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IT Hiring:  The Peter Principle and Being Kicked Upstairs



When well-read people hear the word "incompetence", with regards to organizations, they first think of Dr. Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull's infamous 1969 book The Peter Principle, which is that "in a hierarchy every employee rises to her level of incompetence".

The Peter Principle makes frighteningly perfect sense (and there is abundant evidence for it). If you are hired at an entry-level position and do a good job you will be promoted. These promotions continue as long as you do a good job. At some level though, your level of incompetence, you are no longer able (qualified) to do a good job and are no longer promoted -- you are stuck at a level where you do a bad job.

At some point, everyone in the organization will be doing a bad job. In business at least -- perhaps not in government -- this ultimately leads to the collapse of the whole organization (company); for example, see The Decline and Fall of Amazon.

The Peter Principle is aggravated by the principle of being "kicked upstairs", which is that if you are doing a bad job and can't be demoted or fired (see IT Hiring: No Personal Consequences for IT Incompetence, Just Excuses), for fear of lawsuits (e.g. discrimination; see IT Hiring: Trading IT Competence for Diversity) and whistleblowers, you have to be promoted (futiley) to where the bad-job damage you can do is minimized.

Being kicked upstairs means IT incompetent supervisors who will not want to hire IT competents because they are very threatening; see IT Hiring: Cascade Failure.

Being kicked upstairs will also result in your having years of experience being incompetent, which you can use as a qualification for getting promoted or getting a job in another organization; see The Most Important IT Credential: An IT Education.

The Peter Principle surely happens in IT since IT competence requires actual knowledge. Alex Stamos of the Yahoo and Facebook data breaches immediately comes to mind.

However, in IT, for the principles given and to be given, the level of incompetence is usually the entry-level position, the base of the hierarchy, which supports everything above it.

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