How inefficiency creeps to the top of companies

How inefficiency creeps to the top of companies

Although it has survived for centuries, it is only in 2018 that the term “kakistocracy” was brought into the spotlight. In the United States, while there is an open conflict between Donald Trump and former CIA Director John Brennan, The latter writes to the former American president : “Your kakistocracy is collapsing.” Many newspaper articles later used this expression, which is considered particularly appropriate for Mr. Trump's way of governing.

What is kakistocracy called? The use of ancient Greek gives us the key: kakistos is the superlative form of Cacos” bad “, Kratos It means “strength”. Thus kakistocracy is determined “Leadership by incompetents”. This phenomenon, which has been denounced in the political sphere, is also observed in the business world. This is the primary purpose of recent work by management science researcher Isabel Barth, Kakistocracy or the power of the worst (EMS versions).

This topic has so far been little studied through administrative research, and it is difficult to measure quantitatively. However, by collecting many testimonies, the author shows us its many manifestations. It thus offers a dive into the heart of organizations, as close as possible to the work groups, where human failings can be expressed on a daily basis, and which often remain unknown outside the company walls.

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Why do kakastocracies succeed in establishing themselves in a demanding economic world, in which actors are engaged in a constant race for performance? What biases allow incompetent people to rise to the top of the hierarchy? MI Barth distinguishes several origins for this “Rule by mediocrity”.

Affects employees

Firstly, the criteria for hiring or promotion of some companies are looked at, including bodies, diplomas, and even… “Clans” Sometimes they are distinct, and prefer mutualism. A community that can also be a family. This is what the author recalls “These are small and medium-sized companies where the founder gradually “appoints” his children to various management positions.”. Another defect, in public service, where “We apply through competitive exams, based on criteria that have nothing to do with job requirements.”“,” notes Liu, the public administration agent mentioned in the work.

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Isabelle Barth also condemns the position of decision-makers who would influence the internal movement to compensate for their incompetence. there “Competent trap” It is a classic of the genre, and refers to: “The department head, the manager (…) will retain the expert and highly competent person in his team at all costs, and prefer to promote the less competent people. » Laila, who works in the research sector, confirms: “I have been stuck for years in a job with no future because I take this service at a distance. My boss knows this very well, and he has banned me from doing so.” Another bias: fear of competition. The manager will “Surround yourself with 'less good' people who won't overshadow you.” And who is indebted to him sometimes.

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