Empirical evidence for the Peter Principle (or, why bosses are so incompetent)


I suspect if the system was designed from scratch, your description of a supervisor wouldn’t even make sense any more!


Oh, I expect that there would be something very loosely similar, but again, it would be more of a “centralized facilitator” than a “pack leader” - someone that sort of goes around and keeps everyone happy, finds out what needs to get done that isn’t really getting taken care of and tries to either own that thing or get someone to own it, identifies problems that might need to be addressed by the group, and so on.

I’m more or less thinking of fully reorganizing the workplace around Robert Greenleaf’s “Servant Leadership” model, and most good leaders I’ve had over the years use this model or something very similar to it.

Especially now that the workforce is becoming more and more specialized, it’s ridiculous to assume that a “leader” can just be the most knowledgeable person and therefore be the person that tells everyone else what to do. That might fly for ditch-diggers, but not for engineers, programmers and doctors - the massive amount of individual specialization means that you just can’t tell if someone is very good at their job based on your own experience at yours, and so you need a totally different toolset to manage professionals instead of an army of identically-skilled peons, as there are very, very few jobs left with that kind of redundancy in the same workplace pool, and most of them are in the process of being automated away. See: truck drivers.


Do you want beer-splattered napkins with smeared drawings of the structure and mechanism of alcohol dehydrogenase? Because that’s how you get beer-splattered napkins with smeared drawings of the structure and mechanism of alcohol dehydrogenase.


As someone who has taught prospective elementary and middle school teachers “how to teach” math, i have to agree with you. This is, of course, largely because of their education (i.e., turtles all the way down). But also a factor is the way we treat math as some horrific confusing thing that only geniuses can follow. If people come to a topic having always been taught that it’s the most difficult thing ever, they’re less likely to have that small insight that helps one think in a mathematical manner.



That was fucked up; and you need to be aware of it.


Roger that!



Roger Thatness!


Has been removed and Papasan messaged.
My apologies extend to those on this thread that saw it, too.


There’s a part of me that thinks math education should at some point include the Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, and the works of Ian Stewart (of Flatterland) or Bob and Ellen Kaplan (of The Math Circle), since they try to make math more fun, and show that the concepts can be for everyone. The first two might have the opposite effect, but not the latter two. Unfortunately, both seem too far removed from standardized test prep to make any headway these days.

Then the rest of me reminds me that I have no idea how anyone but me learns, not really.


Learning from other’s mistakes is a daily essential human process @anothernewbbaccount, thanks for the apology.


The problem is then the hucksters con artists Etc Co-opt The Guild in their image. Then it becomes not about assuring competence but about protecting themselves from competition.

There was an interesting EconTalk podcast about the spread of bullshit licensing requirements. The guest’s prime example was requiring extensive cosmetology training and certification just to braid hair.



It’s not a proper night out without graphs and/or calculations scribbled on napkins or beer mats, duh.


I know, and it’s especially a problem in the USA where hucksters migrated to. Guilds do try to protect themselves against infection by hucksters and con artists, with varying success. It’s why the medieval freemasons had so many secret rituals, because they were a safeguard against any old Joe fast-talking his way on to the construction site, getting full freemason pay, and putting everybody at risk with his dilettantism. Or hiring a barber to sew your open wound, it helped if the guild said he was a master. Or the brewer*, or the carpenter.

Guilds are still a thing in Europe. They are less of an official requirement, though, and more of a seal of trust. If the carpenter you hire to fix your house is a member of the Guild, then you trust he knows his stuff, and that the guild has insured his work.

*A quick side node: I am a fully trained journeyman brewer.




Now you’re talking!


The water has water on it, therefore it is wet.


Blaming the migrants, are we? /s


This is a truth that I wish had been evident earlier in life, but that’s not how we’re taught. If you are the leader of a group, you are their servant. It’s your job to make sure they have what they need to succeed, not that they exist to make you successful. And now that I’ve done some contracting work, I realize the power balance is largely the opposite of what we typically think. I am absolutely at the mercy of the people I hire. If they don’t do what they are supposed to, I’m utterly and completely fucked. I don’t like this feeling of helplessness- I miss being responsible for my own actions instead of others’.

I also wonder if this would break down differently if we considered effectiveness of different types of managerial roles. By which I’m getting at is that I’ve observed that the best way to motivate or inspire is by example, but if someone gets promoted to manager and then they stop doing The Thing in favor of sitting in a cubicle writing “managing” emails, then that’s not possible. Telling someone they need to do better doesn’t work as well as showing “I can do this, so I know you can too”. I would think managerial roles that still include doing The Thing that got them the promotion would see less of the ill effect described.


Of course, since I am a descendant of those hucksters and con men, a Yankee expat who crossed the Atlantic again to return to Good Old Europe. It really is interesting how regulations are viewed on both sides of the pond.

Yeah, I am a Yankee living in Bavarian exile. The last election dashed my hopes of returning.


This extends to home improvement too you know. I describe hiring a contractor as flinging myself off a cliff at the ocean and hoping a wave is covering the rocks when I hit. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone you’ve used several times before, they still might fuck you if it seems convenient.