Six Ways to Take Agency and Stop Being a Victim
“Management,” described Clayton Christensen, “is the opportunity to help people become better people. Practiced that way, it’s a magnificent profession.” And while this should be the goal of all management, many employees don’t consider it a positive aspect of their jobs, instead identifying with Peter Drucker’s thoughts that “most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”
Indeed, despite spending billions of dollars annually on managerial and leadership development, managers still struggle to be a positive influence — with 64% of employees saying that their managers don’t provide adequate support and 75% of Americans saying that “their boss is the most stressful part of their workday.”
And yet most managers are not only trying their best to be effective — they also believe they’re doing a good job.
If you walked around and polled every manager in your company, the vast majority will consider their performance to be above average. How then, do we seem to be surrounded with management incompetence?
A Modified Peter Principle
“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” — Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong
In 1968, Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull developed The Peter Principle, a satire in which everyone in an organization continues to be promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. Eventually — given enough time and promotions — every position in a company contains someone who can’t do the job.
Another variant suggests that people aren’t necessarily promoted to their level of incompetence, but to a level that overwhelms their abilities and creates enough anxiety that they lose all ambition and dreams of further success. Thus changing people from energetic go-getters to the jaded curmudgeons full of bad advice from the “good-old-days.”
I’m sure you know both types. But I also think these groups generally fall in the minority. The bigger problem is simply that managers are human. And as humans, they’re equipped with both strengths and weaknesses.