The Peter Principle

Is there such a thing as the Peter Principle?

After being introduced to a dynamic, tenacious businesswomen recently, a close friend of mine decided to invest in her company, because the only thing lacking seemed to be a decent level of funding.

The first bit was easy, she said… establish the companies needs, agree a company structure and budget, move the necessary funds and hey presto this lady could just run with it! Well that should have been the case until it became pretty quickly apparent that all that drive, tenacity and confidence (of her new business partner) seemed to fizzle away, leaving a nervous uncertain woman who clearly lacked the confidence to progress now she had the means to do so.

Lacking the desire to work full time again; hugely disillusioned my pal has been left with a couple of options – work full time… not an option, or remove herself from the business and put the whole sorry episode down to experience. Hearing this story made me think of the principle of promoting people to their ceiling of incompetence.

I recall my Father mentioning The Peter Principle when I first moved into management, but I have been guilty of it myself. Finding and admiring a good member of staff who craves recognition, promotion and everything that goes with that move. Only to flounder with embarrassment at needing to stand up to the task.

One sorry example was the case of a lady who worked closely with the head of a department. She was very good at her job, analysing and supporting her overworked boss, but craved and asked for more responsibility than simply doing the research. She had the right personality fit and was certainly presentable and got on with our Clients well, so the decision was made to promote her.

Following said promotion, part of her responsibility was to set up review meetings, take and manage those reviews and report back to management on current progress. We had agreed objectives and she was also given a full training programme. With regret and confusion she completely failed to make even the first appointment, then took the following 3 months off sick before handing her notice in!

So the theory is that we go on promoting good people to their ceiling of incompetence until the whole company is incompetent and in truth… I’m still not sure about that, but one thing is for sure is that in my experience I have found that there certainly is such phenomena. I wonder what happens

What are your thoughts?

avatar Name: Alexandra Eager
About: Alex has worked as a Financial Controller and Finance Director for many years for a variety of companies across a range of industries but more recently she has moved away from accounting working for an internet marketing agency as Finance and Operations director, primarily overseeing the finance functions and search engine optimisation (SEO) for clients. Follow Alex on G+ and on Twitter @Alex_BusDirUK
Alex runs her own company with two fellow owners developing a suite of e-commerce web sites and promoting them directly. “I found that SEO and finance were quite compatible both needing an eye for detail, research and analysis as well keeping up with new developments and changes.”

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