Saturday, June 4, 2011

Peter VS Dilbert: Principles Of Promotion

Last day I was reading this article, thanks to the link shared through my blogger friend Nona's tweet. At one juncture, there is a mention about Peter Principle, which is regarding promotions in work place. I found the thought very striking and then started reading some more on that from Wikipedia and some other sources. I thought I will share what I came to know about Peter Principle as the idea can provoke some thought process. 

Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull wrote a book in 1969, called Peter principle, in which they started a study of hierarchy or hierarchiology as they coined it. They came to this conclusion that, in any hierarchy every employee raises to his ultimate incompetency level. So after a period of time, the whole order will be a collection of incompetent members causing a downfall, unless fresh blood is not induced. 

Pic Courtesy:
Take the case in a work shop. A worker who performs very well in his job will be promoted to the next level, may be as a foreman. If he shows good skill as a foreman he will be promoted to a supervisor. But if he does not perform as a foreman, he will stay in that job for eternity. There is no way he may be willing to go back to his former level in which he excelled. So we have an incompetent foreman instead of a skilled worker. This same process happens in all levels. A good supervisor gets promoted to a manager, but gets stuck in the same level from then on, as he may not be having the guts to take a hard decision. So ultimately, promotions become a tool to lock people in a level where they are incompetent and employees in every level turns out to be people who are incompetent to perform. 

Some months back I was reading Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert comic strip). Dilbert principle postulates that promotions in work places are a way to take out incompetent people from the front line, pushing them to upper levels where they will not have a scope to inflict much damage, so that the work will be carried on without obstruction by competent personnel who will never reach any managerial positions because, 
in many cases the least competent, least smart people are promoted, simply because they’re the ones you don’t want doing actual work. You want them ordering the doughnuts and yelling at people for not doing their assignments—you know, the easy work. Your heart surgeons and your computer programmers—your smart people—aren’t in management.
 Pic courtesy:
The main difference between Peter and Dilbert principle is that in former it is assumed that a person was competent in doing some work in the past. But latter says that even without showing any level of competency in any past endeavors, one can get promoted and even goes as far to say that experts in a field will not get promoted as they are required to keep the work moving.   

I feel that Dilbert principle is one way to cure the harms caused by Peter principle... 


  1. Dilberts is an interesting perspective and might be true in most cases but not all.

  2. I have always believed that if you are too good at something you do, the chances of getting promoted are very low! You need to show that you can do something better if you need to get promoted. And there are so many good and bad ways of doing that! :)

  3. hehe... pretty interesting..
    I mean, it makes sense for sure :)


  4. @ Alka: It is just a way of seeing things.

    @jyothi: lol.. totally agree.

    @aakash: lol.. thanks for visiting..

  5. Dilbert is right :)))Interesting perspective you provided

  6. Now i know why i still at same position..its not i am competent enough to go to the higher ups but they dont me to be incompetent...:)

  7. Most of the cases when the company becomes big or stagnant , the dilberts principle can be seen there. But for the initial stage it will be always the competent people who are going to build it .