Saturday, January 30, 2010

INCOMPETENCE: In the Workplace?

Do you spend portions of YOUR time, compensating for the INCOMPETENCE of others? 

Ever heard of the "Peter Principle"? It's a theory originated by Dr. Lawrence Peter which states that employees within a hierarchical organization advance to their highest level of competence, are then promoted to a level where they are incompetent (and then stay in that position).  It is now 40 years since Dr. Peter introduced that idea...

When viewed from the inside (of almost any organization), there's ALWAYS a weak link. Inevitably, s-o-m-e-o-n-e who makes life more difficult for everyone else.  That someone has influence that holds-back the rest of the group. It's a simple fact:  not everyone can do the job. 

"Incompetence" is defined by mistakes. Everyone makes the occasional error or bad decision or lapse in judgment. Most go unnoticed. But at some point, FAILURE becomes the norm, and (more often than not), even that person's defining "deficiency".
Are workers more incompetent today than in the past?
In general, probably yes.  Let us consider the "ruler" (measurement) of education. The USA has "lowered the bar" with respect to international standards for College/University acceptance. A disconcerting reality: there are more Honor Students in China, than the USA has, as students. Still, there is no reason to think that people today are fundamentally less capable than in the past, but more is demanded of workers - less in terms of the sheer amount of work, than of different types of highly-qualified work.  Relatively speaking, the workforce is less qualified.  Even the most essential skills of: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic are painfully in decline.  How many of your colleagues: can't write; can't spell; don't know grammar; utilize a colloquial dialect of the English language; or chronically plagerize from the works of others?  If the politics of your workplace fall within the mainstream, the answer to that question is staunchly (and frankly), appalling.

The working-world is increasingly complex. Many of us are required to take-on more responsibility, and more difficult roles. That's an inevitable result of accrued technological expansion, and of specialization.  For example, the proliferation of powerful types of software on computers, and the inherent organizational de-layering of the modus operandi of traditional bussiness management.  Projects have ever-broader scopes and grander mandates, but fewer "warm bodies" to complete the tasks.   That means ...every time there's a new project or initiative, the prerequisite commitment of time and energy gets added to someone's already-long, "to-do" list. Everyone is expected to do a bit of everything.  Furthermore, there is the issue of "multitasking", which can turn almost anyone into a forgetful fool (or worse).  Failures soon ensue...
It's not solely the modern workplace that creates INCOMPETENCE - the "Principle" holds that the hierarchy itself, through promotions - tends to transform capable workers into incompetent bosses.  Alas, INCOMPETENCE begets INCOMPETENCE: Managers with poor judgment hand-out assignments to the wrong people; delegate tasks to those who can't handle them; and force others outside of their realm of competency. 

Companies put the wrong people in charge. At some point, every boss was promoted to a position of responsibility, and too often - straight into INCOMPETENCE - ad infinitum.
Incompetence in the workplace has always existed.  Make certain that hires are apt to be competent to perform their assigned duties.  Failure to apply a suitable ruler (to cull-out the "losers" beforehand), is always the first mistake!  Which is (in and of itself), a form of INCOMPETENCE!
Me Thinks!

No comments: