A call for social work theory in the expansion of the ‘Peter Principle’
By Genevieve Harte
The “Peter Principle” has been around for decades. This is the theory that employees get promoted to their level of incompetence and are then left in a position where they no longer excel. Work and workplaces are rapidly changing, the need for work-life balance is ever increasing and employees’ mental health is paramount. As a result of these changing times, there is a need for social work presence in the workplace to expand this theory. The times of the corporate ladder are over; people want more than just upward mobility, and yet most human resource operations remain largely unchanged. Employees promote or switch jobs and regardless of the outcome they are left in their new positions without any regard for their satisfaction about the move. This idea of promotion to the level of incompetence is outdated and needs to be expanded to include promotion to level of dis-satisfaction with some aspect of the new position (which may or may not be related to ability). Employee priorities evolve over time and they are more diverse than ever before. As a result, they deserve a situational approach to career development, which can be aided by adding a social work component to human resources to fill this function. If done well, employers would see huge productivity gains with happier employees.
Genevieve Harte has a Master’s of Public Administration and over 15 years of experience managing employees. She has a solid understanding of career development issues in both the public and private sectors, having spent 12 years with a management firm consulting with clients in Canada, Europe and the United States. Her passion for employee engagement and social issues led her to pursue a PhD in social work.