The principle of incompetence Peter: the theory of the “useless head”

Quite often employees or low-key employees wonder how one who was a direct partner and who is ultimately promoted to a managerial or boss position ends up becoming so incompetent or ineffective. This curious but common phenomenon is called Peter’s incompetence, a concept that arose in the United States at the end of the 20th century.

Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), was an educator, teacher and writer of the famous Peter’s principle or Peter’s incompetenceThe conceptual basis lies explicitly in the administrative hierarchies of the world of work. In other words, the author has analyzed the structures and meritocratic methods that promote the development of a business or an economic organization.

    What is the principle of Peter’s incompetence?

    As we pointed out in the introduction, Peter’s principle (formally called the unnecessary boss theory) affirms and denounces the bad practices that companies have in their system of promotion and promotion of the most competent employees. He categorically rejects this idea because, according to his study, it means the inability and lack of resolution skills for a worker assuming the senior management position, Or high ranking with many parts of the organization chart below their position of power.

    In other words, Peter’s principle of incompetence raises a paradoxical situation in which the organization operates despite the incapacity of senior officials.

    So far, everything that has been on display sounds familiar, right? There is a problem that extends to all companies and all areas of activity, where the business is governed by a pyramid structure that ends up failing in its attempt to succeed. Skilled workers misplaced in places that do not match, that are not to their liking or that are directly too difficult.

      Why does this phenomenon occur in companies?

      According to Laurence, it is inevitable that this highlight of our professional career will end with itself. No matter how great and privileged you are, the limit will come.For one reason or another, but above all, because the time has come when our skills no longer have the capacity to develop.

      Peter himself ruled: “in a hierarchy, each employee tends to reach their level of incompetence. The cream rises to the cup- “. This is the best way to reflect the principle of the pointless head. We all have a limit of capacity, to resist pressure, to take on responsibilities and obligations. Often times , this model employee overflows when they change him, his field of action.

      Another very obvious reason is the simple fear of rejecting change. In these cases, it is when a worker refuses to accept that he is not suited for this job and accepts the offer of his superiors not to disappoint them – a contradiction, yes – or not to fail. an opportunity which, a priori, will take a long time to arrive.

      Is Peter’s Syndrome Applicable Today?

      We cannot ignore the obvious, nor deny the greater. According to a study by the EAE Business School, there are a number of worrying cases occurring in many prestigious companies, especially in multinationals, where the wrong decision of a manager or an executive can lead to huge financial losses.

      However, it seems that this trend is changing, in particular thanks to the inclusion of a new department that is increasingly essential in a company, human resources (HR). Today, the opinion of experts and theoretical economists is almost unanimous in including in their ranks in this department to ensure long-term success.

        How to avoid incompetence at work?

        Perhaps forty years ago, Peter’s theory of incompetence had little academic or scientific answer, but nothing could be further from the truth. As is often the case with any type of rebuttable theory, this one in particular has become somewhat obsolete. For starters, Lawrence forgot a basic premise in life, both personally and professionally, and that’s it. everything in this life can be learned, At least in theory.

        Returning to the previous point, companies invest a lot of effort to include a human resources team that avoids including incompetent people in the workforce. A task that previously fell to the leader or manager, who, in general, can extract little from the psychology of a person to know if he is engaged, if he is really motivated or wants to promote himself in the company.

        That said, the heads of the human resources department they can and should reduce the symptom described by Peter’s principle, Or resort to the degradation of an employee promoted to his initial position (a fact that before practically a chimera) without having to sanction or dismiss him, which greatly facilitated the internal promotion dynamic.

        To consolidate promotional success, companies include very attractive training programs, motivate employees by becoming more directly involved in important decisions within the company, reward commitment to language or interest courses of each employee, and, moreover, they try that the hierarchy is horizontal and not vertical.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Faria, JR (2000). An economic analysis of the principles of Peter and Dilbert. UTS working papers. 101: 1–18.
        • Peter, LJy Hull, R. (1970). Peter’s principle. Pan Books.

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