The Peter Principle - Did it Happen Near You?

Maybe you’ve seen one at work, at school, in a Forum, in Politics, ( don’t go there!), as there are quite a number of them about?

" The Peter principle is a concept in management developed by Laurence J. Peter , which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to “a level of respective incompetence”: employees are promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another."

I’ve seen a few who couldn’t organise a drink up in a Brewery!

There they are, floundering around, when all the rest of us are thinking “What a Prat” why does he/she get paid more than me.

Maybe you have seen some amusing ones (preferably not in Parliament)?.

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Oh Gawd, yes.

I work on cases with a civil service dept and they are a nightmare for that, especially their team managers

They have this policy that anyone can manage, they don’t have to have done the job or understand what their team do

So people get promoted to managing teams because they were good a doing a completely different job elsewhere but know zilch about the job their team do

So all the work, knowledge and responsibility fall on the underlings…

And if I never need anything done, or some information, I always ask the coal face workers, who get paid a pittance, and avoid the managers, the manager’s manager’s, and the manager’s managers like the plague :rage:


Lots of them lurking in the NHS!


Hell yes, it happened a lot during my time in the military, promoted on time served rather than ability. It did change though


It should be noted that:

Other commenters made observations similar to the Peter principle long before Peter’s research. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s 1763 play Minna von Barnhelm features an army sergeant who shuns the opportunity to move up in the ranks, saying “I am a good sergeant; I might easily make a bad captain, and certainly an even worse general. One knows from experience.” Similarly, Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) wrote that “there is nothing more common than to hear of men losing their energy on being raised to a higher position, to which they do not feel themselves equal.” Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955) virtually enunciated the Peter principle in 1910, “All public employees should be demoted to their immediately lower level, as they have been promoted until turning incompetent.”

The reality of managers “rising to their level of incompetency” was well-known in the electronics industry in the 1960’s (GEC) in which I worked although I doubt that few of us had read Peter’s book.

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Seen it a lot.

The “Bread Principle” is that people who are generally crap at their jobs get promoted to the middle management layer by other people in the middle management layer who don’t want someone who knows what they are doing, exposing their incompetence. Instead, the dysfunctional management layer becomes a filter so that all the crap between the middle management and below never reaches the upper management unless it benefits the middle management layer and whatever the little good news is, is spun up in such a way the upper management think everything is OK. The upper management are then kept from knowing what is really going on until the upper management can’t do anything about the problems. The middle management then get promoted to the upper management, firing the old upper management and a new even more crappy middle management layer is formed below".


Every large organisation has them and those at very top don’t sack them


It’s rife in schools because members of the SMT have usually given up teaching all together, hence they have no concept as to what is going on on the classroom floor


I’ve seen those that are stupid
I’ve seen those that are incompetent
And I’ve seen those that possess both qualities

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Not all, thankfully.
The headmistress (sorry, head teacher) where I was working kept her ‘hand in’ by covering for an hour or two a week for each class teacher. She was very competent too.
Soon after I retired, by the way, she left to become a vicar!

A right load of @#$&%+?!
A right mess and they get paid. Who would want to be a councillor!
Are all local councils like this.

And that, in a nutshell, is exactly why my team and I were always so successful with our projects in Malaysia.

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LOL! I’ve benefited from it on several occasions!

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:rofl: reached the top, did you? :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: