and and Alpha go at each other? 

I do realize that part of being a Sigma is knowing when to respect the hierarchy and current status, but there are lines that a Sigma refuses to concede....I am seeing it now at my present employer, and I am curious how it will shake out, were I a betting man; Too many individual variables to post here, just a “finger in the air” how these types of altercations end up being resolved. 

Were I to be honest, I am a Venn diagram of Alpha/Beta (I look around any group and look to see if competent leadership is present or active before I start to engage, but really enjoy being a lieutenant), and I am not looking to change allegiances, but my personal scenario has the makings of tremendous collateral damage; The Sigma involved is a longtime employee, brilliant software engineer, fit, tall and handsome, and generally left to tackle big projects in a silo, with trust from the leadership he will deliver.

In the event of all-out conflict, the Sigma will vanish. This usually counts as victory from the Alpha perspective, because he retains his control over the hierarchy. However, the victory can be pyrrhic in nature if the Sigma is a valuable team member.

The wise Alpha will find a way to let the Sigma do his thing separately, but within the larger context of the team. Think skunk works, or the way IBM set up its Boca Raton group to develop the PC without the interference of the larger organization.

Since the reader is a Bravo, not an Alpha, he should probably try to find a way to back down and stay out of the Sigma's way, or he may find that the Sigma's talents are more important to the organization than his loyalty and leadership.

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64 Comments:

Blogger rumpole5 April 15, 2021 2:03 PM  

I don't know if I am a sigma, but I ended up my career doing an area of prosecution (defending capital case convictions against post conviction collateral attacks) that no one else in the office did, or wanted to do, and I believe that I became quite good at it. Sometimes it indeed works out better to find to find a square hole for that square peg.

Blogger Delaware Blue Hen April 15, 2021 2:07 PM  

A quick study of the sigmas in the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars show that the sigmas will lose in an all conflict with the alphas. Examples of sigmas who came to grief in the British Navy--Thomas Cochrane and Sidney Smith.

Blogger ErictheRed April 15, 2021 2:17 PM  

I am aware of the line of thought that if you say you are a Sigma, you are probably not a Sigma. In all likelihood, you are probably a Gamma. With all that said, after familiarizing myself with the SSH, I think I can best be described as a Sigma. I am tall, handsome, muscular, and intelligent, but I am relatively introverted. I have virtually no desire to be the leader of the pack. It is just not worth the effort, although I have had to take on leadership roles on occasions. They are usually temporary, and then I revert back to doing my own thing.

So, I think VoxDay is generally right that the Sigma will probably vanish if there is an all out war with the Alpha. This does not necessarily mean defeat for the Sigma. It just means they do not feel that the relationship is worth their time anymore. I have had a few clashes with Alphas, and I generally view the clashes as petty and stupid. The Alpha probably feels threatened, but I as a Sigma am not really a threat because I do not want the power and clout that the Alpha has. There is too much responsibility that comes with it. A Sigma is not going to fight the Alpha for dominance because a Sigma does not really want to be dominant. There are so many other places that will value a Sigma's contributions, so they will just go to that other place.

Blogger Doktor Jeep April 15, 2021 2:23 PM  

As a disciplinary measure, the subordinate can be sent to the basement to work with the omegas.

The risk though is the sigma might raise an army given time enough.

Blogger RC April 15, 2021 2:37 PM  

I concur. In my experience, a tech-savvy Sigma is a rare bird. I've got a sample size of 250+ and one man was a likely Sigma. We set him up to operate solo and it worked out well for everyone.

Sadly, I had a dual-Alpha scenario that blew up with all kinds of collateral damage. I was finally forced to fire one of them and then made a massive error, letting him resign instead. My mistake enabled him to cherry pick my key tech talent for years after his restrictions expired.

Blogger Stg58/Animal Mother April 15, 2021 2:46 PM  

Good question, what is Biden.

Blogger Karen took the Kids April 15, 2021 2:56 PM  

Biden is a dementia addled paedophile. Not sure if that's covered in SSH.

Blogger LiveForever April 15, 2021 3:08 PM  

It begs the question... who’s the most alpha leader of a nation today? Putin? Duterte? Bolsonaro? Orban?

My estimation would probably be Putin or Xi.

Blogger Kraemer April 15, 2021 3:11 PM  

@6 Correction: what was Biden

Blogger stevo April 15, 2021 3:12 PM  

What the hell is Biden?

Blogger Nate April 15, 2021 3:12 PM  

Biden is rich mediocrity who achieved fame and power by selling his soul to satan. On his own he would have been an unreliable bravo fir his whole life. With family money and mob ties he has done more.

Blogger Beardy Bear April 15, 2021 3:14 PM  

Biden strikes me as a bravo.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 April 15, 2021 3:14 PM  

Stg58/Animal Mother wrote:Good question, what is Biden.

Biden's a Gamma. He always has been.

Many politicians are Gammas. Just assume that's what they are because that career draws in people who need to feel appreciation from other people with the least effort applied.

Blogger OneWingedShark April 15, 2021 3:18 PM  

ErictheRed wrote:I have had a few clashes with Alphas, and I generally view the clashes as petty and stupid. The Alpha probably feels threatened, but I as a Sigma am not really a threat because I do not want the power and clout that the Alpha has.
These few sentences show the reality of most Sigma/Alpha clashes, mostly miscommunication.*
The original reader has an opportunity here to make peace and mediate between the two, especially if he is a trusted-Bravo of the Alpha, and certainly has the motivation to do so. It's not guaranteed to work, but getting the Alpha to see "look, it's not about power on point X, it's about ideal/issue on Y… you're great with leading people, but part of that is being open when they bring issues up to you" and to the Sigma "look, it's not that Y isn't important, it's that as you've presented it, it comes off as about X… come on and I'll help you present Y in terms that aren't stomping all over X."


* - There are some times where the Sigma just absolutely does not agree with the Alpha's vision, or sees him leading into disaster… but this doesn't sound like what's being described.

Blogger Dan in Georgia April 15, 2021 3:22 PM  

Doktor Jeep wrote:As a disciplinary measure, the subordinate can be sent to the basement to work with the omegas.



The risk though is the sigma might raise an army given time enough.


"Men of the Subterranean Realm, all ye need do is shower 3x a week and together we can build the army that can make sure we never run out of HotPockets again!!

ARE YOU WITH ME MEN?!!

Blogger Greg from the Piedmont April 15, 2021 3:24 PM  

What happens to an organization when circumstances put a Sigma in the role of the Alpha?

Blogger Darayvus April 15, 2021 3:27 PM  

Omega here with Delta aspirations.
Someone who doesn't know if he's Alpha or Beta, is Beta, or Bravo as is called here. Could easily turn Gamma if he feels he hasn't been given enough respect. Although the correspondent seems self-aware enough to avoid that trap.
As a Bravo, correspondent should go to his Alpha superior for advice and potential backup. I trust correspondent to be honest and fair in how he lays out the situation, and not to be vindictive as a Gamma would be.

Blogger Daniel April 15, 2021 3:31 PM  

Nate is right. Bidens first wife was a Playboy playmate, according to him, but he mooned over her like a teenager even after she died and he was dating.

He opposed Roe v Wade when it came out because it was anticatholic,but never led a charge. Constantly wanting the limelight and leisure but never the leadership.

A lifelong Bravo without an Alpha, which is why he was such a ridiculous VP to the Lambda, and also why his own unelected VP is a lusty ape...Bravos playing Alpha have no stake in having a serious second.

He is a cluster bravo, aka douche.

Blogger Daniel April 15, 2021 3:33 PM  

Sigma is just a rare bird, period. Sigmas, for example, only rarely post comments on someone else's blog.

Blogger Ranger April 15, 2021 3:40 PM  

Yeah, my guess is that Biden is a Bravo. I suppose many vice-presidents are, but Biden outdid them; even AS (putative) President, he's happy to play second fiddle!

Blogger Emmanuel April 15, 2021 3:52 PM  

As more and more women enter the work place, would you please bless your readership with an extended version of the SSH for feminine rankings and ladders ?

Blogger xevious2030 April 15, 2021 3:59 PM  

Cool. Joe, that creeps out the women? That lies, right and left? That got super low real votes in a top party? The restrained wedgies in the debates, by the Alpha, were priceless.

Blogger Warunicorn April 15, 2021 4:11 PM  

Biden always makes bad decisions. He's simply not fit to lead, even when he was lucid.

Of course, that made him a perfect candidate for politics.

Blogger weka April 15, 2021 4:13 PM  

None of the above right now: he's in his dotage.

Gamma when younger.

Blogger White Knight Leo #0368 April 15, 2021 4:13 PM  

I suppose the only thing that fills me with hope right now is the knowledge that things wouldn't be this chaotic if the incumbent Powers That Be were actually in control.

Blogger basementhomebrewer April 15, 2021 4:37 PM  

You can't analyze Putin vs Biden on a SSH scale. Biden is a non-entity, this is Putin against a committee that appears to have shifting leadership due to inner conflict. He is trouncing the Biden admin because there is no clear leader in the Biden admin.

Blogger IamDevo April 15, 2021 4:49 PM  

Vlad Putin, Alpha. Thomas Cochran, Sigma. Joe Biden, Smegma.

Blogger Patrick McNally April 15, 2021 4:49 PM  

Biden always struck me as a Delta. He seems like the sort who, before his brain went into disfunction, would have been competent at carrying out narrowly prescribed tasks which someone else has set down. This is a classic model for the old-fashioned politician. Don't try to play Alpha when you're elected to office but just be the good Delta for the ones who set the agenda.

Blogger Zorlig April 15, 2021 5:36 PM  

If a sigma were to fight in an all out conflict then they were incorrectly designated as a sigma. Probably just a gamma if I'm understanding it correctly. Or if they win and keep it, the alpha.

Blogger Rick April 15, 2021 5:41 PM  

Biden is a ticket-taking omega.
No chicks liked him, except that sweet sweet moola. Olfactory expert.

Blogger Dont Worry About Me April 15, 2021 5:45 PM  

I'd say it depends if the Sigma stays out of everyone's way or not. The unwise Sigma is someone who forgets that the team functions best when they just do their thing, stay good at it, and stay mostly quiet.

I had someone who would appear to be a Sigma to someone who didn't know them, but had very toxic Gamma attitudes, gave me a bunch of unsolicited advice, and had anger issues. I drove him out by hiring more people in his position and he raged until he demanded a transfer, all because he didn't know to just shut up and work.

Had he done that he'd have had a plum position.

I'm an introvert myself, and I know that if I try to join the wolfpack, I'm probably going to be a Gamma. So I don't. I lead by quietly working like three people, and demonstrating I only need a bare minimum of help, hoping to inspire Deltas, Bravos, and other Sigmas to join the A Team. It scares off the Gammas, who know I don't care what their opinions are and don't have time to listen to them.

I'm not a natural Alpha, but I understand loyalty and rewarding good work and team building. I am also merciless to the Turd, probably more so than an Alpha would be. I hate Gammas so much as soon as I smell one, it's almost like I'm doing God's work to drive them out.

Gammas are extroverts, so they can have small talk with Alphas, at least. An unwise Alpha will confuse a Gamma lying his ass off for a Bravo and get stabbed in the back. I smell them a mile away and hunt them down out of service to everyone.

Some of my bosses think I have "people skills issues" but are confused as to why everyone who doesn't suck that I work with gets over it after working with me for a while and is loyal to me.

I guess that makes me a Sigma. But I'm in management, win the game for dominance even though I'd rather just work and get paid really well.

But I have a wife and son that depend on me, so I have to do what I have to for them.

Blogger Daniel April 15, 2021 5:50 PM  

I enjoy being a second line too.
If the leader needs someone capable to do anything and trust it will get it done, that's me.
Yet I own my small company now and I hate the leading part

Blogger Philipski April 15, 2021 5:56 PM  

I say this as a wannabe Sigma myself: by what notion that people could have is President DependsTM, exposed as a little-girl toucher by that CSpan video in 2015, even registering on such a scale

Blogger Silent Draco April 15, 2021 6:53 PM  

Nate: +1. Don't forget he was probably line item 108 for DuPont and the other big corps, who run Delaware as a mutual subsidiary.



It takes too much energy to be the Alpha. I'd rather help a while, then go work away from the bright lights.

The collaboration between Alphas and Sigma, with Sigma assisting Alpha on a 'separate mission' basis, can devastate their competitors. No one except the Alpha knows a Sigma is working in the shadows on an agreed deadline. Alpha's reward is quiet praise, and more time away or another independent command.

Blogger Balkan Yankee April 15, 2021 7:25 PM  

@4: An Army of Omegas?

That could work. If there were enough red staplers to go around.

Blogger Doktor Jeep April 15, 2021 7:44 PM  

""Men of the Subterranean Realm, all ye need do is shower 3x a week and together we can build the army that can make sure we never run out of HotPockets again!!

ARE YOU WITH ME MEN?!!"


Do we have to use soap?

Blogger Emmanuel April 15, 2021 8:17 PM  

Biden is bravo as mentionned by our respected host in a post about who won the demon-rat primary and why.

As for Putin, I have absolutely no clue where he ranks on the SSH (whether alpha, delta or gamma). At the time we are observing him, Putin's just too intelligent, driven and succesfull to be anywhere below "situational alpha". My bet would be on "exceptionally gifted delta", but even gamma is possible due to his ability to vouch his intelligence and strength as a alternative for charisma.

Blogger Akulkis April 15, 2021 8:37 PM  

If Putin is a Gamma, then why do so many Russians, both men and women adore him?

Compare and contrast the personal loyalty vwgich Russians have to for Putin, with the number of Americans who get a warm vibe from Biden, and with the number of Americans who adore and follow Trump, despite their queasy feelings about his personal life.

Blogger RedJack April 15, 2021 9:10 PM  

Interesting case.

Having met only a rare sigma or two, I have never seen this play out. They were in sales, very good at it, and disappeared one day. No notice.

Was a delta, maturing into a bravo. Enjoy leading teams, but prefer a "top man" to grab the limelight.

Blogger rumpole5 April 15, 2021 9:59 PM  

Well Sigma is out for me then. Just your standard misanthropic curmudgeon, I guess, but that is okay too.

Blogger Shane Bradman April 15, 2021 10:05 PM  

I have always seen Putin as a Delta who, through extreme competence and intelligence, earned his way to the top. He's not a natural leader, but he's still the leader. Putin is a real genius, the likes of which Russia is surprisingly good at cultivating.

Blogger Shane Bradman April 15, 2021 10:06 PM  

Holy shit there's some gamma energy come from these walls of text in the comments. Get some self awareness please.

Blogger Valar Addemmis April 15, 2021 11:54 PM  

Darayvus wrote:Omega here with Delta aspirations.

Someone who doesn't know if he's Alpha or Beta, is Beta, or Bravo as is called here.


You're thinking too absolutist. Scale matters. Someone can be an Alpha in one environment but comfortable in a Beta role in a bigger pond, as it were.

Blogger The Pitchfork Rebel April 16, 2021 12:29 AM  

Biden is a red giant. I'm giving up on seeing Betelgeuse go supernova, but I could see Biden go supernova.

@35

I'm not sure what is says about me, but when Swingline started making red staplers, I bought one for my desk to use as an awareness test.

Blogger MathMilam April 16, 2021 12:39 AM  

Like Achilles, if a sigma or person with high enough self esteem and uncompromising enough attitude feels slighted, they’ll just go to their tent, or like Vox said they’ll just disappear.

Had a guy at my company who was a great worker and producer. He got suspended over a question of procedure. Showed up to his next meeting in very nice clothes. His manager asked him why he was dressed so nice. He replied that after this meeting he had a couple of job interviews he was going to.

Point being, he let the manager know right then that if this was the kind of thing he would have to put up with, he had no qualms about bouncing. That guy is maybe not a sigma, maybe a delta with high self esteem, or no patience for nonsense.

Blogger Imwill April 16, 2021 2:08 AM  

That’s more of a Russian thing than a SSH indicator.

Blogger Iron Knight April 16, 2021 2:12 AM  

My bets on Xi. The silverback with the biggest stick rules the pack.

Blogger SciVo April 16, 2021 3:41 AM  

There is no question of Biden's rank. He is relentlessly dishonest and refuses to leave others alone, but also appears to be hetero.

Gamma to the max.

Blogger Dont Worry About Me April 16, 2021 6:54 AM  

If Putin is a Delta, then anything's possible

Blogger Unknown April 16, 2021 6:55 AM  

Feminine ranking is based on who is most attractive.

Blogger Dont Worry About Me April 16, 2021 6:57 AM  

Their boss gets a lot more gray hair orbstarts losing it entirely

Blogger VD April 16, 2021 8:01 AM  

What happens to an organization when circumstances put a Sigma in the role of the Alpha?

Chaos ensues if the Bravos can't keep the organization operating smoothly without being able to bask in their regular exposure to an Alpha or communicate regularly with the Sigma. See: Steve Jobs at Apple, Round One. Usually the Sigma will get kicked out and replaced by an Alpha before everything goes to Hell.

Blogger Greg from the Piedmont April 16, 2021 8:32 AM  

VD wrote:What happens to an organization when circumstances put a Sigma in the role of the Alpha?

Chaos ensues if the Bravos can't keep the organization operating smoothly without being able to bask in their regular exposure to an Alpha or communicate regularly with the Sigma. See: Steve Jobs at Apple, Round One. Usually the Sigma will get kicked out and replaced by an Alpha before everything goes to Hell.


Regular communication with the Sigma would be the challenge unless the Sigma has a real interest in what was being said. The belief in MPAI would be another thing to deal with.

Blogger Hoyabembe April 16, 2021 10:25 AM  

I look forward to SSH book. Clear and in depth descriptions of the different ranks will be nice.

Blogger Unknown April 16, 2021 10:37 AM  

When thinking of the MSSH we have high (sex appeal) to low Alpha, Bravo, Delta, and Gamma, inside the social hierarchy and Sigma (high) and Omega (low) outside with those who don't care much about the hierarchy.

I wonder if there are also intermediate groups on that spectrum. Are there guys that are moderately attractive and don't care much about the hierarchy?

Biden was once a Bravo, but wickedness combined with old age has caught up with him.

Blogger Pytor April 16, 2021 11:31 AM  

The SSH helped me improve my career. When the office Alpha "attacked" me, I felt duty bound to "defend" myself. I didn't realize it was just the alpha settling hierarchical uncertainty in his environment. Once I understood it was not pointless irrational hostility, everything calmed down.

Blogger Fargoth April 16, 2021 12:13 PM  

If i'm one-seventh sigma, medium attractive with a great taste in movies, would you say that makes this comment worth reading?

Blogger J8ke D April 16, 2021 12:40 PM  

@Vox, first - I very much appreciate you taking the time to address this; I don’t know of many folks they have the ability to grasp the dynamics and also offer advice.

Second....it almost feels like this has been.....manufactured? In that said Sigma has, for lack of a better term, a lot of groupies, and full stack devs are NOT a dime a dozen right now, and said groupies are keen to see him in a leadership role.

To your previous suggestion; I am steering clear of this as best I can, but current Alpha mentioned is prodding me to provide the empirical data for his point against the Sigma...and it feels like a Fool’s errand. I am good at full stack (more DB Dev than app Dev), but this Sigma could dunk in my face in this arena.

I am leaning towards saying, at the expense of my own ego or current status, that I am not the right resource to critique the Sigma’s valid concerns and stance. The Alpha is obviously feeling challenged, and any attempt to persuade him dialectically has yielded nothing.

Thank you again.

Blogger IAMSpartacus0000 April 16, 2021 1:48 PM  

Cornered Sigma will outright kill the Alpha, or at least try to. Otherwise they just leave. The Alpha can take the Sigma as long as he has the pack. Collectively they can kill the sigma but the sigma may take the alpha in the process. This overall bad for the pack even if they win.

Blogger Lenie April 16, 2021 2:24 PM  

Don't know how accurate it is, but brandongaille.com has a similar list for females.

Blogger MrNiceguy April 16, 2021 2:57 PM  


In my experience, a tech-savvy Sigma is a rare bird.

Sigmas in general are very rare. I'm just guessing, but I'd be surprised if they aren't more common in tech than other industries, simply because tech offers more opportunity to work as a lone wolf.

Blogger Klobster April 16, 2021 9:56 PM  

Reading the comments after an SSH post is always entertaining.

Thanks Vox

Blogger Dont Worry About Me April 17, 2021 11:31 AM  

VD wrote:What happens to an organization when circumstances put a Sigma in the role of the Alpha?

Chaos ensues if the Bravos can't keep the organization operating smoothly without being able to bask in their regular exposure to an Alpha or communicate regularly with the Sigma. See: Steve Jobs at Apple, Round One. Usually the Sigma will get kicked out and replaced by an Alpha before everything goes to Hell.


That is what I've been through being put in charge of a team. A grim warning too.

Simulating Alpha behavior has gotten easier though. Just another challenge to conquer. Loyalty to the productive and defending the pack from Gammas is what I mostly focus on. I hate small talk though, maybe that's the part I need to work on the most.

Blogger Dont Worry About Me May 03, 2021 5:46 PM  

Dont Worry About Me wrote:VD wrote:What happens to an organization when circumstances put a Sigma in the role of the Alpha?

Chaos ensues if the Bravos can't keep the organization operating smoothly without being able to bask in their regular exposure to an Alpha or communicate regularly with the Sigma. See: Steve Jobs at Apple, Round One. Usually the Sigma will get kicked out and replaced by an Alpha before everything goes to Hell.


That is what I've been through being put in charge of a team. A grim warning too.

Simulating Alpha behavior has gotten easier though. Just another challenge to conquer. Loyalty to the productive and defending the pack from Gammas is what I mostly focus on. I hate small talk though, maybe that's the part I need to work on the most.


Update:

Vox called it. That's what happened with me. Incredible results quickly, but everyone got butthurt, nearly mass quit, couldn't keep up with the pace I expected, I didn't have a Bravo, and they had to make a change despite wondering why "I didn't learn" and "you're really good at this, but man you have to be better with people."

So what I'll recommend after experiencing this: if you're not a Bravo or an Alpha, don't accept higher or higher middle management positions. If you're introverted at all, DEFINITELY don't accept that position. Extroverts want to be led by extroverts and will complain until you're gone. At this point, dominant extroverts are more important to me as a vital component of an organization after experiencing this.

Also, Gammas have to be routed out. Do not tolerate any of them, ever. I cannot stress enough how toxic those morons are. Alphas and Bravos, go hunting for them for fun. Everyone will love you for it, especially the Sigma doing 3x the work you're doing in 1/3 of the time that you pay well.

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