Christian Jobs, Church Employment - Advice, Tips, Help

Promotion? No Thanks

  • 2008 27 Aug
Promotion? No Thanks

The popular little book titled The Peter Principle was written in 1969. After studying hundreds of organizations, the author, Laurence Peter, concluded that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his/her level of incompetence." We've all seen it happen: the great bank teller who gets moved up to branch manager only to leave in disgrace for not being able to sell new business or to manage employees. The sales rep that gets promoted to territory manager but cannot discipline his former buddies. The best construction worker who is asked to be project overseer but leaves in anger because he could not understand the budget forecasts.

The author thus proposed that the best "work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence." But isn't this just a matter of learning new skills and growing in responsibilities? Perhaps - but frequently it is simply taking someone out of what he/she does well and putting them into an area that does not match their strongest abilities at all.

As a business owner I recognize my areas of incompetence quickly - managing people or budgets are not things I do well. I love to think, write and be the visionary but I'm fooling myself if I think I can perform all the functions in our business better than anyone else. I bring in others whose skills clearly exceed mine in many areas.

"Comrades, you have lost a good captain to make him an ill general." - Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)

One of the keys to living out our calling is to be doing work that blends our (1) Skills & Abilities, (2) Personality Traits, and (3) our Values, Dreams & Passions. Think how frequently we see this violated when someone is "promoted:" The quiet introvert who is thrust into the middle of office interaction; the analytical person who is forced to represent the company in a sales and marketing role. The best nursery teacher in the school is not necessarily the best candidate for school principal. A great youth pastor may be miserable as a senior pastor. This isn't a matter of unwillingness - we have to realize that even "open doors" and "opportunities" can lead us away from God's ideal path. The key is to know ourselves and see confirmation of God's preparation in other ways as well.

In today's volatile workplace people are often forced to move from organization to organization. In many ways, this is a positive occurrence. Rather than being expected to move vertically up the ranks to a position of incompetence, you can address your strongest areas of competence and again apply them in a new organization or opportunity.

Do you know your strongest "areas of competence?" Are you using those effectively each day?

Comment here.


Dan Miller is today's leading authority and personality on careers and 'Work You Love'. As bestselling author of 48 Days To The Work You LoveNo More Dreaded Mondays, and many others, Dan reaches thousands of people every month in his newsletter, podcast, and blog with the best trends and opportunities in the workplace and small business. For more information, visit