On Getting Hoofed from a Major

Tim Worstall is surprised by the low number of teachers sacked for incompetence in England and Wales: just 17 of about 440,000 in the 10 years between 2001-2011, or less than 2 per year.

A 0.00045% get rid of the idiots rate just doesn’t look like anyone is taking hunting for the idiots seriously.

Which made me comment that in a major oil company, this would be a bloodbath!

Seriously, does anyone think of Shell’s 90,000 employees 40 were sacked last year for incompetence?  Or ExxonMobil canned 37 staff for the same reason?

Even following Macondo I’m not sure anyone was fired from BP.  Sure, Tony Hayward was removed as CEO but I’m not sure he was dismissed from the company, and as far as I know he resigned of his own accord shortly afterwards.  Maybe the driller who was company man on the Deepwater Horizon was sent packing, but being the key man in a $30bn incident is about what you have to do to get the boot.

Usually, incompetents just get promoted to  a position where it is hoped they will do less harm…


2 thoughts on “On Getting Hoofed from a Major

  1. The Peter Principle is interesting. It speculates that if you are good at your job, you continue to get promoted until you reach a position which you’re not up to and there you stay. The logical conclusion being that many organisations are staffed by people who are not very good (even incompetent) at the job they end up doing.


    “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”

  2. Large organisations resemble other large organisations, and whether they are state or private run is barely the point.

    Eventually, though, private companies (and sometimes even government departments) discover that they are not fit for purpose and / or losing vast sums of money, and vast numbers of people get sacked. Usually the people who have no actual skills other than preserving their jobs don’t get sacked, and a surprisingly large number of those who do useful work do get sacked.

    We saw a classic example of this with the computer system failures at RBS a couple of weeks ago. In any IT department, there will be a few guys (someones just one guy) who have been there a long time, come in late every morning, and appear to spend half the time they spend in the office playing video games. However, these are often the people who have immense and deep knowledge of the systems, who everyone else comes to with questions when when things get tricky, and who step in to fix things when things go really wrong. (The understanding that they will work all night and/or all weekend in such circumstances is given in return for the understanding that they will come in late). These people are usually well but probably not extravagantly paid, as most of them will have had a good manager at some point in their career who understands that such people should be treated well but otherwise left alone to do their jobs as the people who are actually in charge of the systems, and who has put their pay on decent level, which they have kept.

    Then sackings occur. Good managers leave on their own volition. The management consultants come in to decide who gets sacked. They see guys who come in late, are paid salaries that appear to be disproportionately high given their official position in the hierarchy, don’t appear to do anything, and of all the people in the department are probably the least able to disguise their contempt for the management consultants .

    So the people who were actually running things are the ones who get sacked. Then, things go badly wrong, nobody knows how to fix them, and a major high street bank is on its knees.

    I don’t know how the Natwest situation was ultimately resolved, but normally someone eventually figures out who the sacked people are who are able to fix things, and they are brought back as consultants. Normally this means that they have to fix a system that has been gradually buggered up because nobody knew what they were doing for six months or however long it was since they left, and it takes quite a while. Hopefully the consultants are being advised by someone who understands that in such situations it is right and proper to charge like a herd of a thousand wounded and very very angry raging bulls.

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