Access the publisher's website
Organizational Dynamics 43, 1 (2014) 17-26
The fast track illusion
Richard typified the enigma of upward failure. To people who knew him superficially, he seemed successful, but people closer to him were less convinced. Those who had only a passing acquaintance with him thought him an obvious candidate for a senior position in the company. However, others who knew more about his track record came to a very different conclusion. None of the assignments for which Richard had been responsible had been truly successful. In fact, his career had been a moving disaster—but thanks to his seductiveness, charm, and talent at manipulating others, he had gotten away with it. Richard was like the proverbial cat with nine lives. Disaster frequently struck due to his incompetence or laxness, yet he had an uncanny ability to limit negative fallout. His mental agility when faced with such moments of truth, and the speed with which he moved on to another assignment, and then another, were remarkable. It was always left to his successor to clean up the mess he had made.