The most productive worker is not  always the best candidate for manager
Prime the pump
October 12, 2021
The most productive worker is not always the best candidate for manager

Have you ever come across people who are unhappy after receiving a promotion? I remember employee “X”, he performed excellently in a relief position senior to his appointment. Eventually, he was promoted to the position he occasionally acted in. Initially, he was thrilled about the pay raise that came with the new position but when the dust settled, he didn’t have what it takes to do the job “cradle to grave.” Employee “X” asked to be demoted to his former position.

Last week, we started a discussion on Dr Laurence J Peter’ observation of how promoting employees based on their performance in their current job or years of service could result in a decline in the performance of their new direct reports, and affect the company’s bottom line as these new managers realize that they have reached a level of incompetence. We referenced the study of professors Benson of the University of Minnesota, Li of MIT and Shue of Yale. They found that the most productive worker is not always the best candidate for manager, yet companies are significantly more likely to promote top frontline people into managerial positions.

Some of the possible solutions Dr Peter recommended to deal the problem posed by the Peter Principles are:

n Higher Pay, No Promotion. Understandably, employees get excited about the idea of a promotion because of the salary benefits attached to it. To prevent the occurrence of the Peter Principle, CEOs should consider a salary increase for employees because of excellent performance in their current position of competence instead promoting them with a higher salary in a position of incompetence.

n Lateral Transfer. The incompetent employee could be reassigned to a position within the same salary range but with fewer responsibilities. Dr Laurence Peter referred to the practice as “lateral arabesque.” In so doing, the worker will not know that he is being discharged from the role he was promoted to.

n Employing Alert Individuals. Employees should know the extent of their capabilities and skills and should turn down a promotion if after introspection feel incapable of doing the job.

Here’s a bonus point:

n Potential Successors Development Plan. Your human resources department should have a development plan for employees who are on the succession plan. They would be provided with adequate training before and after a promotion and ensure that the training is appropriate for the position.

Until next time.

Visit us at or’ll help you get noticed.