Avoid Peter´s Principle

Since I started out my career back in 1991, I have had the opportunity to work closely with a large number of Managers, Directors, and Senior Executives across various continents.

While some of them were quite humane, honest and professional, I also had to work for quite a few ill-tempered, dishonest, and egocentric little tyrants. It is not a pleasant experience, but you can learn a hell of a lot from it.

Unfortunately, we all have dealt with bad managers at some point in our careers. In fact, in 2014, almost 50% of all employees complaint about sick management practices at their workplace. TinyHR 2014 employee engagement – organizational culture report.

Thus, bad management issues are not new. They have been going on for ages, but most companies show an incomprehensible level of tolerance with bad managers.

Bad management issues are rooted in:

  • A weak company culture
  • Inappropriate hiring and promotion policies
  • Insufficient leadership training, coaching and feedback

Resulting in the promotion of individual super performers, who lack the emotional intelligence and people management skills required at more senior levels.

What is a super performer?

A super performer is a hyper-effective, super-efficient employee, who makes other members of the team look lazy, weak and very inefficient.

Super performers are highly appreciated by the Executives, due to their excellent individual performance and their ability to exceed everyone´s expectations year on year.

What is the problem with super performers?

As the Peter´s principle goes:

Employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and managers rise to the level of their incompetence.

But, how could a super performer become an incompetent manager?

There are two key drivers:

# 1 Egocentrism

Most super performers believe that their extraordinary success is the result of their superior intelligence, self-sufficiency, and their ability to work autonomously, with little or no aid from other colleagues.

For these guys, delegation means risk. So they withhold trust and try to control the people and situations around them to protect their safety. They do NOT trust other´s opinions and consider everybody else inferior.

# 2 Greed

In the corporate world, greed can be translated as the excessive, intense, and selfish desire for status and power.

Most super performers feel strongly attracted to titles and authority; Indeed, this insatiable greed is what impulses them to work harder than anyone else, exceeding everyone’s expectations.

Super performers will do whatever it takes to reach their goals; that´s why they are highly recognized by senior executives. Super performers tend to be seen as the ideal successors.

What´s the problem?

The problem with big egos holding managerial roles, is that:

  • They do not like to share credit.
  • They do not listen.
  • They can´t give a sincere compliment.
  • They see things as black or white.
  • No-one is good enough for them.

The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they surpass him or her in knowledge and ability. – Fred A. Manske, Jr.

The problem with greedy people occupying positions of power and authority is that they tend to develop unacceptable behaviors, such as:

  • Rudeness
  • Corruptness
  • Dishonesty
  • Unfairness

The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion. – Bodhidharma


Promoting a super performer into a managerial role is not always a good idea. These guys can cause severe damage, flushing talent down the toilet at the speed of light.

So, If you hold a Senior Leadership role, next time you think about promoting a super performer, think twice and make sure:

  • S/he receives appropriate leadership training.
  • HR gathers and monitors her/his team member´s feedback on a continuous basis.
  • S/he receives continuous coaching from more senior Managers and Executives.
  • Her/his goals are collective and her/his incentives are strongly connected to people development.

hope you enjoyed the reading. If so, please do not forget to click on “Like” and share it with others who may find it useful too.

I will love it if you take a minute to comment on this article. That´s the best encouragement to continue to write and share knowledge.

You may also enjoy some of my recent articles:

Jordi Alemany is an energetic, enthusiastic and innovative executive coach, management consultant, and bi-lingual (English-Spanish) author and speaker, with a contagious passion for Humanistic Leadership. He devotes a great portion of his life to helping others reach their next level and exploit their full potential.

Best regards,

Jordi Alemany


About Jordi Alemany

I am a multi-cultural and multi-lingual (English, Spanish, Catalan and Italian) executive coach and management consultant, specializing in Humanistic Leadership, Organizational Strategy, and Portfolio Management disciplines. I am an energetic, creative and resourceful, with an innate passion for helping others reach their full potential.
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2 Responses to Avoid Peter´s Principle

  1. Jordi, I’ve just printed off a copy of your TINYhr report, The 7 Key Trends Impacting Today’s Workplace and it will definitely be on the top of my reading pile for today. Thank you for making this available. You say so well what I’m thinking about HR -type issues. How did you get so smart in such a short period of time? (Just joking–I really enjoy your blogs.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pat, thanks for your comment, much appreciated indeed. I´m glad you enjoyed the article and found the attached report useful. Re your question about getting smart, I´m working hard on it. Still a long way to walk. Surrounding yourself with smart people helps a lot I guess! 😉 Cheers, Jordi


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