Peter Principle

DEFINITION of 'Peter Principle'

An observation that in an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence. The Peter Principle is based on the notion that employees will get promoted as long as they are competent, but at some point will fail to get promoted beyond a certain job because it has become too challenging for them. Employees rise to their level of incompetence and stay there. Over time, every position in the hierarchy will be filled by someone who is not competent enough to carry out his or her new duties.

BREAKING DOWN 'Peter Principle'

The Peter Principle was first observed by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and published in his book "The Peter Principle" in 1968. Dr. Peter also states that a promotion to the higher-ranking job position may not necessarily reveal the employee's incompetence, but rather the new position may require different skills the employee does not possess. Dr. Peter sums up the Peter Principle with the saying: "the cream rises until it sours." The Peter Principal can be a problem for businesses which can be solved through continued education. Even with proper employee training, the Peter Principal predicts the employee will eventually get to a position where they are incompetent because of further promotion.

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