When a promotion leads to a body snatching

(Photo of Wikipedia page for "Invasion of the Body Snatchers")

(Photo of Wikipedia page for “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”)

Does a promotion simply bring out certain innate qualities in people, or does it change them? It’s likely a combination of both. But no matter what your position on this question, I’m guessing that you’ve seen how individual behavior can change with a promotion, especially one accompanied by more power. When those changes are for the better, we all benefit. But when they are for the worse, a lot of people may pay a price.

The 1956 production of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a great sci-fi movie of the era. Kevin McCarthy and the lovely Dana Wynter co-star in this suspenseful tale of Earth being invaded by alien spores that grow into pods, which eventually morph into zombie-like replacements of people in a small California town.

I’ve invoked the “body snatchers” metaphor often when witnessing individuals who, once promoted to positions of greater power, turn into something scarier than ever before.

Some get caught up with their new-found institutional power and exercise it to excess. A few use it abusively.

Others, now seeing an opportunity to climb up the greasy pole, appear to lose whatever sense of independence they possessed prior to their promotion, choosing to use their power to turn the brownnosing of superiors into an art form.

Power is, umm, powerful stuff. It is most wisely vested only in those who will be good stewards of it.

3 responses

  1. Is the misuse of power specific to the person or more of a systemic issue? Maybe a little of both. Too often people are put in power positions for which they have no preparation. Once in their new positions, they do not receive (or seek) support or assistance in learning how to be good stewards of their new power positions. Seeking support may be interpreted as a sign of weakness – by those seeking and by those judging. New power holders can feel they have to prove themselves worthy. Their sense of what it takes to survive has changed dramatically. They do not know any better.

  2. What you speak of is rampant in healthcare. I call it crossing over to the dark side. Or when a cucumber turns to a pickle. When they are not good stewards of power they often morph into what the literature refers to as toxic leadership which has many forms. It poisons the unit and ultimately the organization. It has been said that most would take a new boss over a raise. A cost savings idea never used because that would be admitting fault.

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