The Dilbert Principle

“Companies tend to systematically promote incompetent employees to management to get them out of the workflow.”

I never knew of this management principle until I stumbled upon it today, while strolling through social media.

I have benefited from quite a bit of promotion, so I kind of chuckled as I read it. I almost dismissed it as a joke, until I did a mental exercise on if there were examples I could relate to, and I was surprised at how quickly the examples piled up.

The principle alludes to a phenomenon I have observed. Promotion is a sieve that removes diversity of thought.

The chromatography of hierarchy ensures that those who rise look like those who have always been there. It does not matter whether you have more females, different age groups, people with disability or any other diversity metric.

Those who rise to the top, look like those who are already there, especially in thought.

The top determines those who rise. What the top prioritizes, rises.

The next time you promote someone who is politically agile over one who is mentally agile, know that you are enabling the Dilbert Principle.

– Osasu Oviawe

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