In 1969, Dr Laurence J Peter published a book called The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong. It was meant as satire complete with fake examples. But there was one reason they gave for having incompetent managers:
The selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended function. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and ‘managers rise to the level of their incompetence.’
In time, with enough promotions, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.
This was termed the Peter Principle.
The book caused an uproar — even the Harvard Business Review found a need to respond.
Perhaps it struck a nerve because anecdotally it just felt right. Because let’s face it, management often feels incompetent. That’s usually how I feel these days. Feeling as though I can’t do anything right. Feeling as though I can’t make anything go right.
It often feels as though I’m in the wrong place.
It’s not too long ago I would have been thinking, “What kind of stupid decisions are those guys making? I could do better than that!”
We all seem to know better until we’re put into the position.