[FOUNTAIN]What principle rules ― Peter or Dilbert?

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

[FOUNTAIN]What principle rules ― Peter or Dilbert?

Canadian author and educator Laurence J. Peter defined how an organization or a country could fall because people were given duties beyond their competence. According to the famous Peter Principle, people in an organization tend to try to rise to a level at which they are incompetent. If an organization’s closed and hierarchical nature is left unchanged, every division of the organization will be filled with incompetent people.
Mr. Peter warns that incompetent members are ubiquitous, and their presence will destroy government, corporate, political, military and other organizations. But unless a member of an organization realizes the limit of his competence and stops pursuing further advancement within the organization, the Peter Principle will hold true.
The principle provides a good rationale to the numerous people who are frustrated by incompetent bosses. Citizens can refer to the Peter Principle as indecisive political leaders pretend to be men of resolution prior to elections, even when a political party or the country is facing a critical moment.
International political specialists, economists and other “experts” may behave as if they have all the solutions, but when their predictions are proven wrong, they come up with fancy rhetoric instead of sincerely reconsidering their faults. In this case, the Peter Principle can also be applied.
Well, should bosses and leaders have to endure attacks helplessly? American cartoonist Scott Adams’ “Dilbert Principle” provides a defense for them. According to Mr. Adams, incompetent and ineffective workers may be promoted directly to the highest positions, where they can do the least damage, while those who make enthusiastic and creative attempts are left behind. The principle says that incompetent and ineffective workers will be less risky candidates for promotion because reshuffles will take place regularly at several years’ intervals.
Both the Peter Principle and Dilbert Principle are paradoxical satire, stressing the importance of an open atmosphere, healthy competition, and honorable and competent leaders in order for a society or an organization to make creative progress.
In any era or in any society, discontent exists. What is the principle that explains the dissatisfaction of Korean society today? Is it the Peter Principle or the Dilbert Principle?


by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

More in Columns

China’s thin skin

The Korean War from China’s view

Who’s laughing now?

Fighting Chinese patriotism

The curse of the presidency

Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now