[Review] The Peter Principle

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  • The Peter Principle
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  • Last modified: September 9, 2015
  • Quality
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  • Presentation
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  • Value
    Editor: 42%

Review Summary:

Back in 1969, Lawrence J. Peter created a cultural phenomenon with his brilliant, outrageous, hilarious, and all-too-true treatise on business and life, The Peter Principle—and his words and theories are as true today as they were then. By posing—and answering—the eternal question, “Why do things always go wrong?” Peter explores the incompetence that runs so rampant through our society, our workplace, and our world in an outrageously funny yet honest and eye-opening manner. With a new foreword by Robert I. Sutton, bestselling author of The No Asshole Rule, this twenty-first century edition of Peter’s classic is set to shake up the business world all over again.

The basic principle is that all people and systems will eventually reach a level of incompetence and become unable to perform.

When I began reading this book, the point Dr. Peter was making was an interesting one.

He provided cute reference stories and some illustrations. (All of that was nice.)

As I continued, the author began to annoy me. He has created his own theory and language to explain and define it.

Half way through I wanted to choke this arrogant, misogynistic man and toss the book out.

Of course, I didn’t. (I had to finish because I started.)

I tried to think of how things were in 1969 when this book was published and about the era in which Dr. Peter’s was raised.

That calmed me down a bit.

In some cases, I must agree, we rise in competence and intelligence until we can rise no further.

However, in some cases, I believe that one may not be incompetent, but bored or disinterested, or not qualified in the first place.

A bank teller being promoted to a manager and not ding well at that position is an example of the Peter Principle in action.

I do not feel that the same skills or qualities are needed in a teller vs. a manager.

Because of the variance in skill or ability, it does not mean the person is incompetent, it means the jobs are different.

Some hierarchies in employment are not successive. It is not like going through school, learning math in ever increasing steps and concepts that build upon one another.

In employment, the next step up is not always directly built from the same concept as the previous. Sometimes it has nothing to do with one another.

Just because you can manage a business, deal with clients, or complete bookwork, does not mean you are also the mechanic working on my car.

And for that matter, I hope you are not.

I want a skilled mechanic. If he never becomes a skilled marketing manager or business owner, I don’t care, as long as he can fix my car.

If the most skilled person is doing none of the skilled work, the system will fail because the system is broken. Not because they promoted everyone into incompetence. That is incompetent itself.

Anyway, I am glad for the new perspective and for the range of emotions the author made me feel. I do not fully agree, but I appreciate his perspective.


  • Interesting theory
  • Has illustrations
  • You can find it cheap at a used book store


  • Old fashion views
  • Egotistical Author
  • Promotes negative thoughts

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Abby has always been an entrepreneur, she was just caught up in a JOB for too long. Now, Abby runs two businesses and is a Life Coach and Business Consultant.
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