A jaundiced view of promotion


Still not angry...

Before Christmas we published a slightly angry post from a local government consultant. It generated quite a lot of interest and comment and so when another, equally angry, e-mail from the same consultant dropped into our inbox we thought it was worth giving it an airing.

Apologies to all people called Joe!

Local Government is proud to present Joe. Joe, a stand up sort of character from the community. Always did OK in school and lives an active life in the community. An ideal candidate for local authorities to try and recruit.

The problem is, is that Joe is not an ideal candidate. Joe has applied to work with children and young people, thinking (wrongly) that you don’t need to have any special skills or experience. The Local Authority eager to encourage social enterprise and community development puts Joe through to the interview stage of this particular post. Joe does OK at interview, the other candidates aren’t suitable. The Local Authority recruitment panel think, let’s try him out, with a bit of training, he might do OK. To go back to advert will take time and cost more money, both the Local Authority doesn’t have.

The unfortunate thing is, is that Joe just about completes the training. He struggles everyday with his role. He is referred to occupational health for stress related matters, who ensure that his working environment is suitable. Probably spending about £3k in the process, new chair, new lamp, new desk etc etc. The bottom line is that Joe just isn’t very good at his job. HR try to encourage his line manager to think about using the probation period. The line manager, also a budget holder, is worried about the price of recruitment, sometimes ranging up to £2,000 for a £18k salaried role. Surely, Joe just needs some more time to settle in?

Years roll on past. Joe doesn’t improve, but management aren’t sure what to do with him. So they promote him to a job where there is less contact with children and young people. More data capture and data input. Joe thinks, “yes, better money, they obviously think I’m doing a good job. I still hate it though, but it’s good enough to pay the mortgage…”

Noooooo!

In Joe’s lifetime, he gets promoted three more times to try and move him on into posts that he can’t wreck.

In every single team, his teammates have to pick up after him. Usually putting in more hours to ensure Joe’s projects are delivered on time and to a decent quality. Joe just tootles through life in happy oblivion. People he ends up managing often lack motivation or aspiration to improve. After all, if a man like Joe can get promoted, surely they can perform at 40% capacity…

Local Authorities – good business models? I think not.

How true is this? We’re optimistic sorts so think that the above, although it certainly happens, is not all that common. Are we being foolish? Is our consultant correspondent correct? Please do let us know.

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7 Comments on “A jaundiced view of promotion”


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by WeLoveLocalGov, PublicSectorBloggers. PublicSectorBloggers said: A jaundiced view of promotion: Still not angry… Before Christmas we published a slightly angry post fr… http://bit.ly/gFIfXj [...]

  2. jrofficer Says:

    I was once part of an eight-member team. One of the eight retired and a new person joined us. The interview process was almost completely led by our manager and her manager; we team members never met any of the candidates, although we were asked to correct the IT skills test which formed part of the interview process. One candidate scored 2% correct on the test and the others were all 80% or higher, so we knew that at least 7 of the candidates were capable of doing the work. To our surprise, the 2% candidate was hired: the others, being more qualified, could also command a higher starting salary. The salary savings would be used to send the new employee on training courses, except she failed them repeatedly. Our workload increased because we were not only having to cover for the times she was on training, we were also having to correct her mistakes. Our newest colleague was more interested in cleansing our auras and placing crystals around our desks than doing what she was paid to do. She and the manager started going for long 1:1 meetings and we assumed that a competency review was underway. The 1:1 meetings became long lunches and then shopping trips. Our manager’s manager was based at a different location and told us to speak to our manager or to HR if we had concerns. HR said to speak to our manager or our manager’s manager. Eventually our manager’s manager retired and everyone moved up a level: the newest colleague became our manager and over the new few months we all quit in protest (it was the 90s and dot-coms were a dime a dozen). Today’s story is not public sector-specific. Incompetent people are hired and promoted beyond their abilities in the private sector too.

  3. ExLocalAuthority Says:

    This could be describing my old post in a local authority. Bad managers being allowed to do a job they just are not able to do because it ‘easier’. Its the main reason I left, the job i loved but the management was really poor.

    Staff being unmotivated because of this and often leaving the post because of it. I would say it was more common than less.

  4. LG Worker Says:

    I’ve had many managers in my time in local government and all were different (and only a minority were bad). In my experience the really bad ones are the ones who don’t care. This is the same for employees.

  5. vicarious phil Says:

    oh yes. This account certainly sounds accurate. Actually I had been musing recently about whether what I see at work (for a metropolitan authority) is unusual, typical or somewhere in the middle.

    I know it’s easy to blame management, but it’s never easier than when they are really poor. Staff recruited and the probation period isn’t used to release them to do something they’re more suited to.

  6. benlowndes Says:

    This is life, not a trait that is exclusive to one ‘business model’ (ugh, bad phrase). Sometimes, in every job, people are elevated to roles which exceed their capabilities.

    The fact that this may also happen in local government does not neccessarily mean that councils are worse than other employers at not rewarding talent and performance appropriately.

    Anyone who thinks otherwise should look at the banking sector for evidence of how ‘the other half’ lives.


  7. [...] not talking millions here, and occasionally thanks to the Dilbert Principle occasionally someone gets paid more than they’re worth, but generally if someone works hard [...]


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