“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it,” wrote Laurence J. Peter in The Peter Principle, his 1968 satire in which everyone in an organization is promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. Eventually every position in the company contains someone who can’t do the job.
Unfortunately, Peter’s premonition seems to be as true today as it was 50 years ago. Despite spending $15 billion annually on managerial and leadership development, 64% of employees say that their manager doesn’t provide adequate support and 75% say that “their boss is the most stressful part of their workday.”
As companies continue to promote people based on an absence of weaknesses, rather than the presence of strengths, managerial ineffectiveness becomes the unfortunate norm. Yet employees don’t need to adopt a victim mindset. They have options. In many cases, even small steps can make a significant impact towards turning around a struggling manager.
It just depends on what level of incompetence you’re dealing with. And whether it’s worth your time to do something about it.
1. They can’t make decisions to save their life.
It’s easy to find a reason to not make a decision. You can always wait for more information, more details, and see how the situation develops. But good leaders always display a bias for action. They know that chronic indecision not only wastes opportunities, but it puts a heavy drain on morale.
You can always correct a wrong decision once results begin to roll in. Non-decisions teach us nothing. They lead to stagnation, which in a fast-changing world, often means trouble. As a wise fortune cookie once said, “Many a false step was made by standing still.”
If your boss struggles with decision-making, help limit the risk. Show her the potential feedback mechanisms that will validate whether the decision’s effective. When you can monitor the results and course correct as needed, it’s much easier to ease the anxiety around decision-making. And remind them that even the best decisions become obsolete sooner or later. As Drucker wrote,