Past Meetup

Is Job Incompetence on the Rise? Why?

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Carrollwood Cultural Center

4537 Lowell Road · Tampa, FL

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We meet in the conference room on the second floor beside the elevator.

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One of your coworkers spends most of the work day texting, surfing the web for non-work-related content and otherwise goofing off— but he still has a positive, buddy-buddy relationship with the boss. The situation is so pervasive that you often find yourself mumbling “you’ve gotta be kidding me” under your breath.

Why incompetence sometimes gets rewarded:
Ineptitude in managers is unfortunately common. McKee says that’s because too many companies promote people for the wrong reasons. People get ahead because they show results or have the right technical capabilities, but they often don’t have the requisite people skills. Michael Useem, the William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management at the Wharton School and author of Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win says that whether your boss lacks technical or managerial ability, the results are the same: bad bosses sap motivation, kill productivity, and can make you want to run from the job screaming,” the article says.
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It’s not clear just how much Laurence J. Peter was joking in 1968 when he published The Peter Principle.

“My analysis of hundreds of cases of occupational incompetence led me to formulate The Peter Principle: In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.

Perhaps it was that Dr. Peter had a real doctorate or wrote a book unburdened by the ambiguity of real data. (The Peter Principle, he asserted, was “the key to an understanding of the whole structure of civilization.” He also said he was kidding.) Or maybe it was that, as much as Dr. Peter meant the book as satire, it was all too often true.

An employee does well. He’s rewarded with a promotion. He does well in that job, and is promoted again. This continues until the point he is no longer performing at a level deserving of a promotion, which leaves him at a level where he is over-matched by the demands of the job - in other words, “incompetent.”

Three professors - Alan Benson of the University of Minnesota, Danielle Li of MIT and Kelly Shue of Yale - analyzed the performance of 53,035 sales employees at 214 American companies from 2005 to 2011. “Consistent with the Peter Principle, we find that promotion decisions place more weight on current performance than would be justified if firms only tried to promote the best potential managers,” the researchers concluded. "The most productive worker is not always the best candidate for manager."
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Why might this be happening more?
Is there a lack of competent job candidates?
How can work performance be improved?