sharp bites

standing on the shoulders of giants

The Peter Principle

“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”
Laurence J. Peter. ‘The Peter Principle’, (1969).

This principle states that in any company or organization, people who do their job right get promoted to higher responsibility jobs repeteadly, until they end up in a job they are incompetents for.

The logic behind this theory is that recruiting people for a new vacancy look first for the people already working in the organization. If an employee is performing well in his current duties, they feel he deserves to be promoted and deduce he will be equally efective in the new role. So, this employee will keep promoting while he is competent, and therefore he will eventually end up in a post he is no longer apt for, and he will get stuck in it.

As a consecuence, we can infer that many high-end positions are occupied by people who don’t have enough qualifications for their jobs, and this leads to big mistakes in the decision being made by people leading those organizations.

Thus, the Peter Principle is a big warning for people involved in the recruiting process. The requirements for the new job must be defined clearly, and when analyzing the aptitudes of existing employees for the vacancy, those people should be treated as any other applicant, despite of their efficiency at their current tasks.