There’s something that has bothered me for a long, long time, and I think it’s time to get it off my chest.
It bothers the heck out of me that every time something goes wrong in a company or an industry, or in some other highly visible organization, there is a cry and hue in the media that the person at the top has to resign. It has become predictable, and the voices in the media are louder, sharper, and more demanding.
There is no question that there are times when the boss is messing up. Sometimes it’s based upon a flawed employment, a person who is “in over (his) head,” or an improper surveillance by the boss. I’ve been there (on both sides of the desk.)
I wrote a piece some time ago in which I explored the concept called the “Peter Principle.” It is named for a well-known sociologist, Dr. Laurence Peters, who identified that people in management positions tend to ascend to their maximum capability and are then…too often…promoted to that position just above their skill level…a level of incompetence. Things go very, very wrong, and it becomes evident that the only feasible way to resolve the problem is to fire them.
Of late, that phenomenon has been exercised frequently in “big business” and the person walks away with huge severance packages, often in the millions of dollars. The populace goes crazy, recognizing that there are people in those companies and organizations who are laboring for the company at minimal wage or at least in much lesser wages than the CEO. To “reward” a failed top boss with a severance package of millions of dollars seems unjust. That’s something that fries me, also, but it’s not the point that I want to make today. ‘
What really gets my goat is the quick jump to “fire the guy” when a problem is first disclosed. People “out there” seem to feel that the only way to deal with a serious problem in a company, organization or agency is to dump the top guy. It seems as if there’s little, if any, consideration that there may be other ways of approaching the issue without disrupting the leadership. As I said earlier, it may be true that the boss is incompetent and needs to go. But maybe, just maybe, the boss is capable of redesigning the leadership of the company in such a way as to resolve the problems.
It feels as if firing a person is a punishment ascribed before the full story is obvious. Especially in government positions, people are vetted carefully…sometimes to the point of pain and suffering…before they are approved for a job. They are chosen because they are the best person around to handle the tasks required. Something goes wrong in the agency, and…boom…it’s “off with his head.” Even though the President or the Governor, or the Mayor, or the person in charge of the government at that level may not agree, there is a “bow to public pressure” and the person is gone. Disgraced. Relegated to the farm for having been the most visible person in the agency. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it was that person’s incompetence or not. The old Truman cliche about where the buck stops is employed, and the axe falls. (How’s that for mixed metaphors?)
There is no question that there is a huge problem with the Veteran’s Administration right now. I’m as offended as anyone else that sick or injured veterans were not being treated with appropriate speed and concern when presenting themselves at a VA hospital. I agree that something dramatic needs to be done to correct the situation. But the firing of the Secretary for Veterans’ Affairs seems like a stretch for me. Most people who know him have said that he was doing a masterful job in directing the agency. His problem was that he was the victim of the buck stopping on his desk…hardly a good reason to get rid of him.
I think public opinion may be getting just a little too much credibility these days. Media and social media feed public opini0n, whether the content of stories is factual or based more upon emotions than facts. The person in the bar having his third beer may not be truly qualified to evaluate the effectiveness of the Member of the President’s Cabinet. But he is loud, has a cell phone and a laptop, and loves to hear himself talk. His voice becomes an inappropriately valued opinion. Oh, he has a right to express himself, but his opinion should be evaluated to determine his credential in affecting the outcome.
I’m just saying….
Illustration Credit: angryblindman.com