Bitterbarn’s Weblog

aka “The Bull” (some content not suitable for children or religous zealots)

Peters Principle

Peters Principle is a business principle that more organizational heads would do well knowing. The theory states that in a hierarchal system or (top down) that the units or employees within the system will be promoted to their level of incompetence. So a skilled worker could be very good in his class but as soon as he is promoted to a “new skill set” he becomes incompetent and their he remains. I apply this to work and church personally. But if you remember this rule; that we are promoted to our level of incompetence. You can become a better leader by promoting those who have the right skill set rather than those who are good at what they do.

Recognizing this principle , many successful businesses reward “good workers” by giving them raises or other lateral incentives and reserving “higher” positions for those who hold the skill set. Personally I wonder if in our new dog eat dog world if any employer rewards competence at all. competence is undervalued; heads of institute would more likely prefer to spend money on recruitment rather than retention. I have noted, unscientifically, that companies that put more money into retention seem to be more respected in the market. One great example that comes to mind is ARUP this company processes lab procedures for hospitals and clinics all over the nation. Their employees enjoy every benefit that exists in quality; including an on site free clinic for there personal use. In turn the employees have a vested interest in the well being of the institute.

Anyway; the next time you witness obvioulsy crappy mangment at work or church or whatever kind of hiaerachal system you belong to. Just remeber that these folks (in most cases) have simply risen to thier level of incompetence. An example of this I observed several years ago as I worked as a nurse on a medical/surgical floor. A colleuge of mine excelled in her profession of nursing and more specifically as a pt care nurse. Families would often send thankyou cards and gifts to her after their loved ones had been discharged; while the rest of us wondered what made her so good at what she did. This colluege was subsequently promoted to the tittle of “Nurse Manager”. In her new role the skill set called for zero patient care but rather more paper work and number crunching; more hiring and firing of employees. It quickly became apparent that though she was excellent at tending the sick she was awful as a manger. To this day she still holds the same position as Nurse Manager and many many sick have lost out on the potential she had as a patient care nurse. And overall I believe the goals of the institute have been crippled.

April 6, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,


  1. I haven’t read this post. It just looks too complicated right now.

    Comment by Andrea | April 7, 2008 | Reply

  2. I recognized the peter principle many years ago and vowed to enjoy my work. I am a software developer because I like doing it. I could make more money and be a project manager but boy what a headache. I like working at the bench as a medical technologist and currently doing parasitology work at ARUP. Even though I am partime the have asked me on the side to apply for some of the more management type positions. My reply is alway NO when I figure out the job is doing payroll, and writing procedures, and buying supplies. Why do they always want to waste my skills at the bench in order to do things I could teach my 15 year old daughter to do?????????????

    Comment by daddyvaughn | April 8, 2008 | Reply

  3. I’m glad that you finally found a name for something so common.

    Comment by Andrea | April 9, 2008 | Reply

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