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Peter Principle


"PETER PRINCIPLE" is an idea first formulated by Canadian author Laurence J. Peter (1919–1990) in his best-selling book The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong (1969). The central thesis of Peter's satirical commentary on business bureaucracies is that "in a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." According to Peter, work is accomplished only by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence. In this way, organizations and businesses can still function. The result is that stagnant companies are more likely to have incompetent employees at many levels of their organization, whereas growing companies who add new positions and employees can forestall the Peter Principle as long as growth continues.


Peter, Laurence J., and Raymond Hull. The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong. New York: Buccaneer Books, 1996.

Meg GreeneMalvasi

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