Actually, I think I would support this

The BBC is paying one of its senior executives an astonishing £235,000 a year to work from home on ‘special projects’.
Janice Hadlow, the Corporation’s ‘Controller of Seasons and Special Projects’, receives the huge salary despite being based largely at her home in Bath rather than her office in London.
Ms Hadlow, 57, was previously the Controller of BBC2 but stepped down at the beginning of last year.

So far, so annoying. However:

One Corporation source said: ‘At the BBC, you are allowed to remain on the same salary if you move jobs. This is why Janice Hadlow is still paid nearly £20,000 a month. She’s been allowed to hang on to the salary she had as BBC2 Controller.

This is actually from the Peter Principle, one of the only three management books you should pay attention to. Everyone does have their own level of incompetence. And you’ll never find out what it is until you promote someone and find out whether they can do that job. This means that you have a problem. You promote someone, they’re incompetent, then what do you do?

The answer given in the PP book is that if someone’s no good at the job you’ve promoted them into then sideline them. But crucially, allow them to stay on the package that you promoted them to. It’s only in this manner that you can gleefully go around giving people the chance of promotion, the chance of finding out whether that next level up is still below the level of their incompetence.

It’s a complicated argument but one I find reasonably convincing.

35 thoughts on “Actually, I think I would support this”

  1. Normally if you promote someone, you stop them doing whatever it was that they were good at and push them up the ladder. The further you went up the ladder the more administrative work you tended to do, and the less your job looked like whatever it was that you did to get promoted.
    Years ago the UK Scientific Civil Service seemed to have solved this. If you had someone who was very bright and could actually do something valuable you gave them a “Special Merit” promotion. The grades that it usually applied to were from roughly the rank of Major in the Army to Senior Principal/Deputy Chef Scientific Officer (Full Colonel/Brigadier).

  2. Most head offices, or central campuses are staffed by sidelined executives. You will find them in environmental studies, health and safely, sustainability, and future technology departments. They are culled ever so often when there is an economic downturn.

  3. Didn’t the military have a rather good way of dealing with this? Brevet rank, or something? A captain is temporarily promoted to major. Gets paid as a major. If he hacks it, he keeps the rank. If he doesn’t he goes back to his substantive rank.
    The higher grade is an advantage to the employee as well as the organisation.. Whether they can hack it is a risk. Why’s the organisation expected to carry all the risk?
    Out here, in the real world, us normal people cope with this. We reckon we can do something. We succeed. We fail. We don’t get paid if we fail.

  4. Used to find that in the civil service. Someone with no management ability gets promoted because they are good at being on top of non management caseload.
    Then they prove bad at managing staff so get promoted again or switched sideways to an admin post.

  5. Many universities used to have a system for coping with academics who were losing their interest in research and teaching in (say) their early fifties. If they were the right sort of people you could give them admin duties. If they proved good at it you could promote them.

    This had the advantages that (i) the uni was run by people who understood the key work – who had written lecture courses, books, research grant applications, research papers, and (ii) your administration was small, since the academics who had lost interest in their proper jobs and yet who were fit for admin were fairly few.

    Now though the unis are infested with huge tribes of “management professionals” who know bugger all about research and teaching, spend their time distracting and obstructing the academics from their duties, and cost the bloody earth.

    It turned out that having admin done by a small cadre of clever people who knew what they were talking about had great advantages.

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    BiS,

    It’s 25 years since I left the Army but I doubt its changed and you are correct but its not just for officers, its for all ranks.

    The first stage of any promotion is Acting rank and in theory its relatively easy to revert back to the lower rank for poor performance but from my experience its rare, especially if it meant going for Sgt back to Cpl or similar barrier promotions. When these did occur it was normally accompanied by a posting, or at least it did in the Signals.

    There is also Local rank. This can be conferred by a CO but doesn’t carry any pay or privileges and always reverts on posting.

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    PS I should have said that in my time the Army was very careful about promotions, especially barrier promotions, and the process was very thorough and objective.

  8. “It’s only in this manner that you can gleefully go around giving people the chance of promotion, the chance of finding out whether that next level up is still below the level of their incompetence.

    It’s a complicated argument but one I find reasonably convincing.”

    1. don’t go around ‘gleefully’ promoting people. Have some care and try them out to see if they’re suitable for the position before you fully promote them.

    2. Sure, its *embarrassing* to find out that you’re actually incompetent at the next higher rank – but so what? If you can’t do the job, you don’t deserve the compensation. You can say that its not your fault (but it is), but at the same time, its not your employer’s fault either – why should he have to shoulder the burden? Plus, with no incentive to, you know, *perform, then there’ll be a lot of people who will reach what they consider to be their terminal position and coast – I’ve seen a lot of that at the E-7 level in the US Navy.

    Gitgud or get out.

    The military has a process for dealing with this very situation. In addition to brevet promotions (for battlefield necessity) we have a procedure (rarely ever used unfortunately) for removing a rank due to incompetent vice misconduct. The difference is that losing a rank due to the latter says you screwed up but should have known better while the former is an admission by the service that they should not have promoted you and so there’s no fault attached to the RiR.

    And it seems to be pretty much exclusively *government* agencies or those ‘businesses’ that can rely on government force to guarantee their incomes that rely on this.

  9. “bloke in spain
    October 25, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Didn’t the military have a rather good way of dealing with this? Brevet rank, or something? A captain is temporarily promoted to major. Gets paid as a major. If he hacks it, he keeps the rank. If he doesn’t he goes back to his substantive rank.”

    A brevet is *sort of* a promotion – you get to wear the uniform, access the privileges, and have the responsibilities of the next rank, but you’re not *actually* promoted to it ‘officially’ nor do you get the pay.

    If you hack it then you’re promotion will be confirmed. If not then you stay at the same rank, just change the insignia on your uniform back, and there’s no ‘got demoted’ mark in your record.

  10. Yes, the armed forces model does seem to have a better way of handling this issue

    Re: Bloke in Spain & Brevet rank.

    No. Brevet was a honourific. A way of giving a reward/recognition when it wasn’t possible to actually promote someone. No pay, seniority etc applied.

    Like Emeritus Chairman etc is.

    As Bloke in North Dorset said, the system of: Local -> Acting/Provisional -> Substantive is the real lesson to be learnt here.

    Acting/Provisional is usually a six month thing. Plenty of time to get up to speed and prove yourself or you go back to what you were doing beforehand.

  11. How is BBC2 controller worth 235k, though? Is there an equivalent role in the real world that we can compare it to?

  12. I think a lot of this talk about competence/incompetence may be outdated. Most of what I see these days are promotions based on how cravenly compliant and “on message” somebody is. Competence or lack of doesn’t feature one iota.

  13. I can confirm the value of acting rank as a recipient: got an extra stripe on an acting basis to support an exercise in Faslane (they’d listen to a lieutenant more than a subbie). One of the requirements for getting the substantive rank, was to have usefully supported a major NATO exercise (JOINT WARRIOR, ARRCADE FUSION, or similar); acting rank let them fill a slot they needed a body for, gave me a chance to show whether I could do it, and meant I was now qualified to get substantive at the higher rank (which I now am, which is nice)

    By contrast, the part of the civil service I’m currently employed by has a rigid grade structure with salary tied to grade and a hard ceiling for non-managers: so while they claim to focus on science and technical work, but the only route to a decent salary (for a CEng-type professional) is to abandon actual technical work and become a manager. Curiously, they’ve got a surfeit of managers and a desperate drought of experienced engineers: I should bemoan that fact, except that I’m currently helping to fill the gap on contract rates…

  14. At our workplace we ofteb test people’s suitability for promotion by getting them to assume the higher role while the current holder is on holiday. It rarely works out well because nobody takes them seriously: there’s always the fear that any decision taken will be overruled as soon as the original post-holder returns. So Tim is right, the only way to find out if someone is suitable is by actually promoting them.

    But paying them the higher salary without the higher job still grates – especially when the money comes from the public purse.

  15. In my old life away at sea I had the dubious please of sailing with a complete tosser of a Chief Engineer, he was horrendous. Should never, ever have been even a third, a real nightmare.
    On my next ship his name came up in conversation and that ships Chief Engineer admitted that he had put him forward for promotion. When asked why his, his words made total sense and have stuck with me ever since. “He was utterly, utterly fucking useless as a First Engineer. There was no way I was ever going to have to sail with him again, so I fully recommended his promotion. Now my only problem is if I find I have to follow on from the useless twat. But at least I will never have to sail with him again!”

    Daedalus

  16. I recall reading somewhere that there were civil service grade/army rank equivalents that applied on conscription. I was a grade 7 in HMIT which meant I would have been some sort of officer (forget which, probably a junior one but an officer nevertheless). Bloody terrifying to think about it. Quite happy to admit I think I’d have made an awful soldier.

    Thank god I’m now of an age where a war would have to be going really, really badly before I got conscripted.

  17. How is BBC2 controller worth 235k, though? Is there an equivalent role in the real world that we can compare it to?

    Seriously? They pay presenters more than that.

    Fiona Bruce earns twice that and she isn’t in the league of Graham Norton or Jeremy Clarkson.

  18. @ bis
    “Out here, in the real world, us normal people cope with this. We reckon we can do something. We succeed. We fail. We don’t get paid if we fail.”
    For those of us who are self-employed, we don’t get paid if we fail; however employees, even in the private sector, still get paid if they fail – although if they screw up badly enough the company goes bust and everyone is out of a job.

  19. More than once in the civil service have had a supervisor who was terrible at the job. Had to follow what they said while working around them to do what was needed.
    Worst ones were usually the ones who managed our managers. Incompetent micromanagers or dumb idiots who followed the book regardless of relevance.

  20. Curiously, they’ve got a surfeit of managers and a desperate drought of experienced engineers

    Is there anywhere where that is not the case? The phrase in the oil business (and I suspect in others) is “too many chiefs, not enough indians”.

  21. At our workplace we ofteb test people’s suitability for promotion by getting them to assume the higher role while the current holder is on holiday. It rarely works out well because nobody takes them seriously: there’s always the fear that any decision taken will be overruled as soon as the original post-holder returns.

    This is an amusing anecdote on that subject.

  22. There is no-one “worth” more than anyone else. Some people are paid more because their skills are important to their employer. That you don’t value her skills is irrelevant. I don’t value Beckham’s, but I’m not paying him.

    To pay a person who is on charge of multi-million pound deals a pittance would be idiotic. For all we know, she may actually be good at her job. In any case she is unlikely to have got there with no skills.

    And if you think you’re better, you get a job like hers.

  23. David Attenborough was, I think, the second controller of BBC2. This involved introducing colour television to the UK and inventing the hour-long documentary format. No idea what they were paid in those days — almost certainly a lot less.

  24. Some people are paid more because their skills are important to their employer.

    The problem is that those “skills” often tend to be a close personal relationship with the employer, being part of a self-selected group of elites who hand out cushy jobs to one another, or being politically reliable. Actual, discernible skills are rather too often missing altogether.

  25. I knew someone at British Gas who was promoted to get rid of her. Such a fucking awful team leader that half her team were always off sick, and everyone knew it was to avoid her. She was quickly made so important that she had to move to head office in London. Ended up on serious money. Was good at nothing.

    I know demoting people involves jumping through a few hoops, but surely it’s better than this?

  26. Chester:

    “I don’t value Beckham’s, but I’m not paying him.”

    But you are paying her (assuming you have a TV, and a TV licence).

  27. “however employees, even in the private sector, still get paid if they fail ”
    The world seen through the eyes of the administrative classes, john77

    I’ve always been of the old-fashioned notion that the important people in any organisation are those who get the shit done, is the purpose of the organisation. The rest, from floor sweeper to chairman of the board simply facilitate them doing so.* Engineers can engineer, carpenters carpenter, pilots pilot, infantrymen be cannon-fodder.
    Yet these are the people who get canned if they fail to hack it. The further people are from the sharp end, the less it matters how good they are & the easier to live with their inadequacies. Hence politicians.

    *Why i always told my guys, “You don’t work for me. I work for you. You’re the ones earning us the money. I’m only here to make it easier for you.”

  28. Bloke in North Dorset

    “Some people are paid more because their skills are important to their employer.”

    And may be of even more value to a competitor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *