Peter Sperry

This is no parody and goes to the heart of a dillema that has faced many (most?) executives who understand the Peters Principal. How do you reward performance at middle and lower levels while promoting based on ability to succeed at higher levels? It is not uncommon for executives reviewing their subordinates to recognize they have one or more who while excelling in their current positions, just do not have the vision or personality to do well at the next level. These individuals may be working with (or worse yet supervising) other individuals whose performance in their current position is sub par but who do have what it takes to excell at higher levels. Very few senior executives would want to take a chance on promoting a substandard employee over the head of his or her excellent supervisor; but sometimes that is what would be best for the organization.

Rewarding excellence without promoting people to their Peters Principle level is very difficult as Peters himself acknoledged in his second book “The Peters Prescription”. Among his suggestions:

Allow people to request demotions back to a more comfortable level with no adverse commentary in their employee record.

Consider allowing people to bypass some levels if the intermediate level requires skillsets not needed below or above.

Most importantly (and I am recalling this from reading the book a LONG time ago) clearly identify the skillset required for each position and promote based on skillset match rather than performance at lower levels. Painful for those who are passed over but better than being fired for incompetence at a higher level and ultimately best for the organization.