By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Sunday, June 9, 2013

When The Peter Principle Was Turned Upside Down!

In any organizational set-up where good work at any given level is rewarded with promotion to the next higher level, (1) every worker tends to climb up to the level of his or her incompetence;  (2)  every position is likely to be filled up by an incompetent worker sooner or later;  (3)  all good work is done by workers who haven't yet climbed up to the levels of their incompetence.

That's the sum and substance of the Peter Principle (expressed in my own words), which has dominated the whole world's management thinking throughout and beyond the second half of the 20th century, along with its conceptual twin Parkinson's Law, which asserts that all work expands to fill the time available.

Since all large organizations all over world tend to adopt the policy of promotion as the ultimate reward for good work, the Peter Principle is universally valid.  But I once came across an extremely rare occasion when the axiom was turned upside down by a distortion in the wage structure of a monolithic national organization, arising from extraordinary union pressure  --   and naturally, I pounced on the context for my column in the Punch of India!   


Shankar's Weekly 5 January 1975
Case Of Promotion

ACCORDING to a recent report in the Press, the increase in the emoluments of Class III employees of the Life Insurance Corporation of India has created some serious anomalies.   The report said that while a new Zonal Manager still gets Rs. (Rupees) 2,500 a month, a Superintendent, who is way down below in the hierarchy, would now get Rs. 2,524.  It also said that many Class II officers of the Corporation are not inclined to accept promotion to Class I level, and that some of them are even anxious to be demoted to Class III.

At first I didn't believe all this.  But the other day I happened to see the annual confidential report on a Class II officer of the Corporation, whose case, I understood, was being considered by the Departmental Promotion Committee.  It ran like this:


Remarks of the Reporting Officer

1. Technical ability:   Below average.

2. Application:   Poor.

3. Capacity to control subordinate officers:   Poor.

4. Initiative,  resourcefulness:   Very poor.

5. Clarity of thought, powers of expression:   Poor.

6. Tact:   Below average.

7. Aptitude for any special type of work:   None.

8. Physical fitness:   Satisfactory.

9. General assessment:   A very lethargic officer, who totally lacks initiative.

10. Is he/she fit for demotion to Class III in the normal course?   --   No.

11. Is he/she fit for being considered for out-of-turn demotion to Class III ?  --   No.

[Reporting Officer]


Remarks of the Counter-signing Officer

I fully agree with the Reporting Officer.  I think this is a fit case for promotion to Class I.

[Counter-signing Officer]

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