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The "Peter" Principle

The Peter Principle

--The Foolish Couple @Home Blog post, 2016-06-11

A few days ago, during my reading hour, I came across this interesting principle. And if you are in the corporate world, you may find this interesting too.

 It is called ‘The Peter Principle’. And here’s the Wikipedia definition.

 The Definition

 The Peter principle is a concept in management theory formulated by Laurence J. Peter in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate's performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and "managers rise to the level of their incompetence."


In my own words, this means that, in a corporate setting, people gets promoted based on their current abilities, until they promoted to a level where they become ‘incompetent’, and then the promotion stops.


I found this principle interesting, however, my experiences at a vast number of corporations demonstrates a different phenomenon:


Competent people tend to stay in their current position. In other words, they don’t get promoted.  If you are very good at your job, you may be the most efficient, most accurate worker, but you may never get promoted.




My guess is that, you become so valuable at your current role that management does not want to take any chances that if they promote you, you will become what the Peter Principle states and become incompetent at your new role.


The other reason is that you have made yourself ‘Irreplaceable’. Your Output ratio is too high:


Your Productivity / Your Pay


Now don’t get over your head. There’s always someone else out there that are just as productive as you. But they may demand a higher pay, or not willing to work for your company. Whatever the reason is, you have become seemingly ‘indispensible’ for your company.


Until they found someone faster and cheaper.

Then you become indispensible.


To overcome the ‘Peter Principle’, it is important to constantly upgrade your skills. Your education should not stop once you graduate from school. Constant learning is important for personal growth and career advancement.


From my observations over the past 20 years, the transition from worker to management is the most difficult. Management involves a completely new set of soft skills which are generally not taught in any colleges. Even when I was in MBA school they barely touched on the required management skills.


What does Management mean?

 Management skill is not all about analyzing numbers and meeting budgets. It involves communications, empowerment, leadership. Even harder is learn to trust and believe your team. One of the most ‘lacked’ skill of new managers is on how to be a ‘quitter’. How to let go of your past responsibilities, duties and roles, and become a true mentor for your team.


“If you can’t management yourself, How can you manage a team?”


The first step to excel in your career, to be promoted and be competent at your new role, is to grow yourself, personally. Learn to be a better, stronger person. Train your mind to have a positive mental attitude that will help you attack any situation that come your way. Seek the help of a coach and / mentor to push you through any negative self talk, road blocks, and push backs and help you soar to new heights.


Learn to be a Successful Person.


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