The Peter Principle: How it Works, Overcoming and Examples

Practically every third person has the next situation. You work at the enterprise for a long enough period of time, and suddenly you are offered to occupy one of the leading positions. But after the day you cannot cope with the given working scale, because a lot of the tasks go beyond your specialization. Naturally, you fail, which leads to an acquaintance with the Peter Principle.

How the Peter Principle Works

This rule was formulated by American teacher Lawrence J. Peter in 1969. It says that, in a hierarchical structure, each laborer faces a level of incompetence. We are talking about the limit of opportunities. However, for some individuals, it can be at a qualitatively different altitude.

The Peter precept is designed for the worker, who, having shown himself well in his/her duties, deserves the right to career advancement. If successful, he or she will move on until missing, reaching own maximum results. Evolution ends when a wage-earner does not handle with a new status, demonstrating the lack of necessary abilities.

The dominant reason is due to the fact that in many companies the practice of rewarding the best employee is still popular through the imposition of a job related to managerial or organizational characteristics. Not everyone is ready for such changes. High authority means huge responsibility. Frequently, a coworker is not able to achieve the aim, but it is impossible to return him to the original place.

Most likely, the latter will already be occupied by a certain successor. In addition, it is unlikely that supervision wants to admit that an error occurred. I.e. an unsuitable person will remain in his position, leading, either to dismissal or to resignation.

How to Overcome Peter's Principle

To support own reputation, numerous laborers are developing protection methods to simulate excellent performance. So, they do not take part in conflicts with subordinates who violate behavior norms. Such headers pay significant attention to secondary issues, postponing the solution of pressing problems. Before agreeing, potential directors should answer the following questions:

  • Is the boss interested in my welfare or is he trying to eliminate a competitor?
  • Do I understand the orders from above or do I need additional instructions?
  • Is the initiative encouraged?
  • Do I fulfill my functions successfully?
  • Is the chief an example to me?
  • Is it worth it for me to build friendly relations with my superiors or is it better to follow subordination?

Demoting people, low moral spirit and the desire to remain a conservative motivate scientists to look for a path to fight. Experts call three ways to beat the Peter Principle:

  • Advertise your person
  • Lowering expectations from oneself
  • Skills training

The first method is based around the proficiency to submit yourself as a professional in the circle of strangers. In this case, do not openly praise for your past merits. Hang the appropriate charters and talk in a firm tone, without raising the voice unnecessarily. Attentively listen to the ideas of subordinates. In general, try to find a place for improvement.

The second way is less militant since it implies the possibility of returning to the previous post. Do not give up right away, look around. Do not hesitate to ask for help. Of course, the return will tidy your nervous system and the company as a whole.

If the authorities have discovered incompetent employees, it is never too late to record a wage-earner for refresher courses. Choose for him/her a mentor from experienced adepts and provide books with optimistic titles. A person must believe in himself, then, the Peter Principle will be surmountable. Naturally, the old habits are unlikely to aid cope with new challenges. But if you give a collaborator a chance, everything is possible.

Do not refuse from office, only on the basis of the above precept. First, make sure that you have done all you can to master at the higher level. Share your fears with your superiors. In such a method, you not only provide yourself with support, but you will also find loyal mentors in the person of management.

Practical Example of Peter's Principle

Let's imagine a successful business where one of the consultants triples the sales, thanks to own talent. He is noticed and promoted to the post of the department manager. He perfectly copes with the duties assigned to him and receives an offer to become a commercial director.

Having taken a job, he constantly faces obstacles. Firstly, he is not able to establish close communication with the staff, which leads to a twisting of instructions. Secondly, he does not get a deep knowledge of annual indicators and rules of advertising. All this brings decline in profits for the company and a demotivating atmosphere among the personnel.

Possessing an irascible temper, he is bad at negotiating, irritating over trifles. He does not notice the initiatives of a team and is lost in numbers. Feeling unhappy in current status, he increasingly thinks about the dismissal. Of course, if a laborer of retirement age, he is likely to choose a stable income. True, the firm will not benefit from it.

The mentioned example shows that moving up a career ladder is not an automatic process. It needs to be monitored and reacted in time to inadequate behavior. Before appointing a person to a new position, you should explain in detail the skills that are expected of him/her. Give time to meditation, because experience does not always matter.

Thus, you are fully acquainted with the Peter Principle. Despite its prevalence, numerous works of business research are ready to argue about its realism. Perhaps the employee did not wait for another increase due to other factors, such as marital status, age, or the banal lack of a job. In a word, we are dealing with a theory with one can either agree or find counterarguments.