1006 Peter Principle.

Traditionally, holiday weeks are bad for webcomics. Not particularly bad, I just meant that people have better things to do generally. So the numbers drop a little, which makes creators sad. This is just something you have to accept. It’s all peaks and valleys. Comics tend to get read when things are boring, or bleak. They are a little bright spot in an otherwise mundane day. Sometimes people have bigger fish to fry. I hope you are with people you love and are just stopping by because these players are also counted in that number. And if you find yourself alone, looking for something to aleviate the hurt, I welcome you to stay as long as you like. This work was created by someone who knows what alone is like. If you don’t have any real friends handy these imaginary ones might do in a pinch. :)

I hope you had a happy holiday if you celebrate it, and if not I hope you had a happy Thursday.


Seeing how my life in continually boring and bleak, I’ll be here for updates; holidays be damned. As a side note, these imaginary friends are far better than my current friends. Lol.

Sooo…according to Wikipedia it sounds like Thomas may be a “Super-Competent Employee”. If this is true, there seems to be two ways this plotline would play out: either Thomas somehow gets the ax or is forced to take the job. However, given that Mike is straddling the line between Competence and Incompetence, and that this comic routinely defies my predictions, this is just conjecture.

Also, I’ll keep stopping by during the holidays, if for no other reason than it’s now part of my daily routine. I’m betting a good chunk of regular reader feel the same.

In the bleak hours of my holiday vacation when the rest of my family is sound asleep, and I am awake because any college student worth his/her salt needs no more than 5 hours of sleep a night, I can safely say these imaginary friends are doing a nice job standing in for real human interaction. Thank You for maintaining regular updates through the holiday season.

In the last couple of decades the Peter Principle has been stripped of most of its importance. Two things have taken its place:

1. With increasing specialization, more and more organizations do not promote existing employees to any significant degree. A factory-floor worker cannot be promoted until he eventually becomes an upper-level executive (the standard dream scenario for the early twentieth century) because there’s no path from here to there. Middle managers need an MLS and several years of management experience at another company. Higher executives have entirely different qualifications, and experience in middle management isn’t even one of them. The security people make less than the executives but more than the middle managers, but middle managers can’t be promoted into security because they aren’t qualified for that. They aren’t qualified for IT or accounting either. Factory floor workers can’t be promoted into the office, and office workers can’t be promoted into management because they don’t have an MLS or any management experience. Et cetera.

So when building a career now, you don’t try to climb a vertical “corporate ladder” within a company as was envisioned in the past. You look for a position with another company that’s just a little better or offers a little more opportunity for skill growth than your current one. Maybe you move to a larger company so you can be part of a larger team. Maybe you move to a smaller company so you can take charge of the entire department. Maybe you move to a company with a slightly different focus, so you can round out your skill set.

2. The other change is The Dilbert Principle. When there _is_ an internal promotion available, it goes to one of the _least_ competent people, to get them out of the way. This happens because incompetent people cannot be easily fired in the modern legal climate (at least in the US). It’s much easier to promote them into a meaningless position with no really important responsibilities. If the manager who handles promotions is really deft, he can give them no additional money and still make them feel good about the “promotion” using harmless gestures, e.g., extra vacation time (get them out of here a few extra days a year), a better job title (pump their resume, maybe they’ll get a job elsewhere), and meaningless ego stroking (“We tried to hire somebody in for this, but the applications were all pretty bland, so we decided to go through the list of people we already have…”).

Pretty much true, more so a bit in the retail version of the corporate structure. Corporate structure allows for a relatively easy rise from floor personnel to manager (depending of course on region, population, etc…, so less so in this setting of Kansas; midst of nowhere)generally stopping somewhere about assistant manager or store manager level. From there positions of area or regional manager ARE regularly available (being one of the more common management type professions to get the axe these days as well as more typical drop off from other forms of employment and retirement). Just expect to travel a lot.

Of course, there are those locations where the corporate structure simply will not let the location die out (sometimes where it should, sometimes where it actually is the right choice), and the location in this comic is one of those. That being said, the location is physically unlikely to be able to meet corporate standards, but not to the point where it is worth the effort of removing the location. With some creative accounting (not illegal, mind, just dodgy) Mike might be able to appear to be in the grey area where warnings happen but no one has to lose their job over it, but the end result is almost always eventual store closure. Without interference, objectives aren’t met, someone has to pay (i.e. why make a situation better when we can blame someone. This is a common modern attitude). I.e. a lose, lose.

As for the Dilbert Principle, most store level promotions happen withing simply because the managers don’t want to have to bother training someone completely new to the system. Ergo floor managers are taken from the floor; and assistants from floor managers. Admittedly, the larger the organization, the more the Dilbert Principle applies, but again, this is more a microcosm version, and under a different set of similar rules. Or rather: while the overall end results are similar, the logic behind them follows a somewhat different path.

I’m not sure it’s really a matter of increased specialization. Back around the 90’s there was a paradigm shift to the effect that management is management, no matter what you are managing. In the past people were often promoted through the ranks and trained to take on the new responsibilities as they were promoted. Somehow most of industry was sold the idea that it was cheaper to just hire someone trained to manage than to take someone who knew the business and train them to be a manager (true so far – in the short term) and that the quality of the management would be the same (RED ALERT!). I have talked with people in all sorts of industries who have been affected by this idea. New managers come in who have no clue about the industry and try to apply their management techniques to situations that they do not understand. For example:
1) A new hospital manager who could not understand the difference in the work an ICU nurse does versus one who is working the general floor. To his view an ICU nurse was doing too little work because she was only caring for one patient while the other nurses might be taking care of a dozen or more patients. An ICU nurse is assigned a single patient because that patient requires continuous live monitoring and care with no interruptions. In fact some patients in the Intensive Care Unit may be assigned 2 or 3 nurses to take care of all the life-sustaining activities, monitoring of readouts from multiple monitors, constant adjustment – minute by minute of IV’s etc. A general floor nurse might oversee the care of a couple dozen patients, bringing their pills once a day, their meals 3 times a day, assisting with the bathroom, etc, and still have 50% downtime. Because the manager did not understand what nurses do, he could not effectively manage assignments and evaluate who was doing a great job and who was goofing off.
2) A new manager for a (major) chemical company who declared that no research project would be funded without a plan to recover all costs within 5 years. Anyone working in chemical R&D knows that from the time research starts through the development of a process at the bench scale to the construction of a pilot scale to the construction of a full scale production facility for the new product as well as completion of all regulatory documentation on the product and marketing it will be more than 5 years before they get the first penny of return – paying for the investment will take years and years. As an example Teflon was discovered in 1938 and first sold in 1945. That makes it 7 years before they got a penny in revenue from it. Teflon is responsible for over a BILLION dollars in net revenue every year for DuPont – but under that manager’s plan the R&D never would have been funded.
3) A company that made jet engines for cruise missiles decided to lay off all their senior engineers as a cost cutting measure. None of the management were engineers and they assumed that cheaper, freshly graduated engineering students could perform all “that engineering stuff” just as well as those with 15+ years of experience. When all the institutional memory and expertise left, the company soon found itself floundering – unable to deliver product on time and within specifications and was forced to liquidate just when demand for the engines was ramping up as the military’s existing stocks were used up in several The managers did not understand the work of the engineers and thus did not understand the impact of losing their senior engineers. They might have survived if they had retained even a single senior engineer.
Managing a retail store is not the same as managing a manufacturing plant, which is different from managing an urgent care clinic, which is different from managing a pharmaceutical company, which is different from managing a software company, etc. etc. etc.
Some management skills carry over from one business to the next, but far too often there are industry specific skills and knowledge that do NOT transfer and are not related to “management”. As a result, “management” hoses things up because they don’t understand things that are common knowledge for the “lower” employees. Of course, they then blame the lower employees when their ignorant, ill-conceived and mis-applied policies and methods don’t work.

If you don’t have any real friends handy these imaginary ones might do in a pinch. :)
You mean they aren’t real? I knew it! The redhead never really falls for the dork.

True Thomas. But sometimes a man also needs to know when to push the boundaries of his limitations.

…Gawd that sounded corny! ^^;

… and now I’m gonna complain here too!

WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHGGGG I just FINISHED the archives, AGAIN, on BOTH .net AND .com (is there a “better” one between the two anyway? They both work for me…) in a DAY…

… and now I’ve got the aw-it’s-over-depression I always get when I finish something awesome….


I also want to say that, unlike other comics I read, where there is a definite point a to point b era of art that I like and that only, your art, to my eye, is so consistent that I really have trouble figuring out when it changed from Page 2 Thomas to Page 1006 Thomas. And I love it all.

I mean… during the B&W the evolution was so subtle… I think it may have made the most changes when it went to colour?

I think Ed and Carol changed the most suddenly… can’t figure out where… and Thomas the most smoothly… Nina, I dunno, gave me a Mai of Avatar: The Last Airbender vibe in her first bunch of scenes, until the Ed squee attack. I think her hair was different then?

I neeeeeeed to sleeeeeeeep….

Concerning readership & holidays: Are the readers lost, or just deferred? Particularly with a serial strip like Between Failures, readers may not read a strip on the day, or even week, that it was posted, but they will eventually read and get caught up. I know that when I get busy and don’t read favorite serial comics, I go back and read those I missed. Gotta see what Tom, Carol, Ed, Nina, Brooksie, and all the rest, even hapless Reggie and Wes, have been up to.

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