Climbing The Ladder

An average I.Q. is 100, by definition. Most of the readers of these essays, on meeting a person with an I.Q. of 100, will find him mentally rather slow; the rest are being charitable. And yet half the population, again by definition, will be even slower. Where are all these dummies? It seems unlikely that intelligence is so correlated with social class that the duller half are all doing menial work and the brighter half are managing them, since we meet so many moronic individuals in responsible positions. The answer may be that I.Q. measures abstract comprehension and problem-solving, while career success is more about human social manipulation. A person with an I.Q. of 90, but whose whole brain is oriented to monkey-troop politics, will easily outmanoeuvre the innocent genius. It is a matter of what kind of intelligence you have, and how much of your total processing-power you dedicate to the task of screwing over your neighbour.

People are good at doing their jobs, or at becoming the boss, but not necessarily both. Craftsmanship and professionalism distract from the serious business of office politics; you can’t watch your hands and watch your back at the same time. “If you keep your eye on your goals, you’re not keeping it on your ass.” The output of any organisation may thus be the net sum of all the actions taken by the players to screw over their colleagues.

Someone once said, “If you think your boss is so stupid, ask yourself why he is your boss rather than you being his.” The reason he seems stupid to you is that he does not have the motivations you are attributing to him. If his actions make no sense to you in terms of the interests of the organisation, try reading them in terms of his becoming your boss rather than your becoming his.

The Peter Principle teaches that all the work of an organisation is done by those who are moving up but have not yet been promoted to their “position of incompetence”. It may be equally true that all the real work of an organisation is performed by those who don’t understand how to move up. There’s always someone who just doesn’t get it. So instead of playing the game, this idiot does the actual work of the organisation instead.

Companies need people who are good at making money for them, and create posts in which they will do so. What they actually get are people who are good at reaching, occupying and hanging onto those posts. Performance criteria are no help, because the same qualities that enable people to reach these posts in the first place also enable them to blame someone else for their failures therein, or at the very least to leave the sinking ship in time.

When you apply for membership of the Chinese Communist Party, you are asked to name all your weaknesses. A key question is, “How will you damage us?” Would that aspirants to Western management were made to answer such a question honestly.

What does a company do if it sees that office morale is bad? Set up a committee for workplace morale, of course, and staff it with the very managers who are causing the morale to be bad in the first place. But how could it possibly be otherwise? For if the malicious individuals have enough power to make the workplace miserable for everyone else, they have enough power to get themselves onto such a committee; and if they are clever enough not to have been sacked on their way up, they are clever enough to pull the wool over the eyes of the ultimate bosses.

Posted on March 8, 2010 at 10:16 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Management As Cargo Cult

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