Two common effects keep the best workers from climbing as high in the corporate ladder as their often less competent colleagues:
High ethics and competence vs. low ethics and competence
Quite often, a subordinate with high competence and high ethics will report to a supervisor with low competence and low ethics. The subordinate may pose a threat to the often insecure supervisor. The best employees often do not rise to the top. Maneuvering and playing the kiss up political game most often get employee promoted rather than their accomplishments and work ethics.
The Dunning-Kruger effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect says that incompetent people overrate themselves, and competent people overrate others. According to Wikipedia, "the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.... Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals...
“Excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you,” says leadership speaker William Deresiewicz. Most of us who find ourselves bullied at work wonder how on earth the incompetent bullies get ahead while the competent and ethical targets stay at lower ranks with less pay and responsibility.
Here are two reasons why bullies get ahead at work:
So you have a reputation of being a go-to person at work. One who gets things done and gets them done well. One who wants your organization to be great.
But suddenly you look around, and it’s the selfish, incompetent ones clawing their way to the top while you’re stuck reporting to them, making less money than them, and getting bullied by them.
So what’s the deal? How did this illogical power structure become so common?
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