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2434283985_a0063bfda5_m.jpgThe ‘Peter Principle’ postulates that in every hierarchy all employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence…seemingly ironic as that sounds, in its essence, the Peter Principle makes perfect sense. It holds that, in a hierarchy, members are promoted as long as they work competently; sooner or later, however, they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent!

Consider the model employee who consistently performs, exceeding expectations and pleasing clients and upper level management alike. Soon, our employee finds him/herself in the right place at the right time, and it’s called a promotion.  Win-win, right? The employee is rewarded for hard work and feels smug in his/her just reward. Decision makers pat each other on the back and breathe a sigh of relief when the open position is filled by our employee – sitting contentedly on the theory that anything that works can be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails

Although in the above scenario, it appears that hard-working employee (A) + acknowledging superiors (B) = justly deserved and appropriate promotion (C), the whole is not necessarily equal to the sum of its parts in all equations like this one.

It is management’s responsibility to balance the roles which need to be filled with those individuals most suitable and most deserving of the opportunity. And that includes workshifters, who despite alternative geographical locations or flexible office hours, earn their keep as legitimately and sometimes more effectively than their 9 to 5 counterparts.

From Upper Management’s perspective, when a position becomes open, there is a direct and sometimes desperate urge to fill it at any cost in order to avoid additional work and disruption to float upstream, regardless of if an employee is truly “management material.” Dr. Peter put it best when he said, “There is much temptation to use what has worked before, even when it may exceed its effective scope.” As the workplace continually re-defines itself in today’s ever-changing economy, so, too, must the definition and vision of promotion-worthy individuals.

Many times, an employee’s potential in his/her initial position may not translate into efficacy in the next. As any current or previous manager would know, a management job is different from any other job in which one may have previously excelled, and thus requires different skills of both an interpersonal and professional nature. By the same token, just because an individual’s work schedule or structure changes, this does not directly translate into the inability to perform in a new or more responsible role.  

Many would-be workshifters would attest to being hesitant, apprehensive and even afraid of risking their position if they considered or requested the ability to workshift. However, many forward-thinking management teams now realize that, because the unique skillset of a good manager/employee is so difficult to manufacture, they are less willing to let that talent resign and more willing to accommodate, using technology and well-defined scope and responsibilities, to retain good managers/employees and eliminate promotion for promotion sake.

Progress takes time and patience and both parties must be willing to contribute 100% Management must be willing to place trust in the employee to whom they have given the ability to workshift. And, for the workshifter: to whom much is given, much is expected…and, from whom much is expected much should be given in return.

Given the advances in technology and the movement toward more flexibility in the workplace, there should be no questions asked when a valuable, driven employee becomes a workshifter. So whether you work 9 to 5 in a traditional office or 5 to 9 on a workshifting schedule, there should be no difference in perception nor output. Hard work, honest efforts and the right schedule and tools are the main ingredients needed to cook up success and ensure an organization succeeds.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Jeff Hester

Natalya Sabga is a project management professional and operational efficiency expert turned author, consultant and executive education advisor. Fascinated by the study of human behavior, she has parlayed this into a successful writing career. Ms. Sabga is also the author of "From Secretary to CEO: A Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder Without Losing Your Identity" (2010). She is also the President of DNterprises, LLC - a firm specializing in project needs' analysis, and project management from implementation to operation. Ms. Sabga is currently working on her next non-fiction narrative, "A PMP's Guide to Project Managing Your Life," and authoring the blog 'ASK N'.