The main premise of The Peter Principle is fascinating â people rise to the level of their own incompetence. They do well and are promoted; that cycle continues until they can no longer do well â and they are no longer promotable. At that point, they are, in Dr. Peterâs words, incompetent at their jobs.
The part of The Peter Principle that I wanted to focus on for this post, however, is Dr. Peterâs assertion that incompetent people donât or canât get fired. That fate only falls to the âsuper-incompetent.â (He also says that firing happens to the âsuper competent," but youâll have to read the book to get in on that point!) Is that true? Have we grown so used to people who canât do their jobs, that we accepting of "having a warm body"?
When we think of the service level that is common at many restaurants and retail locations (outside of our industry, of course !), it appears that the world at large is accepting of incompetence. How else would a business still be in business if it canât keep product on the shelf or provide customer service? Yet, so many of them areâ¦.
I talk daily with store owners â and all of them are facing challenges (or crises) of some degree. Some are caused by âordinaryâ stuff â landlords and utilities, time crunches, supplier out of stocks, employees calling in sick, etc. Some are caused by the âextraordinaryâ stuff, like the current economic challenge that we face. I do have to wonder how different things would be â in dealing with both the ordinary and the extraordinary - if we didnât settle for anything less than the best when it comes to our staffing. (Or if our vendors did!)
I am not calling for a mass dismissal of anyoneâs employees, but I do wonder of how much more thorough our recruitment programs â and our training programs â would be if we took this more seriously.
On a positive note, I wonder if the lack of acceptance of incompetence is why so many âsmaller independentsâ (Ma and Pa stores) in our industry do so well. The owner is in the store, rubbing elbows with staff and customers alike, very involved in the service and value that the store is providing. It is hard to hide incompetence there! One of these folks told me that their secret is that they âhire slow, fire fast, and train thoroughlyâ!