Many years ago, someone coined the term ‘The Peter Principle,’ referring to the phenomenon where people will ‘rise to their level of incompetence’ in an organization. The connotation, of course, is that at some point we might all find ourselves being promoted to a job that we are just unable to do well. These kinds of promotions are hard on an organization, hard on the individual who got promoted, and very hard on people who find themselves having to report to him(her). What do you do in that situation?
If you think your boss has achieved the Peter Principle, and you’re starting to get frustrated because of it, here are the 6 things you need to do.
1. Do NOT trash your boss with your coworkers: You will come across as unprofessional and a poor team player. You want to be seen as someone with the character to work through difficulties – not as a whiner.
2. Look in the mirror: Have you ever met someone who, in every job he’s ever had, says his “boss is an idiot?” Hmm. Where might the issue really be? Make sure you’re not one of those people.
3. Cover your butt: Document everything. Confirm the direction you’ve been given in emails. Bring additional people into meetings (so you always have a witness). This isn’t for ammunition to use against your boss, but when the stuff hits the fan – and it ultimately will – it becomes your shield.
4. Be a rock: Be your boss’s ‘go-to’ person. The more the boss can rely on you, the more responsibility he will give you and the more you will stand out in the organization.
5. Stick to your principles: Sometimes a panicked boss will start to look for shortcuts, and it’s important to try to avoid those – for your own reputation. Don’t get self-righteous about it, but don’t get sucked in either.
6. Be prepared: Think ahead a few months. Make contingency plans.