Overcoming the Peter Principle

The Peter Principle: “An observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach the levels of their respective incompetence.”

In the 1968 book “The Peter Principle“, Dr. Laurence J. Peter described the way in which promotions tend to work in organizations.

Side note: Scott Adams, the “Dilbert” cartoonist, went further when he wrote the least competent employees are promoted to management in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing.

In an often-missed section of the book, the introduction, Dr. Peter offers a solution to final promotion to incompetence with the following:

If man is going to rescue himself from a future intolerable existence, he must first see where his unmindful escalation is leading him. He must examine his objectives and see that true progress is achieved through moving forward to a better way of life, rather than upward to total life incompetence.

Man must realize that improvement of the quality of experience is more important than the acquisition of useless artifacts and material possessions. He must reassess the meaning of life and decide whether he will use his intellect and technology for the preservation of the human race and the development of the humanistic characteristics of man, or whether he will continue to utilize his creative potential in escalating a super-colossal deathtrap.

Man, on occasion, has caught a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror, and not immediately recognizing himself, has begun to laugh before realizing what he was doing. It is in such moments that true progress toward understanding has occurred.”


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