One of my favorite Dilbert cartoons
This was from May 3, 1993 and was in the first Dilbert book I bought, Still Pumped from Using the Mouse. The original was in black and white. Somehow, they became colorized.
This cartoon is representative of a lot of jobs that I had.
How does Scott Adams expect to become even richer than he already is by selling more Dilbert books if all of the strips are available for free online?
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Some people might say, “Lion, the reason you didn’t get ahead in corporate America is because you didn’t work hard enough. There’s always something you could have done to impress your bosses instead of staring at the walls of your cubicle.”
Actually, at least in the jobs I had, I don’t believe that’s the case. I was good at creating the perception of being a hard worker. Doing unnecessary work is more likely to hurt your career than help it. No one knows what to do with work product they didn’t ask for. Asking for more work is only going to leave you overburdened and stressed out, and then when someone gives you another assignment you won’t have time to get to it and you’ll be known as the guy who can’t complete assignments.
Promotions are based on the perception of being managerial. Being an extra busy beaver in your cubicle looks like the opposite of being managerial. Remember, this is the post Peter Principle world where corporations no longer promote the workers who are the best and most productive at their current jobs.
Unfortunately, [The Peter Principle] being the bestseller that it was, the common-sense idea of promoting the people doing the best job was thrown out in favor of the belief that those making promotion decisions can somehow identify managerial qualities and promote people with those qualities instead of the most competent employees. People may rarely use the words “Peter Principle” (after all, the book was sort of supposed to be a joke), but the philosophy of the Peter Principle has invaded corporate America and has become the standard way of thinking. This has led to a severe downward spiral in the quality of corporate management. As less intelligent people who were identified as being more managerial were promoted, the average IQ of management decreased and they became even worse at deciding whom to promote.
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hard9bf writes in a comment:
[P]romotions are given to people personally liked by current managers. No matter how smart, reliable, and skilled you are, if your superiors don’t grok your personality, no promotion for you! The clearest path to promotion (if you’re intent on pursuing such misery) is schmoozing management: talk to them like friends, get to know their personal lives, take an interest in them, and still do a good job otherwise. If you excel at the schmooze but otherwise suck, they’ll sniff you out as a bootlicker and you’ll go nowhere, but your job performance need only attain to mere competence, not excellence.
This, I believe, is a consequence of the success of the book The Peter Principle. Before that book (published in 1969), the belief in corporate America was indeed that the guy who was “smart, reliable and skilled” should get the promotion even if you don’t grok his personality. Occasionally someone was promoted who didn’t do as well in their new job as they were perceived as doing in their previous job, but I suspect that in the vast majority of cases promoting the “smart, reliable and skilled” worked out very well.
The Peter Principle freed managers from having to promote people they don’t personally like under the theory that they lack managerial skills, but there’s no objective way to measure managerial skills (or if there are, they are certainly not being used), so managers just promote the people they like as long as they aren’t total screw-ups at their current job.