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Older Developers: Habits Are Going To Kill Your Career | Lessons of Failure

User: Can you help me fix this computer problem?

You: No, you’re a Squatter.

I’m not talking about a $5,000-a-day-hooker-and-blow* kind of habit.

Hey, that old dog can learn new tricks…I’ll be damned

You: Click the Start button

Squatter: What’s a Clark button?

You: The Start button

Squatter: Where do I type Clark?

You: It’s a button. You click it. I am pointing to it. Follow my finger. Don’t look out the window. Don’t yell at the dog. Focus on my finger. Click there.

Squatter: Click your finger? Is your name Clark?


“Any object in motion will tend to stay in motion; any object at rest, will tend to remain at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force.”

The Peter Principle is the principle that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.” It was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, a humorous treatise which also introduced the “salutary science of Hierarchiology”, “inadvertently founded” by Peter. It holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. This principle can be modeled and has theoretical validity.[1] Peter’s Corollary states that “in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties” and adds that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence”.

One way that organizations can avoid this effect is by having a policy that requires termination of an employee should they fail to attain a promotion after a certain amount of time. Even in instances where an employee can handle their current job but fail to do any better, they can still cause harm within the company, by way of preventing those beneath them with higher potential of moving up, as well as lowering morale once such employees become aware of this fact. The United States Military for instance requires that certain ranks be held for no longer than a set amount of time, a lack of compliance of which could render grounds for dismissal.

Another method is to refrain from promoting a worker until he shows the skills and work habits needed to succeed at the next higher job. Thus, a worker is not promoted to managing others if he does not already display management abilities.

  • The first corollary is that employees who are dedicated to their current jobs should not be promoted for their efforts (like Dilbert Principle), for which they might, instead, receive a pay increase.
  • The second corollary is that employees might be promoted only after being sufficiently trained to the new position. This places the burden of discovering individuals with poor managerial capabilities before (as opposed to after) they are promoted.

Peter pointed out that a class, or caste (social stratification) system is more efficient at avoiding incompetence. Lower-level competent workers will not be promoted above their level of competence as the higher jobs are reserved for members of a higher class. “The prospect of starting near the top of the pyramid will attract to the hierarchy a group of brilliant [higher class] employees who would never have come there at all if they had been forced to start at the bottom”. Thus the hierarchies “are more efficient than those of a classless or egalitarian society”.

In a similar vein, some real-life organizations recognize that technical people may be very valuable for their skills but poor managers, and so provide parallel career paths allowing a good technical person to acquire pay and status reserved for management in most organizations.

Pluchino et al. computationally modeled the behavior and tested other promotion strategies. They found that first promoting the most competent then the least, and also promoting randomly avoided the effect. [2] [3]

You can alter your habits such that every year, you spend the time to add 5 new technologies or practices to your repertoire, one about every 9 weeks.

via Older Developers: Habits Are Going To Kill Your Career | Lessons of Failure.

You’re reading this blog, and that means there’s a good chance that people ask you to help them solve computer problems. There are three types of users who ask for help: Runners, Watchers, and Squatters.

Runners are all too happy to abandon their workstations for as long as it takes you to solve their problems. When the runner is gone, you can think through a variety of potential solutions, try some things, and really dig in to the problem. Personally, I don’t mind runners, although it makes me feel as if I should be getting paid for my services.

Watchers are the most thoughtful users. They might offer some useful information when asked, such as passwords. Perhaps they will compliment you on your computer skills and intuitions. And the Watcher is there when you find your brilliant solution. It’s nice to have a witness sometimes. The only danger with a Watcher is that sometimes you get a talker.

The third type of users is Squatters. A Squatter will not leave his or her Chair of Control, and will insist on being the one to operate the mouse and keyboard. In theory, this shouldn’t be too bad, at least for simple problems. But the Squatter will only give you a half listen. The other half of the squatter’s brain is going rogue, occasionally checking in with you to say, “Click what?”

You could try to explain the situation to the squatter, but it won’t help. For example, you might say, “If you relinquish the keyboard and mouse, I can probably solve this printer problem in one minute. If you continue asking me for advice while ignoring my input and randomly pursuing your own theories, we’ll both be here all night.”

http://www.dilbert.com/