Tag Archives: Peter Principle

The Peter Principle

Rewarding Incompetence

The Peter Principle – explains a lot

When I first heard about the Peter Principle I felt a couple of things; first, this explains a lot – that’s it. Sorry for saying a ‘couple of things’; as I guess the first explanation explains so much situations and scenarios that we all can relate to. The Peter Principle is a special case of a ubiquitous observation: anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails. This is “The Generalized Peter Principle.” It was observed by Dr. William R. Corcoran and he found that in an organizational structure, the Peter Principle’s practical application allows assessment of the potential of an employee for a promotion based on performance in the current job; i.e., members of a hierarchical organization eventually are promoted to their highest level of competence, after which further promotion raises them to incompetence. That level is the employee’s “level of incompetence” where the employee has no chance of further promotion, thus reaching his or her career’s ceiling in an organization.

The employee’s incompetence is not necessarily exposed as a result of the higher-ranking position being more difficult — simply, that job is different from the job in which the employee previously excelled, and thus requires different work skills, which the employee may not possess. For example, a factory worker’s excellence in his job can earn him promotion to manager, at which point the skills that earned him his promotion no longer apply to his job.

How to resolve the Peter Principle:
– employees who are dedicated to their current jobs should not be promoted for their efforts for which they might, instead, receive a pay increase.
– employees might be promoted only after being sufficiently trained to the new position. This places the burden of discovering individuals with poor managerial capabilities before (as opposed to after) they are promoted.

I don’t know about you, but this explains a lot and allows me to understand the chaos, dumb, asinine logic that exists in the corporate/government world.

Some Key Examples of the Peter Principle (Fiction & Non-Fiction):

Former FEMA Director Michael Brown

Former FEMA director Michael Brown was called to testify before Congress for the botched relief operation in New Orleans (Hurricane Katrina 2005).


George W. Bush

Self-explanatory for most


Michael Scott

– The Office star, and lovable incompetent boss that represents so many of our bosses


.:: LiBM ::.