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The Peter Principle And The Promotion To Management

Have you promoted the right person?


Have you chosen the right person to promote into management in your business? Research reveals that companies consistently choose the wrong people for management roles ...

The Peter Principle says organisations promote employees to positions of incompetence!

The Peter Principle says organisations promote employees to positions of incompetence!

copyright: 4p business development

The Peter principle is a concept in management theory formulated by educator Laurence J. Peter and published in 1969. It states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate's performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended position.

"Therefore, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively!

This also means that 'managers rise to the level of their incompetence' and it has been noted that about 60% of new managers underperform during their first two years on the job.

Perhaps new managers are not ready for the new roles? Perhaps they do not have the core skills required for the job? Many employees who get promoted to managerial positions get there by doing great work in their existing role, but does that make them fit for being the new manager?

Successful managers wake up day after day entirely committed to succeeding and to moving beyond their comfort zone, despite the fear of doing so.

Here are my top tips for your new managers:

  • Embrace the change, recognising it is a new job

  • Develop a professional persona

  • Set the tone and encourage open communication

  • Understand the difference between being friendly and being friends

  • Take on responsibility and be prepared to make difficult decisions

  • Learn about situation leadership

  • Disengage from casual conversations with staff members

  • Focus on the development of the business and the business results

  • Learn about delegation and how to let go of the detail

  • Be available and visible

  • Learn to listen and to ask questions

  • Understand that you will now need to deal with performance issues

  • Encourage 1:1 meetings with team members

  • Learn to be a rule maker

  • Embrace your role as a leader ... it can, and should, be a rewarding responsibility, not to be taken for granted

Perhaps most importantly, ensure that they know they are welcome to ask for and actively engage in ongoing personal development and learn new skills to assist with different management situations.

Dr. Peter explained in his book that an employee's inability to fulfil the requirements of a given position that they are promoted to may not be the result of general incompetence. It may be due to the fact that the position requires different skills than those the employee actually possesses.

For example, an employee who is very good at following rules or company policies may be promoted into the position of creating rules or policies, despite the fact that being a good rule follower does not mean that an individual is well-suited to be a good rule creator.

A possible solution to the problem posed by the Peter Principle is for companies to provide adequate skill training for employees receiving a promotion. The company must ensure the training is appropriate for the position to which the employee has been promoted.

However, Dr Peter pessimistically predicted that even the best employee training is ultimately unable to overcome the general tendency of organisations to promote employees to positions of incompetence, which he refers to as positions of 'final placement.'

Make sure you train and coach your employees ready for promotion, and that they have the correct skills to manage, make decisions and to take the business forward.

"Would you like to know more?"

If you'd like to learn more about the Peter Principle or need some help training and coaching your employees, do give me a call on

01280 700405 or click here to ping over an email and let's see how I can help you.

Until next time ...



Why not visit www.4pbusinessdevelopment.co.uk and find out more?

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More about Kath Bonner-Dunham ...

For more than 40 years Kath specialised in sales & marketing, operations and general management. During that time she studied a business degree at London Thames Valley University and a coaching and mentoring degree at Oxford Westminster, started a successful innovative subsidiary business in Essex and was General Manager of a £12.5m company in Maidenhead.

Kath is passionate about coaching and mentoring business owner/managers to help them achieve their goals and aspirations. Her emotional intelligence combined with her warm, incisive and curious style ensure consistently good results. She encourages business owners to develop an entrepreneurial approach to their business and works with businesses at various stages from pre-start and start-up, through to high growth and exit, enabling the business to be successful and the owner to achieve his or her highest aspirations.

Kath is an approved and accredited Skills Advisor, and is a professional coach holding a certificate in Coaching & Mentoring Practice from Oxford Brookes University. She is a local Town Councillor, a Young Enterprise mentor, mentor of women through South East Women Mentoring Service, a member of The British American Association and an avid networker.

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