Magazine article Management Review

Office Neanderthals and All That

Magazine article Management Review

Office Neanderthals and All That

Article excerpt

I ran into the Sole Survivor of the Peter Principle yesterday. You know the type: He's been with the Company for 25 years, and he used to be very well thought of, but nobody can figure out what he does these days, or to whom he reports.

Sole Survivor has a spacious office discreetly tucked at the end of the hall, but not many people go in or out of it. Sole Survivor issues a Monthly Report that nobody reads. When he is not working on the Report he travels out of town for Important Meetings, but no business ever comes out of them, either.

At staff meetings, Sole will drone on endlessly about matters that are just a tad off the subject under discussion. Or, if a coworker suggests a new procedure, Sole will interrupt to say, "We tried that once but it didn't work."

Sole Survivor's peers were the first to be hit by the recent round of downsizings and reorganizations. Sole keeps in contact with a number of people who have been let go, and if asked, he'll tell you how they are doing.

"How's Alcoholic Al's job hunt coming along?" I asked.

"Alcoholic has decided to go into business for himself," Sole Survivor replied. "He thinks he'll do better in a less structured environment. If you have any consulting assignments, you couldn't choose a better guy than him. After all, nobody knows the Company as well as he does?'

I refrained from pointing out that after lunchtime, Alcoholic A1 doesn't know much except how to sleep it off. Instead, I fell back on the more neutral: "How goes it with you?"

"Lots of work," Sole Survivor replied. "1 don't know how they expect me to keep up. My assistant gave notice and they won't replace her. Said it isn't necessary. That means I have to get the Monthly Report out by myself. Do you know that six of us used to work together on the Report? Now it's just me."

"That's tough," I said. "Have you heard from the Vice President of Lunch?" Lunch Veep is one of Sole Survivor's oldest cronies. Lunch Veep had earned his reputation early in his career by learning the restaurants that cater to the business crowd, and he's kept the title thanks to his genius at filling out an expense report.

Lunch Veep left the Company around the same time as Long-Time Sally. …

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