The Promotion Paradox: Why Great Employees Become Incompetent & How To Avoid It

Nate Anglin
4 min readNov 27, 2022

Promotions are often given to people until they reach a level of incompetence.

What once was an incredible, capable employee, who was great as an individual contributor, will eventually be promoted into positions where they’re incompetent — usually a managerial role. They’ll then remain in these roles because they no longer exhibit competence for further promotion.

This is what Dr. Laurence J. Peter called The Peter Principle.

He concluded that people in a hierarchy rise through promotion to their level of incompetence. “Every position in a given hierarchy will eventually be filled by employees who are incompetent to fulfill the job duties of their respective positions.”

You’ve likely experienced this before — being incapable or promoting somebody unfit for the job’s duties.

For me, I’ve been the one to promote incompetence:

I managed my sales team for many years. I believed to get the company to the next level, I needed to promote someone to take over these duties, so I could continue to focus on higher-level activities.

An Account Manager had been working with me for years, and she developed incredible sales skills over that time. I knew the risks of pulling a top producer away from direct sales activities into a managerial role. Still, it was worth a try.

She failed miserably.

She hated it.

Management caused her so much mental pain and anxiety; I could feel it.

And it was all my fault.

Thankfully, I was aware of this and made a quick correction, but most leaders don’t, and incompetence in managerial roles festers like a virus in an open wound.

Before you fail your team and your company by promoting people to incompetency, do these three things:

1/ Regularly assess people’s skills.

Nate Anglin

Small Biz Investor, CEO, & helping others improve their performance, profit, & potential w/out sacrificing what’s most important.