Tom Hicks Jr. Proves ‘Peter Principle’ Importance

Posted: January 10, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Business
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m sure most LFC fans are aware of the quite ludicrous email sent to a fan from Tom Hicks Junior by now. I have been assured that the email is 100% genuine and there was no provocation by the message’s recipient. A message more befitting a forum contribution from an angry teenager, and not a director of our beloved club. A director who, we’re told, has served time as an analyst with a New York bank before becoming Vice President of Hicks Holdings and subsequently a director of Liverpool Football Club. So someone you would expect to have the sense to know right from wrong. Particularly in what are trying times for the owners and the club.


Our owners have tried to regain some semblance of balance in the public relations war ever since their own public spat and attempt to woo Jurgen Klinsmann to Anfield (despite us already having a manager). No doubt on the advice of some expensive PR firm they seem to now be on some sort of ‘stupidity sabbatical’. Keeping a silence and hoping that time will be the greatest of healers in the rift which has developed between them and the fans. Obviously Tom Hicks Jr. wasn’t in the PR briefing!

This got me thinking about The Peter Principle, which clearly looks to be in effect here. For those non business people the Peter Principle was developed by Laurence J. Peters who studied employee incompetence and developed The Peter Principle which simply states:

“In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence”

As an example one of his case studies looks at a mechanic who excelled in his job. So much so that when the service manager left, the mechanic (as the best mechanic) was awarded a promotion. Now suddenly the mechanic is dealing with customers, staff and paperwork, none of which he is very good at. He has reached his level of incompetence and won’t be demoted (usually because of his past performance as an excellent mechanic) nor will he be promoted because he no longer excels. Here he will stay impacting on the effectiveness of the organisation until he leaves or is sacked.

Now this pre-supposes that employees have to rise through the ranks. This is something Tom Hicks Jr. has not really had to contend with is it? I personally started working on a shop floor in a factory. I worked hard and diligently and was promoted to supervisor, followed by promotion or moves to manager, department manager, group manager, operations manager and finally director. Whereas Tom went from analyst to Vice President? Something not quite right there.

The pull section of The Peter Principle deals with this. Pull is defined as “an employee’s relationship – by blood, marriage or acquaintance -with a person above him in the hierarchy.” So the employee, good old Tom Jr. in this case, is pulled through the organisation hierarchy quickly, very bloody quickly in this case. A lot of pain could have been saved had Tom Sr. decided to use one of the exceptions of The Peter Principle. Exception no. 5 (The Paternal In Step) suggests that owners of family businesses should have their sons treated like regular employees. So starting at the bottom of the ladder and have them prove themselves, or, reach their level of incompetence. Tom Jr. probably would have made it to the Marketing or PR level and remained there going by his recent outburst. Here he would have remained, incompetent – but out of harms way.

So I guess the ‘stupidity sabbatical’ is over then. There remain, I believe, many fans out there (like myself) who are / have been Hicks and Gillett neutral. This being on the basis that at least the company side of things appear, on the surface at least, to be running quite well. Commercially the brand is getting stronger and the additional revenues from new sponsorship deals will help us compete better in the transfer market and build our new stadium. Having someone on the board who believes this kind of action towards ‘a customer’, who will only remain so because of his emotive tie to the organisation, creates a huge question mark over this argument.

More PR people will, no doubt, be on their way into Anfield to deal with the fall out. Let’s hope their first words are “Junior must step down”.

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