Axioms: The Peter Principle

6 Jul

The Peter Principle states that in organizations people rise to their level of incompetence.  Almost anyone who has had a “boss from Hell” can attest to this principle.  Actually there is an important grain of truth in this principle and it anticipated an important area of research:  What predicts managerial success.  Longitudinal and other studies show there are three key predictors of managerial success: Competence, Emotional Intelligence (interpersonal skill) and Integrity.  Despite the fact this finding is several decades old, many organizations still promote only on the basis of competence. Competence is a necessary condition for managerial success, but not sufficient.

This promotion pattern may also account for the fact that most problem managers are those who work poorly with others.  They are not incompetent or unethical, although these three deficits tend to be correlated.  Imagine a boss or co-worker who is incompetent, difficult and unethical – that must be fun?  So why do managers promote people who are difficult to work with?  There are many reasons, care to share your favorite?

Beyond Luck is now an e-book on Amazon.  At $6.95 it’s a great deal.


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