The Peter Principle: Why Incompetent People Get Promoted

Peter Principle

Have you ever looked at your boss and wondered “Who promoted you?” or “How have you not been fired by now?” If you have, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone — many of us have to deal with bosses that seem in over their heads.

The fact is, while your inept boss may drive you nuts, it may not even be his or her fault — or even the fault of your company for promoting your boss in the first place. Your unsuspecting employer had no idea that your boss would become a full-blown case of the Peter Principle in action.

So who is Peter and what did he do to make your boss so frustrating, you ask?

Well, Dr. Laurence J. Peter is a former professor who published a satirical book based around his theory that “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence,” and that “In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.” Or, basically: We do a job well, we’re promoted. We do that job well, we’re promoted again. This happens in succession until we eventually rise to a position that we can no longer do well — or our level of incompetence. There, we either stagnate, revert back to a lower position, or are fired.

While ‘The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong,’ was originally meant to provide a sort of absurd-yet-true comic relief to the overworked, the practicality and pertinence of the Peter Principle was not lost on the working world, and the theory has since become a hotly debated human resources phenomenon.

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