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Peter Principle

The Peter Principle is a theory originated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter which states that employees within a hierarchical organization will advance to their highest level of competence[?], be promoted to a level at which they are incompetent, and then stay in that position. The theory was set out in a humorous style in the book The Peter Principle, first published in 1969.

Peter describes the theme of his book as hierarchiology. The central principle is stated in the book as follows:

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.

Although written in a lighthearted manner, the book contains many real-world examples and thought-provoking explanations of human behaviour.

Similar observations on incompetence can be found in the Dilbert cartoon series (see The Dilbert Principle).


The Peter Principle: why things always go wrong by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. William Morrow & Company, Inc. New York 1969, 179 pages

The Peter Principle by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, Pan Books 1970 ISBN 0-330-02519-8

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