Manpower: People are selected and placed in positions that fit their gifts, passions and callings and that align with the church’s objectives and culture

Solutions To The Peter Principle Problem

In our last article, “What Is The Peter Principle?” we looked at the definition, causes and examples of The Peter Principle. Luckily, there are ways to prevent employees from falling into the Peter Principle trap. In this article we will look at steps an organization can take to minimize the likelihood of the Peter Principle occurring. But first, let’s make certain we understand the problems the Peter Principle causes and why you should avoid it.

Problems With The Peter Principle

The biggest problem with a promotion approach that results in the Peter Principle is that it looks backward rather than forward. It assumes that success in the old job automatically means that you have the qualifications for the new job. Unfortunately, this is not always true. This creates two huge problems.

Substandard Performance. With the Peter Principle you now have someone who isn’t performing their job. Further, the person that replaced them in their old job may not be as competent as they were. Even worse, you now have to fire a person who most likely has a long and successful history with the organization.

Position Blocking. Another problem created by the Peter Principle is that if the person isn’t fired or transferred, they will not be promoted again. This blocks potentially more competent people from being promoted or hired.

Ways To Prevent The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle brings a focus on the importance of having an effective approach to promotion and a process for fairly addressing high performing employees. The following five approaches are offered as solutions to the Peter Principle problem.

  1. Evaluate Employees Competencies. Regardless of roles, leaders should assess and document the skills, gifts, strengths, passions and competencies of every employee. Understanding the hardwiring of each employee will mitigate the likelihood of moving someone to a position that isn’t a good fit.
  2. Document The Competencies Required Of Each Position. Taking the time to evaluate, understand and document the skills, experience and competencies required for each job is another way to mitigate the likelihood of a bad fit.
  3. Employ People Who Know Themselves. Assessing the competencies of an individual during the hiring or promotion process, then comparing these results with how they describe their own skills, gifts, and strengths is a good indicator of how well they know themselves. A person who knows themselves well is less likely to accept a job for which they are not competent.
  4. Increase Pay Without Promotion. Studies show that most people are prone to accept a promotion more because of the increase in pay and benefits than the power and prestige attached to it. One method to avoid the Peter Principle is to consistently enhance the salary of employees who are exceptional in their current roles. As a result, employees can earn more money in their current position rather than shifting to a position where they may be incompetent.
  5. Mentorship And Training Programs. When a person is promoted, they should routinely be paired with a higher-level mentor. Further, designing training programs for each position that equip employees with the requisite skills for the job is a way to help newly promoted employees succeed at their jobs.

The Peter Principle also points out the need for an effective and fair approach for addressing the problem of incompetence due to mistakes in promotion. Most importantly, periodic evaluations and an established procedure for handling substandard performance is vital. But what do you do if you have promoted someone to their level of incompetence, tried everything you know to do to help them, yet are hesitant to fire them? Reassigning job duties is often a viable alternative. With this approach you remove and reassign to others those job duties where the employee is failing to meet expectations. Another approach is to reassign the employee to another position in the organization that is a better fit for their competencies. With these approaches the employee saves face and the organization benefits from having an employee that focuses only on areas of competency.



Posted on October 18, 2022

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5