Book Notes #34: The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull

Laurence J. Peter developed the Peter principle, which states that people tend to rise to the level of their respective incompetence within a hierarchy.

Title: Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong
Author: Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull
Year: 1972
Pages: 192

The Peter Principle is a book written by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, first published in 1969, that presents the concept of the “Peter Principle”, which states that in a hierarchy, members are promoted based on their success in their current role, rather than their ability to perform the tasks of the next level, and eventually, they rise to their “level of incompetence.”

With the wit of Mark Twain, the psychological acuity of Sigmund Freud, and the theoretical impact of Isaac Newton, Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull brilliantly explain how incompetence and its accompanying symptoms, syndromes, and remedies define the world and the work we do in it.

Through barbed anecdotes and humour, the authors define the problem and show how anyone, whether at the top or bottom of the career ladder, can avoid its pitfalls. Or, indeed, avoid promotion entirely!

As a result, I gave this book a rating of 8.0/10.

For me, a book with a note 10 is one I consider reading again every year. Among the books I rank with 10, for example, is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Overview of The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle is the phenomenon of employees being promoted to their level of incompetence.

The book provides examples and case studies to illustrate the Peter Principle in action in various organizations and industries. The book explains the negative consequences of the Peter Principle for organizations, such as reduced productivity and increased turnover.

The book suggests strategies for avoiding the Peter Principle, such as using “lateral moves” to keep employees in roles that suit their abilities and providing training and development opportunities.

In order to be promoted, employees must have demonstrated success in previous jobs until they reach a point where they are no longer competent, as skills acquired in one job may not necessarily transfer to another.

From the civil service to multinational companies to hospital management, it explains why things constantly go wrong: promotion up a hierarchy inevitably leads to over-promotion and incompetence.

Dr. Peter explains why incompetence is at the root of everything we endeavour to do-why schools bestow ignorance, why governments condone anarchy, why courts dispense injustice, why prosperity causes unhappiness, and why utopian plans never generate utopias. 

In accordance with the Peter principle, a competent employee will be promoted to a position requiring a different skill set. A promoted person who lacks the skills for the new role will not be promoted again if they are incompetent. 

As long as the person is competent in the new role, they will be promoted again and again until they reach a point at which they are incompetent. A person who is incompetent will not qualify for promotion again, and so will remain stuck in this final position.

My Book Highlights & Quotes

“… Never stand when you can sit; never walk when you can ride; never Push when you can Pull…”

“… Particularly among minor officials with no discretionary powers, one sees an obsessive concern with getting forms filled out correctly, whether the forms serve any useful purpose or not. No deviation, however slight, from the customary routine, will be permitted…”

“… In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out her duties…”

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

“… Employees in a hierarchy do not really object to incompetence (Peter’s Paradox): they merely gossip about incompetence to mask their envy of employees who have Pull…”

“… Man must realize that improvement of the quality of experience is more important than the acquisition of useless artifacts and material possessions…”

“… Or consider Dr. Peter’s counterintuitive claim that in most hierarchies, super-competence is more objectionable than incompetence. He warned that extremely skilled and productive employees often face criticism, and are fired if they don’t start performing worse. Their presence disrupts and therefore violates the first commandment of hierarchical life: the hierarchy must be preserved…”

“… Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder…”

In conclusion, The Peter Principle is a thought-provoking and insightful book that provides a unique perspective on the inner workings of organizations. 

The authors, Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, introduce the concept of the Peter Principle, which states that in a hierarchy, members are promoted based on their success in their current role, rather than their ability to perform the tasks of the next level, and eventually, they rise to their “level of incompetence.” 

The book provides examples and case studies to illustrate the Peter Principle in action, and offers strategies for avoiding it. 

It’s a must-read for anyone in management or leadership positions looking to improve the performance of their organization, and for anyone interested in organizational behaviour and management.

I am incredibly grateful that you have taken the time to read this post.

Do you want to get new content in your Email?

Do you want to explore more?

Check my main categories of content below:

Navigate between the many topics covered in this website:

Agile Art Artificial Intelligence Blockchain Books Business Business Tales Career Coaching Communication Creativity Culture Cybersecurity Design DevOps Economy Emotional Intelligence Feedback Flow Focus Gaming Goals GPT Habits Health History Innovation Kanban Leadership Lean Life Managament Management Mentorship Metaverse Metrics Mindset Minimalism Motivation Negotiation Networking Neuroscience NFT Ownership Parenting Planning PMBOK PMI Politics Productivity Products Project Management Projects Pulse Readings Routines Scrum Self-Improvement Self-Management Sleep Startups Strategy Team Building Technology Time Management Volunteering Work

Do you want to check previous Book Notes? Check these from the last couple of weeks:

Support my work by sharing my content with your network using the sharing buttons below.

Want to show your support tangibly? A virtual coffee is a small but nice way to show your appreciation and give me the extra energy to keep crafting valuable content! Pay me a coffee:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *