Buchman (2010) agreeing with Pluchino at al, stated
It sounds counterintuitive, but the best promotion strategy might be to choose people at random (p. 69).
One method that can be used is to employ contractors or freelancers as occurs frequently in the computing industry. For a higher wage the contractor is employed for a set period. If the production level is considered inadequate, the contract is not renewed, which creates pressure on the contractor to perform.
The US Military has an “Up or Out” policy. Considering that a person stagnates if in a position too long, inhibiting the progression of those beneath him, a limit is set on the amount of time a person can remain in a particular post.
Companies can have a policy of external promotions only. This leaves a possibility that a person having reached his level of incompetence in one organisation shifts to the same level in another.
To reward employees, a company can consider offering an increase in pay without a change of job.
Dickinson/Villeval suggested that HR managers should take a
longer period of observation before promoting employees.
This was echoed by Schaap:
One way to overcome the marvel of the Peter Principle, at least in part, is that organizations should refrain from promoting a worker until that person shows the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities along with the appropriate work habits needed to succeed to the next higher job
Lewis (1999, p. 13) advised a number of questions that should be asked about a prospective employee before any promotion is granted. Is he/she:
- Performing duties well enough to deserve a promotion?
- Experienced and qualified enough to carry out at least part of the new job?
- Willing to hand over current responsibilities to a new person?
- Enthusiastic about a new role?
- Familiar with the new position’s responsibilities and priorities?
- Proficient in the interpersonal skills necessary to work with others in the new position?
- Adequately trained or willing to be?
- Prepared to bow out gracefully if the promotion doesn’t work?
Hess (1976) recommended the professional coaching of individuals as they move up the organization. Dr Peter even provided some possible alternatives:
Rather than refusing promotion outright (“Peter’s Parry”) and suffering the consequences, the suggestion was to practise “Creative Incompetence” (create the impression that one is already incompetent) and avoid the possibility of promotion even being offered.
Pull: A way to gain promotion “by blood, marriage or acquaintance” with a senior person in the hierarchy, although a downside of this is earning the dislike of co-workers.
Push: Considered by Dr Peter as less effective than Pull, the idea here is to work hard, study and go on training courses (59)
Sidestep; Make a move sideways within an organisation or to another hierarchy
Downshift: Reduce working hours possibly replace output in one type of work with more satisfying output in another such as charity or other voluntary work.
Retrain: Take up another career altogether.
allows you to flow with the changes in your life so that you can make the most of every stage. First, keeping The Peter Principle in mind allows you to cease striving merely for the sake of it, and gives you notice to enjoy your competence as you go along through life’s journey. Second, you will more fully respect that just as the skills a baby has for walking are useless for the skills it needs to learn for talking, many of the competencies that you develop in life are of no guaranteed help when you enter untested areas of your life, and your future beyond today. (Russell)
Over the last forty years since the Peter Principle was first published, there have been many studies which in the majority confirm the existence of the theory. Most studies have attempted to examine whether production levels have reduced following promotion rather than considering other consequences of the Principle, such as the human effect on employees.
Even if the theory doesn’t occur in every situation in every hierarchy, there seems to be very little doubt that it does take place. The potential problems for the coach could include situations where the client has gone full circle in Maslow’s theory of Competence and although in an apparently successful position is once again in a position of Unconscious Incompetence.
In order to move forward at any stage the client may have to re-evaluate his priorities, deal with outside influences such as Peer pressure and possibly shift his perspectives.
An understanding of the Principle should assist coaches in many respects to understand their clients problems in the workplace. In any event, an opportunity exists to introduce humour into the coaching by a full understanding of Dr Peter’s work.