Friday, February 02, 2007

The "Peter Principle" and Stress

In its simplest form, the Perter Principle is based on the observation that "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." From observation, many people who have become stressed in their jobs seem to have risen through the hierarchy to a point just beyond their level of skill and competence and become "stuck" in a position where they are neither qualified, competent, nor comfortable. If you find that your job is a major source of frustration and stress, consider whether you have been promoted beyond your own level of competence.
The word hierarchy comes from a combination of two Greek terms and by definition describes "a system with grades of status or authority ranking one above another in a series, or the set of persons in such a system." Hierarchies in themselves aren't wrong. However, some factors explain why Peter Principle often generates stress. Not only do hierarchies exist, but the natural response of people seems to be to push toward the top. Think about the last time you attended a popular play at the theatre, a major sporting event. You probably gathered with a large crowd of others outside the gates, waiting with varying degrees of patience. Finally, someone came to open the gates, and the crowd began pushing its way inside. If seating had not been pre-assigned, most people rushed as rapidly as possible to get to the best seats. That's just a small example of the innate human desire to climb the ladder just as high as we can to gain as much fame, recognition, or fortune as possible.
Here are some practical insights that can help you avoid winding up in a frustrating position of incompetency:
First - whatever you do , look at any task as a challenge to your abilities and competence, a challenge that you need to proof yourself in to achieve gratification and self-actualization. At the completion of such a task, you will feel fulfilled and satisfied.
Second - Put higher standards for the objectives you are trying to achieve, try to get off the very long line of mediocre performance employees. You are still a team player, but with higher standards that single you out of the rest of them as the member of greater value.
Third - Set your priorities right, and do not allow anything to distract you of completing a task you started to do unless it is an emergency. You need to collect your concentration in order to be on track to safe effort, time, and cost.
Fourth - Maintain a work/life balance. Workaholics fall under tremendous pressure and suffer great stress when their social life and their homes becomes and extension of offices and turn gradually into an "after hours workplace."One practical step is to look at what you pour your energy into during your time away from work.
Fifth - Set realistic deadlines to the tasks to be done, and agree on these deadlines with your boss to avoid his untimely interference and the additional stress you get as a result. Controlling your schedules involves planning and scheduling for both work and notwork activities. Write them down and stick to them.
Sixth - Develop a system of briefing your boss on the progress without waiting for him/her to ask. That will keep him/her away from your turf and allows you more freedom to "do it your way."
Seventh - Develop alliance with the other team members in a give and take pattern that sets a parameter of your working together and creates "team spirit' norms of hard working and complementing each other. No task, this way, will be left undone and delays will be eliminated. Networking is a practical way of increasing your contacts and alleviating your stress.
Eighth - Never stop investing in your self, enhancing your skills and competencies not only in the technical area but in the area of interpersonal skill as well. Build your self-confidence as you go. That will give more tolerance to stress.
Finally, you need to develop a positive attitude towards life in general, looking at it as a "package deal." Remember: stress is composed of three major components-the event itself, or the "stressor"; your physiological response, often called "fight-or-flight;" and the most important component, your mental perception, or how you view the stressor.

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