Peter Principle

I first heard of the Peter Principle when I was a teen (a mate’s dad had done the illustrations for the book). It struck me then as farcical, a good laugh. Surely the world was more logical and orderly than that?

Time is the great educator, and over the years I have seen the truth of the farce repeated over and over again. I’m sure anyone who’s had to spend time to earn their bread will immediately recognise the truth of the words.

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetance.”

I’m currently having to deal with one of the finest examples of the truth I’ve met. Its sad really, she’s lovely. Bright, articulate, a good laugh. Thing is, six months ago she got a big promotion into a job she has absolutely no background or capability in. I knew it before she got the promotion, and had quietly cautioned against it, but she was a favourite of another director who brushed away any hint of incorrectness. He assured the board she was the perfect choice. The rumour that the two of them were an item when both worked at another firm I’m sure had nothing to do with it.

As an aside, why is it always women who are whispered about having slept their way to the top? A bad bit of gender politics that. Also very unfair. I would have quite fancied shagging my way through a few promotions. Sounds like a lot more fun that 60 hour weeks and constantly being on call.

Back to my Peter proof. Last night was a stonker. Its 8:30, I’ve had one of those days. Not bad, but a constant stream of people popping their head round the door intermixed with meeting after meeting. I hadn’t even had lunch (Oh, for the day X, my PA moves over to this office). Part of the problem is its budget time, and everyone is tense as we go through the annual dance of “how much did you get”.

I get a call, its M, my Peter Proof.

“Now I understand what we need to do for the online user registration project, and I’ve put in what you proposed.” M is responsible for the euphemistically named ‘Customer and Brand Protection Department” which really means she’s responsible for the company’s customer data. I know, go figure, but her staff (amongst other things) are supposed to be the central repository for all we know about our customers so we can sell them lots more! I do all the dirty work and make everything supposedly functions smoothly, for her and a host of other teams.


“But I’ve also got this line item for Digital CRM.”

“Yes… interesting.” She obviously heard those buzz words somewhere or someone told her it would be a good idea.

“How should we describe that to management?” Note the change from ‘I’ to ‘We’

“Tell me what you mean by Digital CRM. It’s a fairly loose term that could describe anything from the online user project we just talked about to digital analytic systems to the underlying basis of eCommerce…” There’s a pause, I think I just lost her.

“How would you describe it?” There’s the rub. Its late, I’m tired, and my lecture mode is currently in the off position.

“How about I find you first thing and we talk it though. I’ll help you compose something.” Frankly, what I’m sure she wants is the online user piece, but in the game of budget bingo it never hurts to have your options covered in more than one place…

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