Book Notes: The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter, Raymond Hull
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In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Raise to Their Level of Incompetence

Each role requires a different set of skills, as such people using the skills which made them successful in a different role will either not help them in the new role or will hold them back.

A second manifestation is where subordinates of the person in the incompetent role tightly follow the rules, because deviation from them will act against them personally. They are incentivised to be strict to the rules.

Organisations work around it by “promoting” people or moving people sideways into roles which they can do no harm.

If people are super-incompetent then they are easily let go. Ironically this also applies to the super-competent. These people challenge the hierarchy and are let go to preserve the current order.

Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence

There is no direct relationship between the size of the staff and the amount of useful work done.

Nothing fails like success

Psychological profiling can place employees in roles which they are most suitable for. This means that any promotion will be to an area of less competence.

Good followers do not become good leaders

There is a compulsive desire to get to the level at which you are not competent, as the jobs which are easy for you to perform well offer no challenge. As such people push themselves into the roles which they can not do. The challenge is more to stay one level below the level of incompetence.

Incompetence can be classified into four types:

  • Physical
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Mental

This is not just a workplace phenomenon, political candidates are chosen to will elections rather than because of their law making skills.

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