Boston Globe, April 2022
Nobody is talking much about the phenomenon I’ve dubbed FEIP: Full Employment of Incompetent People. But we are there. Let’s assume you and I are among the competent crowd. You’ve got a to-do list, you care about getting it done, and you take some pride in how colleagues and customers regard your work. Me? I got this column written on time, and the spelling and grammar were pretty clean.
But in such a tight job market, incompetent people in all kinds of jobs―from retail to startups to health care―are not getting fired. Their coworkers know they’re not doing the work, and their manager knows it, too—but keeping them around is slightly better than having their desk sit vacant for a few months, and paying someone to replace them 20 or 30 percent more.
It’s not a topic that employers, human resources leaders, or outside recruiters want to touch with a 20-foot pole. In normal times, sometimes you’d hear a CEO mention their devotion to the late Jack Welch’s philosophy of actively pruning the bottom 10 percent of employee ranks. But at the moment, everyone is pretending that 100 percent of their workers are worthy of Employee-of-the-Month status. I did have one recruiter who focuses on biotech, Chris Palatucci of Coulter Partners, acknowledge that his firm is “doing a few more confidential searches, because the manager doesn’t want to lose the incumbent while the search is underway, or they’d be screwed.”