The Peter Principle: Does Peter Work for You?

You’ve seen him.  You may have worked for him or he may just be a colleage.  I hope he doesn’t work for you or else you’ve got some work to do.  His name is Peter.  And he is incompetent in his job.

The Peter Principle is the principle that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence” (from Wikipedia).  It was formulated in 1969 by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull.  They contend that in an organization, employees are promoted so long as they work competently.  “Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions.”

In fact, it can be said that “In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out their duties” and adds that work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.”

I actually disagree with this slightly because some incompetent people still get promoted.

Amazingly, this can be applied to our industry, too, as there have been many times I looked at someone I knew was completely incompetent in their role and wondered, “How on earth did they get their job?”  You know you’ve done it, too!

What I have seen is usually 1 of 2 things:

1.  We have someone who has been at the facility for a long time and “deserves” to be promoted because of their seniority.  They usually have worked several positions and have quietly slipped up the ladder into a management or key personnel position.


2.  We have a great employee, gung-ho, and does a good job in their current role.  They’re a shoe-in for a promotion, right?  Well, this is how it starts.  Even if they are competent in their current role, their skillset needs to be looked at before they “qualify” for a promotion.  The last thing I want to do is to promote someone into a role where they’re going to fail.

What we have to do is stop falling into the trap of promoting someone above their capabilities simply because they’re “good people” or they’ve outlasted several administrators and have “earned” it.  No, what we have to do is look out for ourselves and the facility.  What is best for the nursing home?  Is this person going to make a difference or really impact us in a positive way in the new role?  Are we raising the bar? Can this person be more beneficial to us in the new role or are we just moving a problem? Trust me, rarely, does the problem go away!

Ok, guys!  That’s it for today.  Take a second and let me know about the Peters in your organization!

May your days go long between surveys!

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