The Peter [or Petra] Principle

It still rings true today:

In the late sixties the Canadian psychologist Laurence J. Peter advanced an apparently paradoxical principle, named since then after him, which can be summarized as follows:

‘Every new member in a hierarchical organization climbs the hierarchy until he/she reaches his/her level of maximum incompetence’.

Despite its apparent unreasonableness, such a principle would realistically act in any organization where the mechanism of promotion rewards the best members and where the mechanism at their new level in the hierarchical structure does not depend on the competence they had at the previous level, usually because the tasks of the levels are very different to each other.

Nowhere is that more true than with women. The trouble with women is firstly that there is a vast, ‘chasmic’ difference between running an organization and working as one of the 2ICs – we see that with Trump the whole time.

We saw it with Rebekah Brooks, Patricia Dunn, Meg Whitman, with Jodi Farhat, with Marisa Mayer, currently with Cressida Dick.

The trouble secondly is that according to the Narrative, they must, by definition, be equal or better than men and in one sense they are … in the 2IC role, which involves a different skills set, without the ultimate responsibility and liability.

But the top job – no, because promotion to that should never be a reward for being a good girl or being pretty or having the gift of self-promotion or being the darling of a PC push – it should be for what someone did who started the business and what they have a track record of doing.

Carly Fiorina was given the top job – why?

1. She was in the right place when it came up;
2. She talked the talk with aphorisms and buzz phrases;
3. The breaking the glass ceiling thing seemed really modern to the board.

It was, of course, a disaster. But could they admit that, the board? Just as with Mayer? No way, it directly challenged the Narrative to admit that a woman will ultimately stagnate a business unless it’s in a field of her undoubted expertise, e.g. fashion, herbal remedies, cooking, that sort of thing.

Not thinking of this topic, I looked up Hawthorn Football club last evening to find out why their period of dominance began – what were the factors.  And what did I read?

Off the field, the club also went through a number of controversies. Tracey Gaudry was appointed as the club’s first female CEO, only to resign five months later, though it is publicly believed she was sacked by the club. This also led to the resignation from the president’s position of Richard Garvey, and the return of former president Jeff Kennett.

You see – not just the woman but her plus the man who’d pushed her appointment.  And:

In May 2017, Gaudry was appointed CEO of the Hawthorn Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL), replacing Stuart Fox. She was the first female CEO in league history.  Just five months later, Gaudry resigned from her position as Hawthorn CEO. President Richard Garvey said, ‘Unfortunately, Tracey has faced extenuating family and personal circumstances this year which have made it difficult to continue in the role.’

Let’s put this in context.  In 2013, 2014 and 2015, the club had had massive onfield success with three premierships, after which there was another lesser year and then she was appointed.

Why was she?  It was the same thing as Hewlett Packard – it was a way to rake in large membership numbers with “woman-supportive” policies as part of the whole equality and diversity schtick.

What was her actual claim to fame?  She was an athlete and a better runner than I am, Gunga Din:

1996 Atlanta Olympics Women’s Individual Road Race, 39th. (Tracey Watson, A.I.S.)
2000 Sydney Olympics Women’s Individual Road Race, 23rd.
2000 Sydney Olympics Women’s Individual Time Trial, 21st.

On the strength of that, plus the prettiness and gift of the gab, just like Fiorina, she was given ambassadorial roles and that was followed by high sounding titles:

Gaudry was elected to head the Oceanian Cycling Confederation (OCC) on 2 December 2012, succeeding predecessor Mike Turtur. The vote was first split 2-2, but pressure was put on Guam by their own Olympic committee to switch their vote and she won unanimously after Fiji followed. The two other voting members were Australia and New Zealand, which supported Ms. Gaudry’s candidacy from the start.

After Brian Cookson was elected president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in September 2013, Gaudry was elected as one of the UCI’s three vice presidents. This makes her the first woman appointed as vice president of the UCI.

You see this “this makes her the first woman” motif as it goes along – very PC, very “woke”. And as one of the vice-presidents – still fine, a good move, no disaster yet.

On the strength of that – a woman “succeeding in the business environment” was the way the Hawthorn board were dazzled – she had her disastrous five month stint actually running a professional organization with a large turnover.

Looking again at her undoubted successes, they were in the fields of ambassador for the sport and as 2IC.  I’ve never knocked a woman’s capacity as a 2IC because of her skills set.

The only issue for the type of highflying woman of which she is typical is that they are self-promoting and hardworking, they’re always in the right place at the right time, they are ambitious.  Fine, many men are too.

But look at where the club was in 2017.  They’d had their triple premiership two years earlier, the champs had retired or were retiring, the club was on a temporary [they hoped] dip.  Why not try a woman?  Very PC as mentioned, Hawthorn led the way in breaking the glass ceiling.

That’s precisely what Hewlett Packard and Yahoo had done.

Bad move.

In 2018, Hawthorn are once again picking up the pieces and have the highest membership ever in 2018 – they’ll come back.  They have learnt the bitter lesson though – never appoint a woman to the top role.

And who is once again the president?  Jeff Kennett.  Who is he? He was Premier of Victoria from 1992 to 1999, a controversial and hugely divisive figure but he could administer, manage, oversee a large organization, take it places.

Look at the profile – pugnacious [see the Donald, Arron Banks, Mike Ashley], a bit crude, a bit cavalier, decades of coming up through the ranks.

Now look at Theresa May by comparison, look at Andrea Leadsom, Diane James.

Just before moving on, what of the current premiers of the AFL – Richmond FC?

Aha – woman in the top role, club wins a premiership after decades.  Clubs take, on average, six years to go from also-ran to premier- see who changed in 2010.  What is Peggy O’Neal?  She is the club’s “face” outside, the diplomat, the one attending all the functions as the head person.  Who runs the show?  The CEO of course.

At Geelong FC, the one I support, the President is usually the longterm club servant who is now out to pasture.  The CEO is the engine room – in GFC’s case, Brian Cook.

It’s the official title, not one’s achievements

This is the aspect I saw a lot while teaching young women – their first thought in the CV/resume is what their official title is, the name sign which goes on the door rather than what they had personally achieved with the organization. It’s a difficult one to pin down but it’s certainly there.

This came out two days ago over this inanity:

While I agree with her on the prattiness of them dropping the “Doctor” title – if they’ve earned it, then let it be so – it’s the manner in which she speaks which gets me:

“It is outrageous,” Fern told the BBC. “This is our expertise and people need to know when someone is an expert. I am a firm believer that any academic – whether male or female – should have their title used as that is their qualification. That’s what my tweet was about.”

And men in general did pick up on this:

“If you have to tell people you’re an authority or an expert then you probably aren’t.”

There’s a tale from decades ago when I was at a teachers’ conference and a chap sat beside me. I didn’t know him from Adam and asked. We all wore name tags, so that wasn’t the issue – the issue was where he was from so I asked. He named a prestigious school.

He seemed of a certain age and bearing so I pushed it further – asking what he did.

“I’m the head.”

All sorts of things were going on there and apparently he had done all sorts of things of late with the school [so staff told me later]. A woman would not have waited to be pushed into saying that.

Of course it could be argued that as I was just a callow lad, a new teacher, he wasn’t going to be bothered to explain his bona fides but that’s another matter.

Another case study

I have a dear friend who is holding a family together just now – not on her say-so, that’s my own summation.  She is playing about five or six roles, attending to the needs of very disparate people and she does hold it together, even with a sharp tongue.  You show me the man who can cradle a baby, changing the nappy, dealing with an issue with this one or that, cooking the evening fare, sorting out disputes, dealing with this or that more or less continuously and still have time to deal with me – that is her undoubted expertise, there is no substitute for someone like her.

I wouldn’t for a second, on the say-so of some Men’s Rights group, attempt to do that, saying I’m as good as she will ever be – that is sheer lunacy.

It always has been this way and always will be – horses for courses in life.

The bottom line

As a perfect example of jack-of-all-trades and master-of-only-two – boat design/building and teaching, I feel I’m in a position to comment on this about women – that they have undoubted talent in various fields, negotiating being one of them, ambassadorial roles, fashion, cooking, domestic administration, teaching, even 2IC to some large business leader, plus any form of admin with a set role [plus game playing] … but one thing she must never be allowed is to go that last step according to the Petra principle – not unless you want to see that organization stagnate for reasons given above and in posts passim, not least in her whole approach and defensiveness as a woman.

[H/T Chuckles]

3 comments for “The Peter [or Petra] Principle

  1. The Blocked Dwarf
    June 18, 2018 at 07:44

    As I discovered at The Bestes Frau’s last committal under the Mental Health Act Section 3, to question a male doctor’s decision (politely and deferentially of course, one was brought up properly) is to invite him to explain in lay terms why he thinks such and such is a good idea. Most, not all but most, male doctors actually welcome questions, instead of the patient just nodding in agreement.

    Then I made the mistake of questioning (politely and deferentially of course, one was brought up to be a gentleman) a female doctor’s decisions, a black female doctor’s decision. That resulted in …well you can guess. Fortunately her boss was still a man and was able to nullify her threats of legal action against me.

    • Distant Relative
      June 18, 2018 at 09:35

      Similar with female dentist (French). Had check-up, told needed 6 root canals + crowns (same teeth) and 2 cleans. Given quote valid for 6 months (it’s the way things are done here) – not much change from 4,500€. Had 2 cleans @ 120€ each then had short hiatus due to stuff to sort in the Home Country but still within 6 months. Tried to make apt for next phase – couldn’t find records, will ring when they turn up. 2 months later, no contact from dentist, got toothache, went elsewhere. Had filling (without anaesthetic – not recommended!) asked new chap about roots/crowns and told nothing wrong. Eventually heard from Madame AFTER quote had expired wanting to make new appointment – told her gone elsewhere due to emergency. Fast forward this Jan, had problem went back to Madame (not much choice in these parts) who asked if I had been to any other dentist, said yes, she then refused to see me or any other family member! Blessing in disguise. Went further afield, new male dentist, confirmed second dentist – roots all tip-top but need urgent replacement on 3 old fillings – none of which are the 6 Madame wanted to treat. Also, and this surprised me, he said straight off the bat not to worry about payments as his job was to cure problems (gubermint contributions if eligible are mere pittance) – he would accept post dated cheques. And he uses anaesthetic. May he live long and prosper! Hope Madame goes bust.

  2. June 18, 2018 at 09:27

    I have no disagreement with any of that. The ladies are criticisable. But in fairness and intellectual decency I do have to point out that The Peter Principle was arrived at from studying organisations run predominantly by men.

    Football clubs though have no business pretending they are businesses and fail because they are managed as though they are. In reality they are simply a like a card table or roulette wheel: a facility for the business of betting and the associated corruption and graft: with the addition of many, many vastly overpaid wankers….er, workers….. er, players.

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