You've heard about it before: The Peter Principle, aka "fuck up and move up" in Corporate America. (Come on, you know you've said it.)
There are some immediate examples that may come to mind for you, or perhaps not, depending on your level of consciousness, and age. Nowhere are the examples more prevalent than in politics.
Michael Brown, Former FEMA director - "Heckuva job, Brownie" - lost his job in September 2005 after his handling of the Katrina disaster, but kept his $148K annual salary until he left in November 2005. as had a couple of other positions in the interim, but currently works for Cold Creek Solutions, as VP, Disaster Recovery Practice. Oh, the irony.
Alberto Gonzales former Attorney General, under whose leadership, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were accused of improperly, and perhaps illegally, of using the USA PATRIOT Act to uncover personal information about US citizens. His inability to explain his role and influence in the dismissal of US attorneys led several members of the US Congress from both major political parties to call for his resignation. Through his testimony before Congress on issues ranging from the Patriot Act to US Attorney firings, he commonly admitted ignorance. Can you get away with that in your job? In August 2009, Gonzales began teaching a political science course at Texas Tech University. He also serves as the diversity recruiter for the Texas Tech University System and teaches a political science "special topics" course dealing with contemporary issues in the executive branch. Yeah, special topics...
John Ehrlichman, counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under Richard Nixon, was a key figure in events leading to the Watergate first break-in and the ensuing Watergate scandal, for which he was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury. He served a year and a half in prison for his crimes. Following his release from prison, Ehrlichman held a number of jobs, first for a quality control firm, then writer, artist and commentator. Ehrlichman wrote several novels and served as the executive vice president of an Atlanta hazardous materials firm.
Oliver North, retired US Marine Corps officer, was at the center of national attention during the Iran-Contra affair, a political scandal of the late 1980s. North was a National Security Council member involved in the clandestine sale of weapons to Iran, which served to encourage the release of US hostages from Lebanon. He currently is a political commentator, host of War Stories with Oliver North on Fox News Channel, a military historian, and a New York Times best-selling author. From 1995 to 2003, North was host of his own nationally-syndicated radio program known as the Oliver North Radio Show or Common Sense Radio. He also served as co-host of Equal Time on MSNBC for a couple of years starting in 1999. Seriously? Can I get my own show? I will totally throw somebody under the bus if you need me to. In 1990, North founded the Freedom Alliance, a 501(c)(3) foundation "...to advance the American heritage of freedom by honoring and encouraging military service, defending the sovereignty of the United States and promoting a strong national defense." The charity has recently been criticized by Daily Kos and conservative-leaning blogger Debbie Schlussel for distributing too little of its funds for charitable purposes.
Gary Hart formerly served as a Democratic Senator representing Colorado, and ran in the US presidential elections in 1984 and again in 1988, when he was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination until various news organizations reported that he was having an extramarital affair. Since retiring from the Senate, he has emerged as a consultant on national security, and continues to speak on a wide range of issues, including the environment and homeland security. In 2001, he earned a doctorate in politics from Oxford. In 2006, Hart accepted an endowed professorship at the University of Colorado at Denver. He also serves as Chairman for Council for a Livable World. He has written or co-authored numerous books and articles, including four novels, two under the pen name John Blackthorn. Since May 2005 he has been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. It was announced in January 2006 that Hart would hold an endowed professorship at the University of Colorado. He is the author of James Monroe, part of the Times Books series on American presidents. Hart is an Honorary Fellow of the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin. He is an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy. In September 2007, The Huffington Post published Hart's letter, "Unsolicited Advice to the Government of Iran", in which he stated that "Provocation is no longer required to take America to war" and warns Iran that "for the next sixteen months or so, you should not only not take provocative actions, you should not seem to be doing so." He went on to suggest that the Bush-Cheney administration was waiting for an opportunity to attack Iran ("Don't give a certain vice president we know the justification he is seeking to attack your country.") Hart linked American energy policy with national security in an essay published in 5280, the Denver city magazine, in November 2007. Hart wrote, "In fact, we do have an energy policy: It's to continue to import more than half our oil and sacrifice American lives so we can drive our Humvees. This is our current policy, and it is massively immoral." Hart currently sits on the board of directors for the Energy Literacy Advocates. He founded the American Security Project in 2007 and he started a new blog, "Matters of Principle", in 2009. Okay, maybe he doesn't suck as much as I thought.
Larry Craig is a former Republican politician from Idaho. On August 27, 2007, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call revealed that Craig had been arrested for lewd conduct in the men's restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on June 11, 2007, and entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct on August 8, 2007. Craig announced his intention to resign from the Senate at a news conference on September 1, 2007, but later decided to finish the remainder of his term. After his retirement Craig opened the consulting firm New West Strategies with his former chief of staff, Mike Ware, focusing on energy issues. He's just icky/creepy.
Jimmy Swaggart, televangelist, crybaby and FORNICATOR (OMG) involved in a sex scandal. In February 1988, Swaggart stirred controversy after a private investigation found he had solicited a prostitute for sex. Initially, Swaggart denied the accusations; but, as a media investigation proceeded, he acknowledged that some allegations were true. He later apologized, and cried a freaking river, for the acts in a televised broadcast. Swaggart is the author of several Christian works offered through his ministry, as well as an autobiography To Cross a River and a personal account of the 1988 scandal The Cup Which My Father Hath Given Me: A Biblical Revelation of Personal Spiritual Warfare. (Ick.) He is the author of the "Expositor's Study Bible," 13 Study Guides and 30 Commentaries on the Bible. Once a worldwide multi-million-dollar ministry, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries today mainly comprises the Family Worship Center, The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast, radio and television programs called A Study in the Word, (SonLife Radio Network), and a website, JSM.org. Okay, I'm just puking in my mouth a little bit here at the hypocrisy.
You may remember Geraldine Ferraro, VP candidate in the 80's, who had her ass handed to her publicly over her husband's finances and lost the opportunity to be VP. She didn't have a peter. BIG mistake. During Meet the Press she was asked, "Do you think that in any way the Soviets might be tempted to try to take advantage of you simply because you are a woman?" Did anyone ask ANY male candidate if they thought they would be denied the women's vote simply because they didn't know how to insert a tampon? Really? Yep, I'm totally unreasonable here, but it's because I have had trouble finding a comparable number of women vs. examples her. The Carly Fiorino comment about the hair was totally bitchy, but not in the criminal category.
Okay, now for some not-so-famous people that you may still recognize in your own organization:
The guy that sits in a corner office and collects a quarter of a million in pay annually, and seemingly does nothing to earn it other than be invisible every Friday, assigning tasks to other people that he should be doing, taking credit for something others have done, and surfing the net or playing computer games when he does come in. Should I mention that he's a former bureaucrat who didn't get appointed to a senior position in the agency so he had to make a soft corporate landing somewhere? And months later he's still riding the gravy train. Seen him?
Or the guy who has been with the company since it was a lot smaller (when his abilities still fit) but who now struggles for relevancy every day as the company has grown. He does the seagull thing from time to time (drops in and poops on something) just so you know he's still there and has a big title, but when it comes down to figuring out what he really contributes, you have to scratch your head ... until it bleeds.
Or the guy with the fat expense account who will only stay in the $300+ a night hotel, and never seems to bring in any work even though his job is business development.
But seriously, can a woman get away with this stuff? I'm thinking the boys club is still out there. Call me a man-hating, ball-busting bee-yatch, but this has not been my reality. (By the way, I am quite the male aficionado, but I apparently am not teflon-coated nor do I possess the appropriate genitalia for the boys club promotions and the ever-elusive senior titles out there, though I've continually exceeded goals for the past 15 years.)
There is one thing I know to be true, however. Sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you work, or how good you are at your middle management job, or how many articles you write about effective leadership models (blatant self-promotion here: http://dailyhurricane.com/2010/05/deadliest-catch-greatest-opportunity.html). The only thing that is certain is something I learned from a manager a few years ago: money/appreciation/recognition doesn't roll downhill; shit is the only thing that rolls downhill. (Thanks, Paul.)
Janitors are very under-appreciated. Even the ones who have peters.