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ROUNDING THIRD: Peter Principle or kick and hold?

John David Fay
Sentinel columnist
Posted 1/22/23

Are you familiar with the Peter Principle?

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ROUNDING THIRD: Peter Principle or kick and hold?


Are you familiar with the Peter Principle?

It’s a concept first proposed by Peter and Raymond Hull in a book of the same name in 1969 that stated, in part, that people tend to rise to a level of respective incompetence in their jobs. The basis for the theory is that as people get good at their jobs, they start getting promoted until they find a level where they are not competent, because not all skills transfer well.

That is not what I discovered in my working life. I believe in more of the “kick and hold” principle. My theory hypothesizes that certain types of upper management tend to hold down particularly good lower employees because the employees’ good performance makes them look good — even if those “uppers” themselves are not.

They often “hold” the good worker where he is and kick the incompetents to a different level to try and get something out of them - or just get rid of them.

This accomplishes two things: 1) the lousy workers are removed from their unproductive job, and 2) they are certainly less of a threat to the hierarchy.

Of course, I only worked in public service and not private enterprise. I certainly hope it’s different there.

The problem with “kick and hold” is that you now have your bad employees in charge of your good ones. I may be way off base here, but just look back on your working life and try to remember how many times you thought to yourself, “How the heck did he/she ever get into that position?”

Then, of course, there’s Murphy’s Law, which says, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Maybe that actually explains how so many incompetents get into positions of power. Think about it!

The poem is called:

Kick and Hold

He’d stumble and mumble and look out of place,

But all people saw was the cut of his face.

He’d read stuff verbatim out of a book,

Yet people forgave him because of his look.

He was trained for a job, but couldn’t do that,

So, they pushed him a bit farther up in the fat.

He schmoozed and he smiled ‘till he left our domain.

And before I could blink, he’s near top of the chain.

Now, those left behind who were really quite good,

Were now bossed by a man who just never could.

I’m sure you’ve all seen it - the old “kick and hold,”

It’s part of the “old boys” system, I’m told.

They kick the bums upward - out of the way -

And if they can do it - that’s where they stay.

It may work at the bottom where people are grinding,

But up in the fat-o-sphere, ineptitude’s blinding.

If you’re good at your job, there should be a vector

That lets you move up in the public sector.

Then you’d have people who know what they’re doing,

Instead of the ones who are “system screwing.” ­—JDF

Disclaimer: Certainly all of the people who work their way up are not “system screwing” - just too many of them. There are a lot of good ones, too.

Joke: A little girl was sitting on her grandpa’s lap listening to a bedtime story. She kept reaching up and touching his face - then her own. Finally, she asked, “Did God make you, Grandpa?” Grandpa answered, “Yes, he did, sweetheart, a long time ago.” She thought for a minute and asked, “Did he make me, too?” “Yes, he did, sweetie.” She stroked his face, then hers, and said, “He sure is getting better at it, isn’t he?

Favorite Grampa (me) story: He was 8 and watching a TV show with a girl’s name attached. So, I, of course, had to tease him. I called out to his mom. He looked at me and asked, “Why you trying to ruin me?” I answered, “How does that ruin you? He said, “I didn’t want anyone to know.” Of course, I said, “But I know!” He said, “Yeah, but you’re old and wise” - at this point I thought I was getting a compliment - “and crispy and wrinkly.” Just an old French fry, I guess.

Thought for the week: Brazil got its name from the nut - not the other way around. See ya! JDF


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