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All Bosses Suck

30 December 2009 | commentary | Tags: , , , ,

I couldn’t help but comment on this article, “Science: Your Boss Sucks” on Fiat Lux, a Stanford-based blog about “liberal education, politics, and the intersection thereof.”

The blog references a New Scientist article that stipulates that bosses suck in general because they “rise” until they are at a level where they are consistently underperforming.

Look, companies invented this type of suckage by pretending that their pretend hierarchical structure of jobs has some kind of meaningful mapping on to a linear progression of difficulty, and that excellence in a “lower” job ought to be rewarded with the responsibilities, tasks, and rewards of a “higher” job.

Bollocks. Here is the comment I stayed up past pi o’clock writing… on a blog that has a mission statement:

These are exactly the types of problems you’d expect to see in hierarchical organizations that attach a semantic quality of importance-increase to a movement from a production-oriented job to a management-oriented job.

Is there More, Harder, or More Important work being done on various managerial levels? No. They’re simply qualitatively different jobs. On every level, you will find good, bad, and excellent managers, many of whom would be performing much better if they were shifted to a different scenario.

In my profession, a software engineer occasionally finds herself drawn “up” to the level of project manager — mostly so the company feels justified in paying her in “wages commensurate with experience” — a position with hugely qualitatively different tasks than that of her straight production job. Why exactly does being a good engineer warrant being “rewarded” with being shifted to tasks that have not much to do with engineering?

Is there really such a huge conceptual problem with paying the best engineers to stay and do the best engineering work, even if that means they are paid on a level with the best managers?

Business would be doing itself a favor by eliminating the word “promotion” altogether. Replace it with “shift” or “internal rehire”, pay people what they’re worth to do the jobs they’re great at, and let the individual stand on his own merits — not on the connotations of the new job title or the semantic quality of “upward movement” that “promotion” entails.

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