The Fast Track to Incompetence

During my twenty-five plus years working for the same organisation at substantially the same level, watching on as increasingly younger and less qualified people gain positions of power in the towering hierarchy above me, one old friend has remained my boon companion: the Peter Principle.

Stated broadly, the Peter Principle says that “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence.”

This simple statement is a surprisingly comforting salve for me, as I witness successive generations of incompetent managerial appointments above me.  After all, it is only from the fortunate viewpoint of my lowly status that I can observe the incompetence unblinkered; can observe it and pity it.

However, during my twenty-five plus years of workplace stasis, I have witnessed a subtle change in operation within the basic Peter Principle model.  When the Peter Principle was first published in 1969, the fundamental idea of the book assumed a workplace hierarchy whereby an individual was promoted in incremental steps to the next level of competence (or incompetence) within the hierarchy.  That model may have held true in 1969, but 50 years on, in the fast-moving, ADHD, low-attention span world of the 21st century, a single step up the career ladder is not seen as sufficient advancement.  Nowadays, rather than waste time in a ponderous progression through successive degrees of inefficiency and ineptitude, any serious wanabee with higher management ambitions requires an instantaneous fast track to incompetence, bypassing all intervening steps.

At the risk of once again quoting from that widely-acknowledged Bible of modern management:

“We live in a quick-fix world.  Too many people dream of bypassing the graft part of the success equation in order to parachute directly into a Hello magazine lifestyle.”  (From the chapter X-Factor Expectations, Ozmodium Management, 2011)


Within the broad concept of the Peter Principle, I am identifying this modern phenomenon of fast-tracking to incompetence as the Turner-Tree Trajectory.

And so it is from my lowly viewpoint, I continue to look up and observe and pity those promoted above me.  Observe their ambition; pity their incompetence.

As they look down and observe my lack of ambition and pity my incompetence below them.

© Simon Turner-Tree


Simon Turner-Tree remains in blissful ignorance of his own incompetence.



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