The Peter Principle: A Theory of Decline
Some have observed that individuals perform worse after being promoted. The Peter Principle, which states that people are promoted to their level of incompetence, suggests that something is fundamentally misaligned in the promotion process. This view is unnecessary and inconsistent with the data. Below, it is argued that ability appears lower after promotion purely as a statistical matter. Being promoted is evidence that a standard has been met. Regression to the mean implies that future ability will be lower, on average. Firms optimally account for the regression bias in making promotion decisions, but the effect is never eliminated. Rather than evidence of a mistake, the Peter Principle is a necessary consequence of any promotion rule. Furthermore, firms that take it into account appropriately adopt an optimal strategy. Usually, firms inflate the promotion criterion to offset the Peter Principle effect, and the more important is the transitory component relative to total variation in ability, the larger the amount that the standard is inflated. The same logic applies to other situations. For example, it explains why movie sequels are worse than the original film on which they are based and why second visits to restaurants are less rewarding than the first.
|Date of creation:||Apr 2003|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published in: Journal of Political Economy, 2004, 112 (S1), S141-S163|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page: http://www.iza.org
|Order Information:|| Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany|
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Internal Economics of the Firm: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 881-919, November.
- Gibbons, Robert & Waldman, Michael, 1999. "Careers in organizations: Theory and evidence," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 36, pages 2373-2437 Elsevier.
- Fairburn, James A & Malcomson, James M, 2001.
"Performance, Promotion, and the Peter Principle,"
Review of Economic Studies,
Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(1), pages 45-66, January.
- Fairburn, J.A. & Malcomson, J.M., 1995. "Performance, Promotion, and the Peter Principle," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 304.95, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
- James Malcomson & James A. Fairburn, 2000. "Performance, Promotion, and the Peter Principle," Economics Series Working Papers 26, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
- Fairburn, J.A. & Malcomson, J.M., 2000. "Performance, Promotion, and the Peter Principle," Economics Series Working Papers 9926, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
- Edward P. Lazear, 1984. "Raids and Offermatching," NBER Working Papers 1419, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979.
"Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts,"
NBER Working Papers
0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Anderson, Ralph E. & Dubinsky, Alan J. & Mehta, Rajiv, 1999. "Sales managers: Marketing's best example of the peter principle?," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 19-26.
- Joao Ricardo Faria, 2000. "An Economic Analysis of the Peter and Dilbert Principles," Working Paper Series 101, Finance Discipline Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp759. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.