From time to time, it happens that a person who excels at one position fails with a higher one which mostly exceeds one’s field of experience. This is called the Peter Principle which insists upon a statement that nobody rises higher than their lever of education and expertise allow.
Formulated in 1969 by a psychologist and professor of education Peter Laurence the Peter Principle declares that “any employee rises to the level of their incompetence” (3). However, the statement of the point of incompetence should be considered from the position of the lack of motivation and the peculiarity of every situation.
According to some researches, the Peter Principle should be taken as a joke. Perhaps, it is a result of the simple way of narration and quite funny examples used by Dr. Laurence, for instance, his statement that “the cream rises until it sours” (Lawrence 23).
However, Dr. Laurence seriously considers that an understanding of this principle can help people be more careful accepting the proposal for promotion. Although an employee may try to get better, his efforts can’t be successful due to his natural level of incompetence. As the result, there is a high-risk of losing what he already got. There is a Final Placement for everyone, a final point where each person becomes inefficient and incompetent.
Accepting Dr. Lawrence position, nevertheless, I disagree about the universality of this Principle. I suppose that in some situations the person can get more knowledge and step by step reach better results. Dr. Laurence completely neglects the approach of personal motivation and environment. In some instances, the person can reach the final point even earlier than one’s education and experience allow. This can be the coincidence of some critical situation, lack of motivation or just human factor.
Dr. Laurence emphasize that due to the socio-economical conditions and a perspective of the higher salary the employees never refuse the promotion and, as the result, they can lost even previous position. This situation is easily explained from the position of an adequate analysis of the personal capabilities.
The Peter Principle insists upon a cause of the special case that every well-functioning thing or idea can be used in the difficult conditions until it leads to the dangerous accident. Mostly, there is a high temptation to continue using already tested idea or technology. Dr. Laurence emphasizes the importance of changes as a factor of results’ increase.
According to the Peter Principle, a person which works in any hierarchical system rises until the position when it is impossible to cope with responsibilities. Therefore, an employee is “stuck” on this level until he leaves the system. The Peter Principle is applicable to the wide circle of hierarchical systems such as private companies, public enterprises, military, educational and medical institutions.
The underlying explanation means that people are promoted for being better at their work. As long as they can cope with the task, they are eligible for promotion. Peter Laurence’s book is a very interesting example of a negative connotation of self-improvement. I think this idea is quite pessimistic and doesn’t take into account a self-motivation and the peculiarity of each situation. Nevertheless, an idea of the level or point of incompetence can explain many most of the examples of the people’s fail after promotion.
Peter, J. Laurence, and Raymond Hull. The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong. 1st Collins Business ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009. Print.