Understanding the Peter Principle

How to Avoid Promoting People Who Reach Their Level of Incompetence

What Is the "Peter Principle?"

In his 1968 book The Peter Principle, Dr. Laurence J. Peter formulated the principle that “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” This pertains to the level of competence of the human resources in a hierarchical organization, and explains the upward, downward, and lateral movement of personnel within the hierarchy. 

This can be applied in an organization to assess the potential of an employee for promotion as, according to the principle, employees are eventually promoted to their highest level of competence, after which this level can also be viewed as their ‘level of incompetence’ with respect to further promotion. It may also be considered that the employee does not possess the skills required for promotion to the next higher-ranking position. 

I believe, based on years of observation, that there are certain drivers or reasons whereby a person reaches his or her own level of incompetence, and that these drivers emerge out of three major areas.



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