You may be wondering how a dysfunctional manager reaches the top of her or his organization? As we get into the reasons behind such behavior, it might be helpful to keep in mind that these are not bad people they are just incompetent as managers. You should also be aware that it could happen to you on the way up the ladder.
Some are victims of the infamous Peter Principle, which says that organizations tend to promote people until they reach their level of incompetence. After that, they supposedly cannot go any higher, that is, unless they have friends higher up. In that case, they will continue moving up the ladder, because the old adage is true: it is not what you know, but who you know that matters.
Not all dysfunctional executives reached the higher levels with help from their friends. Some got there in legitimate and laudable ways, earning their advancement through hard work and sacrifice. But, now that they have reached the top, they are burned out. They want to rest on their laurels. They have already “given it their best shot” and have no more to give.
Then there are those mentally gifted managers who were promoted because of their special knowledge and technical competence. Unfortunately, their unique skills have since become outdated and no longer needed, but they are unaware of it. Managers like this are stuck at a level of unconscious incompetence. In other words, “they don’t know what they don’t know, and they probably don’t care.” They got theirs; why should they work any harder?
It is also important to realize that you may have contributed to the dysfunction at the top of your workplace. How so you might ask? By withholding comments, criticisms, or concerns from those above or by adding your own twist to information as it wends its way upward. This has become such a common practice that folks make a joke of it.
Perhaps it is funny, but it is also a sad commentary on life at the upper level. Whoever said “It’s lonely at the top,” must have been an executive in a directionless workplace. If the bosses are setting their own course and steering the ship based on contaminated information from below, it is not totally their fault if the ship runs aground.