The Peter Principle Strikes Again

Another update from the Jungle…

Addison is the HR manager for her company and she usually likes her job. Each day is different as co-workers find new and inventive ways to get themselves into difficulties.  

Addison has a double espresso each morning to fortify herself for the latest adventures. But Addison’s toughest employee sitjune 6-3uation doesn’t involve the usual employee misadventures. It involves Don, one of the division managers. Don is a nice, inoffensive guy who is liked by everyone. He is also destroying his division.


june 6-4

Don’s career started promisingly enough. He graduated from college with honors and immediately was hired by the company.  He’s technically proficient and his attention to detail is legendary. In fact, he often gets so wrapped up in the details that he forgets about deadlines.

A year ago, Don’s superiors looked for someone who could do the work, but never threaten their position in the company. They ignored Don’s immediate supervisor who pointed out that Don has the social skills of a person reared by wolves. Regardless, Don was promoted.

Immediately, the damage was obvious to anyone paying attention.june 6-6

In his first staff meeting, Don enthusiastically talked about a magazine article he’d read which described how blue whales communicate. His subordinates sat listening in stunned disbelief. After all, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss new sales metrics for their division.

Don’s first staff meeting turns out to be a high point on the road to destruction. The cleverest and most marketable employees are bailing out to join competitors. One woman is so affected by her experiences that she is now a novice Buddhist nun in Nepal.

Addison struggles to contain thejune 6-5 damage caused by Don’s incredibly inept leadership. She’s convinced that Don is aware of his shortcomings as a leader but he won’t admit it. She asks for a meeting with senior management.

What should Addison tell the senior managers?

  1. She can provide examples of Don’s ineffective leadership and suggest that he be replaced by someone with better “people” skills.
  2. She can request management training for Don to help him improve his leadership skills.  
  3. She can demand a pay raise and a bigger budget to hire replacements for the employees chased off by Don’s lousy management skills.    

june 6-2In the actual situation, senior management remained happy with the ineffective manager. He kept his job until he was undermined and then replaced by his most ambitious subordinate. He happily continued to work and was deeply relieved to no longer have supervisory responsibilities.



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